Catholic Sentinel/Ed Langlois
Led by Fr. Jonathan Decker, Father Anthony Joseph Alles bears the Eucharist on his head as he processes around Holy Rosary Church.
Catholic Sentinel/Ed Langlois
Led by Fr. Jonathan Decker, Father Anthony Joseph Alles bears the Eucharist on his head as he processes around Holy Rosary Church.

The first Maronite priestly ordination in the Pacific Northwest showed that the Catholic Church worships in many ways.

In a liturgy Saturday that included actions unfamiliar to Roman Catholics, Father Anthony Joseph Alles became a priest of the Maronite Eparchy, or diocese, of Our Lady of Lebanon of Los Angeles.

Father Alles is a member of the Maronite Monks of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, who live in a house in Beaverton. For many, the monks are spiritual guides, a kind of engine room of prayer for the archdiocese.

The Portland native studied philosophy at the Franciscan University of Steubenville before returning home and embracing a vocation. He is the son of Doug Alles, the longtime Archdiocese of Portland Catholic Charities leader who is now directing that organization’s efforts in the Diocese of Boise.

“The priesthood is for others,” said Bishop Elias Zaidan of the Eparchy of Our Lady of Lebanon of Los Angeles. “If you want to be a leader, you need to love more.”

Bishop Zaidan told Father Alles that as a monk and a priest, he will bring people to God most effectively “by the kindness of your heart.”  

“Truly we rejoice in his vocation from this place,” said Dominican Father Vincent Kelber, pastor of Holy Rosary, where the ordination was held and where the new priest grew up. “This a great day for all of the Catholic Church.”

There are multiple worship traditions within Catholicism. The Maronite Rite emerged 1,700 years ago in the Middle East, where Jesus and the earliest Christians lived.

Maronites and Roman Catholics are two of about two dozen distinct communities of faithful within the Church. The Maronites trace their origins to the work of St. Maron, who in the 4th century founded a monastery east of Antioch. Later, monks moved to the mountains in what is today Lebanon, one of the last places in the Middle East with a sizable Christian population.   

During Saturday’s two-and-a-half hour ordination, a choir sang chants with Middle Eastern intonations, sometimes in English, sometimes in Syriac. To a Roman Catholic, the liturgy was exotic, yet familiar, like a cousin from a faraway land.

The ordination ritual came after the eucharistic prayer, but before the people received Communion. Moments prior to being ordained, Father Alles recited the Nicene creed by himself before the whole congregation.

Bishop Zaidan, as he ordained the new priest, fluttered a hand over the eucharistic gifts on the altar.  
During one part of the ordination, two deacons hold up a cloak called the bashkoon so that it shielded the man being ordained from view.   

A cloth headpiece was tied on, with the bishop saying, “Cover, O Lord, your servant with the helmet of salvation. The garment later was lowered to serve as the amice, a garment covering the shoulders.

After Father Alles was fully clothed in priestly garments, Bishop Zaidan then placed the chalice with the body of Christ on the head of the new priest. Father Alles held the precious vessel there as he processed around the church, led by his sponsor, Father Jonathan Decker, prior of the monastery and pastor of St. Sharbel Parish in Portland. Worshipers smiled, sang and bowed their heads as Father Alles passed, a man literally under the presence of God.

Attending were Archbishop Alexander Sample and Bishop Liam Cary. Also visiting was Chorbishop William Laser, a Los Angeles priest who is judicial vicar of the Maronite eparchy, or diocese, which covers the western United States.  

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