NORMAN — Parishioners at Our Lady of Lebanon Maronite Catholic church have waited five months for their new priest to arrive.
Tied up obtaining visas and paperwork, Fr. Fadi Matni arrived in Norman last week and was received with open arms by his new congregation.
“What a relief,” parishioner Danette Mondalek said. “We’re looking forward to our future with Fr. Fadi. He seems family oriented and he wants to expand our church. He has a lot of heart and he’s engaged in making our church grow and become steadfast in the community. He’s really open to all walks of life. He wants everyone to come participate, regardless of creed. It’s good to have a priest with that kind of insight.”
Matni celebrated his first Mass on Sunday with OLOL’s former priest, Fr. Sami Chaaya, in attendance. Matni asked Chaaya to give the homily and Chaaya, who was transferred to a Maronite church in Pennsylvania, said, “It’s nice to see faces I love, respect and spent a long time with” while he was in Norman. Chaaya came back for a week to help Matni settle in and introduce him to congregants and friends.
Chaaya said usually the priest welcomes everyone to church, but since it was Matni’s first service, Chaaya led the congregation in welcoming him. And they did, with style and a feast following church so he could visit with people in his new city.
Matni is used to new places. After he was ordained, he was sent to Johannesburg, followed by Rio de Janeiro. From there, after his paperwork was aligned, he came to Norman.
Originally from Damour, Lebanon, a village close to Beirut, and when Matni was young, there were massacres in his village when civil war broke out. He and his family moved to another village, Okaibeh, where he attended school through 12th grade. He received his Bachelor of Arts in accounting from Pigier College in Lebanon before going to seminary at Holy Spirit University of Kaslik, where he earned two bachelor’s degrees, one in theology and the other in education.