10/23/2021, 08.27
LEBANON
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Maronite Church mourns Toufic Bou Hadir, the 'priest of the young'

by Fady Noun

He passed away suddenly last October 19 from a heart attack. His life and mission in the sign of Therese of Lisieux and St John Paul II. A late vocation born and cultivated (also) against the wishes of his family. The medal of merit of the Lebanese nation placed on his coffin.

 

Beirut (AsiaNews) - "The Spirit blows where it will" says the evangelist Saint John. One day, this spirit blew into the vital soul of Toufic Bou Hadir, snatching him away from an already defined career in banking, to launch him into the immense field of the apostolate of the Maronite Church.

Inexorably driven towards an increasingly de-Christianised youth, the 'priest of the young', Monsignor Toufic Bou Hadir died on 19 October last, at the age of 52, of a heart attack, thus having to abandon a ministry of exceptional fruitfulness, to join Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus (Thérèse of Lisieux), the saint under whose care he had placed his life, and John Paul II, for whom he had boundless admiration. 

The Maronite Church, represented by Mgr Peter Karam, dedicated a moving farewell to him on 21 October last, in the great church of St Elias of Antelias, while the bronze medal "to the Merit of the Lebanese Nation" was placed on his coffin. He leaves a great void on the pastoral level, and among those who work in the "Youth Office" of the patriarchal see of Bkerké and in the patriarchal Centre for Human and Professional Development, which he directed. 

A "little Vatican"

His dynamism will be greatly missed by the Bkerké Youth Pastoral Office, a structure created by Patriarch Beshara Raï himself in the aftermath of his election in 2011, who had always dreamed of making the Maronite patriarchal see a 'small Vatican', and of which he has been the centrepiece since its creation. One of the greatest successes of this born administrator was the organisation in Lebanon, in 2017, of the first Maronite World Youth Day, on the model of the WYD founded by Pope John Paul II in 1985.

"Late vocation"

On a social and cultural level, he ventured down a heretofore untavelled path, clearing a terrain hitherto marked by various socio-cultural fractures, in which relationships with oneself, with others, with God, with the environment, are as different as the Maronite circles he crossed. A "late vocation" as they say (and, at first, against his parents' wishes), he was not content with what his professional education had taught him in the world, and ended up adapting his speech to that of the people whose pastoral care he had. 

Of course, all this is not achieved without first having the required tools. He served several years of apprenticeship in continuous contact with the scouts, the children and the handicapped of the "Faith and Light" association (his bush is always full of toys), the Priest's House in Maad (Jbeil), the "Jesus is my joy" meeting and the many initiatives at the service of pastoral care in the Jbeil region. In these activities he was able to develop his skills, build up a close network of knowledge and gain considerable experience. 

The transmission of faith

But the rupture in the chain of transmission of the faith between generations, the confrontation with a young man who had abandoned the Christian faith or was about to do so, the impact of the war years that legitimised selfishness and cheating, if not more, forced him to spend himself in a limitless service of a "new evangelisation". His motto then became: "If the young do not come to you, you go to them". A man of desire - as well as a good eater - Toufic Bou Hadir made his last trip on 19 October, the anniversary of the proclamation of Therese of Lisieux, the saint who inspired him, as a "Doctor of the Church" by John Paul II. "Why?" ask those who have become his friends, surprised by the sudden departure of a priest of a rare temperament that the Church obviously needs so much. And the mysterious answer to this "abduction" is in God.

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