Phoenix Lebanese church welcomes hundreds of Hispanic members after a miracle healing

Father Akiki Wissam has been the pastor of St. Joseph Maronite Catholic Church for the past four years. The majority of the church's members are Lebanese.

He made his move to Phoenix and his church has become the ultimate place of unity of cultures.

For the 16th year now, the church has hosted the American Lebanese Festival, which over 3,000 people attend in the Valley.

This makes it the festival the longest-running Lebanese cultural celebration in Phoenix.

Now, St. Joseph Maronite has become a popular place for many Hispanics to come and rejoice their faith.

"They call this church their church and they invite their friends, family and coworkers," said Father Wissam.

Back in to 2016, a Hispanic woman had a miracle healing.

"Jan. 16, 2016, the Maronite Bishop of the USA decided to bring the relic of Saint Sharbel to all the Maronite churches in the United States, "said Father Wissam.

Saint Sharbel was a former priest from Lebanon who had a reputation for holiness.

"We had a blind lady -- she was completely blind because I met her face-to-face, I heard her confession," said Father Wissam.

Father Wissam says the lady was blessed with the relic of Saint Sharbel.

Two days later, she could see again, but before the church could announce anything to the public, there had to be an investigation.

"By law, we cannot announce anything without a lawyer or a committee of doctors," said Father Wissam. 

After her case was investigated, Father Wissam says there was no medical explanation.

Her healing story spread like wildfire in the Phoenix community and soon hundreds of Hispanics became fellow members of the church.

Father Wissam says the church now offers Spanish services.

"God gave me more responsibility to help people, to be with them and pray for them, “said Father Wissam.

Most of the remodeling on the church has been donated by Hispanic people, says Father Wissam.

"All of the concrete for the shrine, the tile, outside, and around the shrine, was donated by a Hispanic person," said Father Wissam.

The church is very grateful for the union between the Lebanese and Hispanic community and hopes the bond keeps growing.

© 2017 KPNX-TV


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