Yo, Baltimore Sun, look in your own town

int1Since I live in Baltimore, in a neighborhood where we are not allowed the option of taking The Washington Post, the Baltimore Sun is my main newspaper at breakfast. Thus, I was interested to notice a very nice feature this morning in the Baltimore newpaper that had a Washington dateline. The story was written by Liz F. Kay and the double-deck headline read: "Strengthening distant bonds through faith -- A Washington church brings Lebanese Christians together through prayer, good works."

Once again, let me stress that this was a good story and a valid story. I am not saying The Sun should not have covered this story.

Kay's report focused on the lives of Christians from Lebanon who worship at Our Lady of Lebanon Maronite Catholic Church (left), a 400-family Eastern Rite parish in northwest Washington. About 40 percent of Lebanon's population is Christian. Thus, we read:

Our Lady of Lebanon's parishioners, like other U.S. Maronites, have donated to groups such as the Catholic Schools of Lebanon and Caritas Lebanon, the main local partner of Catholic Relief Services, the Baltimore-based international aid organization that just expanded its efforts there. The groups are helping Muslims, Eastern Orthodox Christians and Eastern Catholics such as the Maronites who are struggling to reconstruct their villages after a cease-fire agreement ended major fighting a few weeks ago.

It is also clear that The Sun realizes there is another reason this is a regional, Washington-Baltimore story.

Our Lady of Lebanon Maronite Seminary opened in 1961, and the parish was formed a year later. The church opened its modern white building in May. The parish offers two Sunday Masses -- one in Arabic and another in English, although the celebrant gives his homily in both languages at each service. Syriac, a version of the Aramaic spoken during biblical times, is also used at some points.

Parishioners, who live within a 60-mile radius of the church, including Virginia and Maryland, recited the rosary in Arabic before the Arabic service began.

Like I said, this is a good story and there is a decent -- not ironclad, but decent -- hook between this Washington community and Baltimore.

8 23 06 photo2But as I read the story, I thought to myself: "Oh my, I wonder how this story makes the Lebanese Christians feel at St. Mary's Antiochian Orthodox Church in Hunt Valley?"

Hunt Valley is, after all, a major Baltimore suburb. In fact, the people of St. Mary's recently hosted -- at the peak of the Hexbollah rocket attacks and Israeli counterattacks -- a service gathering Orthodox Christians from parishes all across the Baltimore area to pray for peace in Lebanon.

Of course, the service also tried to raise awareness of relief efforts for Lebanon, relief efforts organized by the International Orthodox Christian Charities -- an organization that is located at "110 West Road, Suite 360, Baltimore, Maryland 21204. Phone: 410-243-9820; E-mail: relief@iocc.org." At least that is the listing in The Sun's reference pages.

Oh well, I am sure that those relief efforts continue and that the need is urgent. The second photo with this post shows an early truckload of goods arriving in Lebanon from this Baltimore-based project. The Baltimore Sun might want to do a Baltimore-based follow-up story for its Baltimore readers.

However, it is sad that yesterday -- Sept. 7 -- was the actual feast day for the St. Mary's parishioners, a festive time that featured a visit by their bishop, an American of Arab heritage. Click here for pictures from his visit there last year. That feast day would have been a nice news hook for a story in the local newspaper, if it was looking for a story about local people from Lebanon who are trying to help people in Lebabon.

Yes, I must confess that I know all of this because Bishop Thomas will be at my own parish this Sunday, in Linthicum, which is an old suburb of Baltimore.

My question: Did The Sun look for a local story? Does anyone there know that there are Arab-heritage parishes and ministries -- with strong ties to Lebanon -- in Baltimore itself? Just asking.

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