Me, in a few lines

To write one's own biography is to tell the story of divine grace with oneself. We, the believers, do not cross the paths of this life alone, like orphans, but it is "the gentle hand of God" (according to the beautiful expression of Blessed Abouna Yacoub the Capuchin) that accompanies us, supports us, picks us up after a fall and applauds us after a success.

One day of December 1973, I was born to Michel Jawich and Nawal Hajjar (known as Mona), after a sister and three brothers, in Mansoura, a small village located in the middle of the West Bekaa plain, in Lebanon. My family is a pure grace, a cradle of love, deeply religious and well committed. My father was a farmer, very satisfied, a model of the expert ploughman who masters his trade well. We, mom with my brothers and I, helped him in farming and harvesting good fruits. "The sower went out to sow his seed..." (Lk 8,5). I know these words of Jesus very well, I have practiced them in person. Now my father is in heaven (deceased in September 1998), next to the "heavenly Sower" who ploughs souls with the ploughshare of his divine love.

Child, I entered St. Joseph's School in Kab-Elias, one of the famous schools in the region. My mother insisted that we should have an education in a respectful school atmosphere. But our move to Beirut in 1981, or rather our flight from the political parties, which were trying to seduce my older brothers to become members, had made our financial situation precarious so that we joined public schools in Bourj Hammoud and then in Sanabel, in Nabaa, between 1981-1987. During this period, I witnessed sad events, especially the war that broke out in the Lebanese mountains and the massive displacement of Christians from the Chouf region and from the South to the East of Beirut. Some of them had taken my school as a refuge, in miserable human conditions. "When you see the abominable destroyer set up where he should not be, then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains" (Mk 13:14). In addition to the words of Jesus, I have experienced the pain that lies behind them!

Early October 1987, a new page of my life was opened. I had entered the Minor Seminary of the Holy Savior, which had been moved from its residence near the Monastery of the Holy Savior to the Convent of St. George in Bikfaya. The seminary! Why at such an early age, when I was still 14 years old?

The story of my vocation wavers between joy and pain. Its first seed developed within my family, under the eyes of my grandmother, Wadiaa, and especially, my mother Mona.

Originally from Jezzine, my mother comes from a family known for its ardent faith, from which came several priests and bishops, among whom, as an example, Bishop Basilios Hajjar, the famous Bishop of Saida and Deir Al-Kamar (deceased in 1916), and the late Bishop Sleiman Hajjar, whom divine Providence wanted me to be one of his successors at the head of the Melkite Greek Eparchy of Canada. If I entered the Salvatorian minor seminary, it is because my mother had called her cousin Abouna Sleiman, the rector of the seminary at that time, to accept me as a seminarian.

At the Seminar I grew up, myself and my vocation, under the eyes of good priests and rectors, such as Fathers Sleiman Hajjar, Semaan Nasr and Ibrahim Ibrahim, this young priest coming from Rome, who, with his "revolutionary" spirit, tried to improve our daily life in terms of food and extra-curricular activities. For this we keep for him, until today, a special affection and a place in our hearts.

After the Small Seminary and the completion of my schooling at the public school of Bikfaya, I entered the Novitiate on August 14, 1992. We, me and my confreres, were climbing the ladder of virtue thanks to the kind attention of the late Father Sleiman Abou Zeid, the novice master of the time. By his remarkable kindness and the purity of his heart, he left an indelible mark on us.

After the Novitiate and the Profession of my temporal vows, on August 21, 1993, I joined the major seminary in Jeita to begin my philosophical and theological studies at the Holy Spirit University of Kaslik. Those years were the most beautiful of my life, although difficult. Young and full of life, I had experienced a relentless conflict between the demands of my religious vocation and my desire to live my life to the fullest. This inner conflict had helped me to evolve, to mature emotionally and affectively, to go from the extremely shy "Miled" to the self-confident "Miled". The good Lord had put on my path Father Elijah Haddad, the rector of the Seminary at that time (now Bishop of Saida and Deir Al-Kamar), who had embraced my inner revolution and had supported me with his pertinent advice. "Let no one despise your youth" (1 Tim 4:12), the echoes of these words of St. Paul to his disciple Timothy still resound in my heart, in memory of that period.

