A banner of unity for Dearborn

Dr. Rand Touma, a parishioner of St. Barbara Parish in Dearborn, stands near a banner honoring St. Charbel that the parish’s pastor, Fr. Zbigniew Grankowski, had commissioned after Dr. Touma returned in December from a medical mission to Lebanon. Fr. Grankowski and Dr. Touma say the new banner and devotion has united the predominantly Arab-American Dearborn community, as the Lebanese saint is revered in the Christian, Jewish and Muslim faiths. Photos by Dan Meloy | The Michigan Catholic

Parishioner, priest team up to spread devotion to saint who bridges Christian-Muslim divide

DEARBORN — A new devotion has taken off at St. Barbara Parish on Dearborn’s east side to a saint revered by Christians and Muslims, and it’s all thanks to a parishioner with a Lebanese connection.

In December 2017, Dr. Rand Touma was afforded the opportunity to go on a medical mission to Lebanon to treat Iraqi Christians displaced by ISIS.

While in Lebanon, Dr. Touma visited the St. Maron-Annaya Monastery, the home of St. Charbel, a 19th century Maronite monk and priest known for living a simple life and healing the sick.

“We went to Annaya to spend New Year’s Eve with the displaced refugees, and we had this big, beautiful Mass at the monastery,” Dr. Touma told The Michigan Catholic. “People attribute miracles to his healing.”

Canonized in 1977 by Blessed Pope Paul VI, St. Charbel is venerated in both the Roman Catholic and eastern-rite churches.

“My daughter had surgery two years ago, and the day after the surgery I asked St. Charbel to heal her because she was diagnosed with a premalignant tumor,” Dr. Touma said. “A friend from Lebanon gave me oil from the monastery, and I rubbed the oil on my daughter’s stomach. Ten days later they took her to the Cleveland Clinic and they changed the diagnosis from premalignant to nonmalignant.”

Fr. Zbigniew Grankowski, pastor of St. Barbara Parish in Dearborn and St. Cunegunda Parish in Detroit, holds some of the holy items connected to St. Charbel brought back from Lebanon by parishioner Dr. Rand Touma. Since the devotion’s arrival at St. Barbara, Fr. Grankowski said he’s felt “a rush of new spirit” in his priesthood.

Returning to Michigan with a small jar of oil, candles, a holy card from the monastery, frankincense and a rosary, Dr. Touma gave the items to Fr. Zbigniew Grankowski, pastor of St. Barbara and St. Cunegunda Parish in Detroit, who only recently heard about St. Charbel from a Lebanese-American man he met at the Fairlane Club.

“Dr. Rand came back with a little image of St. Charbel, a rosary, oil and frankincense, and she was telling me how St. Charbel is attributed with all these miracles,” Fr. Grankowski said.

Fr. Grankowski is pastor of two parishes and helps out at Our Lady Queen of Apostles in Hamtramck in addition to visiting sick parishioners at home and in the hospital.

In March 2013, Fr. Grankowski himself became sick, and upon recovering, still felt he was in a spiritual lull.

“I’ve been a priest for the last 35 years, and everyone experiences a situation where you are disappointed by some of the things you see around you,” Fr. Grankowski said.

Fr. Grankowski put his new St. Charbel items in his home at the St. Barbara rectory, next to his images of the Blessed Mother. He said a prayer to St. Charbel to watch out for the parish communities with which he was entrusted.

“It was the third Sunday of January, and I just got back from saying the 8 a.m. Mass at Queen of Apostles, and I just felt this rush of new spirit; I felt like a new priest again,” Fr. Grankowski said. “I called Judi (Kadela, the office manager at St. Barbara and St. Cunegunda), telling her that I felt the best I’ve felt in five years.”

Boosted by the new sense of excitement for his priesthood, Fr. Grankowski commissioned Diocesan Publications to create a banner featuring St. Charbel to be displayed at St. Barbara.

When a parish situated in a predominantly Muslim area such as east Dearborn starts a devotion to a famed Lebanese monk, people started to take notice.

“I have a neighbor who is a Muslim woman and texted me saying she was so excited Father was bringing St. Charbel to St. Barbara,” Kadela said. “She said she loved St. Charbel and he is revered by all in Lebanon, Christians and Muslims.”

The St. Charbel banner was revealed during the March 10-11 Masses at the parish, and the 6 p.m. Mass on Sunday was attended by many Muslims and non-parishioners.

“A devotion to St. Charbel is really going to bring in people from the Muslim community,” Fr. Grankowski said. “St. Charbel is respected in Christian, Muslim and Jewish communities. The other day I saw a Muslim lady in the church praying to St. Charbel. When she saw me, she ran over, thanking me for bringing St. Charbel to Dearborn.”

Dr. Touma, a parishioner since December 2015, is beside herself that she had a role to play in bringing a devotion to St. Barbara’s.

“I feel God sent me to Lebanon to bring the message of St. Charbel to ‘Fr. Z’ and chose ‘Fr. Z’ to make St. Charbel more known to the Mexican-American, the Polish-American communities in Dearborn, like he is known in Lebanon. I feel like a missionary, that God sent me here to spread the word about St. Charbel and what he offers everybody.”