History of the Parish of Saint Ignatius of Antioch
At the turn of the 20th Century, many Lebanese immigrants settled in Cincinnati’s Maronite parish of St. Anthony of Padua (established 1910) while other families moved to Dayton’s South Park and Old North Dayton areas. Although Dayton did not have their own parish, they had a Maronite priest Fr. Gabriel Zehennie living in Dayton with his family, who was the chaplain for both St. Elizabeth’s Hospital and the Veterans Administration Medical Center. Fr. Zehennie occasionally held a Maronite Liturgy at St. Elizabeth’s Chapel. These situations created the dream of a Maronite parish in the Dayton area.
The Lebanese people were a closely-knit group, visiting each other regularly, attending wakes, weddings and baptisms in both Dayton and Cincinnati, faithfully remembering their Maronite heritage by calling themselves the house of “Mar Maroon.” Monsignor Joseph Abood, pastor of St. Anthony of Padua, tended to their pastoral needs, hearing confessions in homes, distributing communion to the sick, and encouraging the dream of their own Maronite parish.
In the 1950’s, the Maronites in Dayton had two clubs; one for the women and another for the men. The clubs eventually combined, becoming the Lebanese American Club. The club hosted some Maronite liturgies at Immaculate Conception Church, with Fr. Joseph as celebrant.
In the late 1960’s, Fr. Antoine Gemayel came to Dayton from Lebanon, attending English classes at the University of Dayton while also teaching French and Arabic. The Maronite liturgy, when offered, was attended by our Lebanese people as well as university students.
In the fall of ’89, Fr. Root, pastor of St. Anthony of Padua Maronite Catholic Church in Cincinnati began celebrating bi-weekly liturgies at St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church in Dayton after obtained permission from Fr. Herman Jansen, pastor of St. Anthony. Dayton Maronites were excited by this regular gathering and Archbishop Francis Zayek was impressed by their dedication. Soon, the Eparchy established "St. Ignatius of Antioch Maronite Catholic Mission," with Fr. Root as the first Administrator. With the forming of a Ways and Means Committee, we held our first, large successful affair on February 15, 1992, the Valentine Day Dinner & Dance at the Radisson Inn. A Parish Advisory Council was formed to work towards establishing and elevating our mission into a parish.
The St. Ignatius family drew in many Maronites from the entire Miami Valley. Soon, "Kibbee Sunday,” the second Sunday of the month, was born. "Kibbee Sunday" was a big hit, both for the Liturgy and the social hour. Later in 1992, we moved our Liturgy to Sacred Heart Church in downtown Dayton. On May 11, 1992, Fr. Root transferred to Pittsburgh, PA and was replaced by Monsignor John Trad, an interim Administrator who was assisted by Fr. David Fisher of Columbus, OH until a replacement was named.
Fr. Thomas Coover, pastor of St. Anthony of Padua Maronite Catholic Church, arrived in July 1992 and began celebrating Liturgy every Sunday at Sacred Heart Church. With this development, we sent out pledge cards and letters to verify the sincere interest of acquiring a church. Following a positive response, and help from the Eparchy of St. Maroon and St Anthony of Padua parish, we purchased our first church and rectory on February 9,1993 at 727 and 717 Beckman Street in Dayton for $150,000.
After a month of remodeling, we celebrated our first Divine Liturgy with His Excellency Archbishop Francis M. Zayek, Bishop of the Eparchy of Saint Maron, dedicating our new church on March 6, 1993. We instituted our first Annual Lebanese Festival, a successful 1-day event, on July 23, 1994. To raise funds to help pay off our mortgage, we started our first weekly Bingo on October 5, 1993.
Fr. Bakhos Chidiac was our first permanent resident priest, who served us from April 24, 1994 until September 26, 1996.
Fr. Alfred Badawi was our second permanent priest and served us from September 22, 1996 through May 26, 2001. His Excellency John Chedid, the first Bishop of the Eparchy of Our Lady of Lebanon of Los Angeles, elevated St. Ignatius of Antioch to Parish on February 12, 2000!
Fr. Pierre Bassil arrived on May 26, 2001. Under his guidance, we purchased our present 5.5-acre property and building complex (Rectory, Hall and Church) at 5915 Springboro Road in Miami Township from Saint Barbara Byzantine Catholic Church on December 15, 2005 for $300,000. After considerable hard work to repair and remodel the building complex with a $50,000 grant from Catholic Extension, we celebrated our Dedication and first Divine Liturgy on April 29, 2007 with His Excellency Bishop Robert Shaheen.
On June 12, 2013, Fr. Bassil, having worked 12 hard years building up our congregation and finances, introduced Monsignor Ignace Sadek, a retired priest, as an interim Administrator. Monsignor Sadek stayed with us until his untimely death on April 14, 2015.
Fr. George Hajj, pastor of St. Anthony of Padua, cared for St. Ignatius until Bishop Zaidan sent Fr. Guy-Raymond Sarkis, on June 26, 2015. Fr. Guy Sarkis is a priest from the Beirut Eparch, finishing his Doctorate Degree in Rome. Fr. Guy Sarkis remained pastor until August 31, 2017.
Fr. Alex Harb, from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, began serving St. Ignatius on September 1, 2017 and continues until the present.
St. Ignatius has continued flourish over the years due to the continuous dedication and love of its members. We are looking forward to a new era of spiritual growth, renewal, love, charity and hope in Christ.