After finishing my studies in Kaslik and obtaining the Bachelor's degree in theology, in June 1998, I had decided to leave the Order to take some time to reflect and experience more of life in the world. So if I returned to the convent, I thought, my decision would be more mature and solid. After a year and a half in the world, I returned to religious life on October 3, 1999, and was named assistant to the rector of the minor seminary. I made my perpetual vows, just after my return, and was ordained a deacon in November 1999, then a priest on May 6, 2000 by the imposition of the hand of the late Bishop André Haddad, thus becoming the first priest in my Order at the opening of the XXIst century. My priestly motto was: "My grace is sufficient for you; my power is at its best in weakness" (2 Cor 12:9). The grace of God, again and again! With a little intuition, I knew that my weakness will always be my faithful companion, on it I embark and run towards the infinite mercy of God.

In Rome, "the eternal city"! In August 2000, my Order granted me the grace to go to Rome to continue my studies at the eminent Gregorian University. I had chosen the Bible as my field of specialization. And from then on, a love affair began between me and the Word of God, a word meditated on in the silence of the church or studied deeply in the quiet of my room. In only two years I had obtained the degree of Magister in Biblical Theology, as if my inner potential was rapidly engulfing the divine Word without being satiated. The Roman years were my first contact with the universal, "Catholic" Church. Whoever lives in Rome will be enchanted on all sides!

After Rome, I returned to Lebanon to be appointed, between 2002-2007, as Vice-Rector of the Major Seminary, located in Shaileh. It was my first effective service as a priest. I was very happy to accompany the major seminarians in their human, spiritual and intellectual formation. Most of the Salvatorian Fathers you know today were seminarians in those years. With them, I too experienced a certain growth in my vocation, my apostolate and my prayer. The most pleasant thing is that I was appointed at the same time, between 2004-2007, as pastor of the Holy Cross parish in Jeita-Shaileh. For the first time, I felt the pleasure of pastoral service, being so close to the faithful and their spiritual needs.

After the General Chapter of July 2007, I was elected Secretary General of my Order, under the mandate of Father Superior Jean Faraj. Back from Beirut to the Mother Convent of Saint-Sauveur, these years were far from being heavy but, on the contrary, the most serene and productive. I had acquired an important experience, working in the internal management of the Order. I had learned to work in silence and in the shadows, without noise or glory, "in bad and good repute", as St. Paul says (2 Cor 6:8).

Among the unforgettable memories, my contribution in the production of the film "Siraj Al-Wadi", which tells the biography of Father Bechara Abu Mrad, later declared Venerable in December 2010. The tomb of this holy man, engraved in the south wall of the Monastery church, was my refuge during the cold nights of the Convent, confessing to him my worries and joys. Another event that marked this period, even crowned it, was my effective participation in the organization of the festivities of the tercentenary of the foundation of the Monastery of Saint Saviour (1711-2011). With unparalleled hard work and a very limited period of time, not exceeding three months, I had managed to write the commemorative book of the Jubilee "Ya Mkhalles Al-Alam" ("Ȏ Savior of the World"), after collecting quite a few historical documents, and selecting what I thought was useful and publishing them in a beautiful and elegant book. This book served as a basis for me to produce, together with my friend Toni Nehmé, a documentary about the Order and the Monastery (You could find it on Youtube, under the same name as the book).

Apart from my work at the General Secretariat, I had the chance to teach the Bible in some theological institutes in Lebanon, thus returning to my favorite field, "to the rock from which I was hewn" (Is 51:1), having also the opportunity to deepen my biblical knowledge. I do not forget to mention here that I became a member of the "Biblical Federation in Lebanon and the Middle East", a federation that includes Bible teachers in Lebanon, coming from different churches, and that organizes colloquiums and biblical congresses with the aim of promulgating the Word of God and discovering its riches.

Once the tricentennial activities are over, the time to leave has come. On October 3, 2011, I left for Belgium to continue my doctoral studies at the University of Louvain-la-Neuve and to be, at the same time, pastor of St. John Chrysostom Parish in Brussels. Eight years of Belgian stay were warmed by my love for my parishioners and by the long hours I spent preparing my doctoral thesis, finally presented on the first of October 2015, the feast day of St. Therese of the Child Jesus, for whom I have a special predilection. As a thesis topic, I had chosen one that touches me personally as a disciple of Jesus: The narrative function of the disciples in the passion narrative in Mk 14-15 and Lk 22-23. Comparative analysis. What touched me enormously was to be in contact with eminent professors at the University, doctors who are totally dedicated to their scientific mission, while remaining humble, behaving like beggars of knowledge. I can only mention my professor and inspiration André Wénin, an eminent specialist of the Old Testament, who influenced me a lot, not only at the academic level, but also at the personal level.

At some point, it was necessary that this biblical baggage received be spread and shared. For this reason I resolved to isolate myself from time to time in my cell, as much as I could, to devote myself to reading and to biblical research. The result was the composition of some books, among which : Take the child and his mother". The account of the childhood of Jesus in Matthew (1-2), a book that I first composed in Arabic and then translated into French. Another more recent book: The Secrets of Nazareth: Lights on the Hidden Thirty Years of Jesus and Lost from the Gospels. Another book, which is indeed a collection of spiritual articles, entitled: God Who Is in the Crypt.

I don't want to pass over this little biography without saying a word about my beloved ex-parishioners in Brussels, the majority of whom were Syrians. I arrived in Brussels in 2011, and with me came hundreds of refugees from Syria, fleeing the atrocious war in their country. Faced with their enormous pain, I could only listen to them and heal their wounds as much as possible. I always carry them in my prayers.

October 9, 2019, I had returned to my country, having in my pocket the Belgian nationality. I did not realize at that time that I was returning to Lebanon a week before its ordeal and the outbreak of the political and economic crisis. I was appointed parish priest of Mieh w Mieh, a village near Saida. In the midst of the storm, I accompanied my new parishioners, with the precious help of Father Maroun Saikaly, originally from Mieh w Mieh. The Corona Virus pandemic had worsened the situation. But with the grace of God and the mutual solidarity of the villagers, both residents and emigrants, we were able to overcome the crisis during those two apocalyptic years. To them, all my gratitude and affection.

And one day, God willed that the Fathers of the Holy Synod of our Melkite Church choose me as Bishop of the Greek Melkites of Canada and successor of Bishop Ibrahim M. Ibrahim, who was transferred to the Eparchy of Fourzol, Zahle and the Bekaa. The election took place on June 24, the feast of St. John the Baptist the Precursor. I tried so many times to persuade the person who presented my candidacy to the Synod to remove my name from the list of episcopal priests, just to remain this little priest who serves the Word of God discreetly in preaching, teaching and composing. The answer was always: "Let the Spirit of God work. If he wants to, who can contradict him? I kept silent and went to pray to God in secret, imploring Him to take this cup away from me, He who knows best my unworthiness for this apostolic mission. I remember well: when I got the news of my election, I was sitting in my room commenting and meditating on the "ascent" of Joseph, with Mary his wife, to Bethlehem, to register for the census ordered by Caesar (Lk 2:1-7). At that very moment, I was writing these words: "In Joseph's ascent, a certain pilgrimage, a spiritual touch, an obedience to a divine Economy". Reaching this point, the message of my election came to me!

Among the benefits of this event, I got back in touch with Bishop Ibrahim, not because we were separated from each other because of a misunderstanding, but because each of us had left for his mission in the four corners of the world. And now, the divine Providence wanted me to succeed him at the head of the Melkite Eparchy of Canada. I do so, however, knowing beforehand the difficulty of this succession, given the enormous work accomplished by Sayedna Ibrahim in the promotion of the Diocese, the development of the parishes and the increase of the number of goods. To Bishop Ibrahim, with all my heart, all the expressions of my gratitude and affection. The diocese will remain his home and the place of his rest.

"Say only one word" (Mt 8:8), this is my episcopal motto. If God speaks a Word, we have only to listen and obey. If he speaks a Word, every wound will be healed, every spirit will be enlivened, every knot will be loosened, every noise will be quieted... To his Word the beating of the heart, the desires of the mind and the inclinations of the body. This is me, in a few lines. And the next lines I will write with you, my dear friends of the Canadian Diocese. I have every confidence that together we will compose such beautiful and eloquent pages. If anyone reads them soon, he will give glory to the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and to him alone. Amen!

Bishop Milad