Remembering Father Julien Eliane, pastor emeritus of St. Basil’s Melkite Church in Utica

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eliane_for_obit_p_16Father Julien Eliane, age 93, pastor  emeritus of St. Basil’s Melkite Catholic Church, Utica, passed away very peacefully at St. Joseph’s Nursing Home on Feb. 8.

Christened Alfred Eliane, he was born in Aleppo, Syria on Oct. 1, 1917, the only son of Abdullah and Julia (Chaccal) Eliane. When he was only four years of age, Alfred was enrolled in a school taught by Franciscan nuns. From six to 11 years old, he attended a Greek Catholic School in his home city. Returning home with his father after a six-month tour of South America, he entered St. Anne’s Minor and Major Seminary in Jerusalem at 12 years of age and continued his studies and training for the next 12 years, mastering theology, history, and languages (Arabic, French, Greek, Latin, English, and some Hebrew).

On July 20, 1943, at his priestly ordination at the hands of the late Most Reverend George Hakim, Bishop of Aleppo who later became Patriarch Maximos V of Antioch, he took the name Julien, in honor of his mother Julia and an aunt, Sister Julienne, a nun of the Order of the Immaculate Conception, both of whom were instrumental in shaping his life. Father Eliane returned to Aleppo to teach in the Melkite Catholic Schools and to preach in various churches in and around the city. He had come to know most Christian families in Aleppo, was a leader of the youth and preached in various churches.

On Christmas Eve 1947, Father Eliane arrived in Utica, the third pastor of St. Basil’s Melkite Church then on Third Avenue and Lansing Street. Father Eliane organized the church choir and had what he called the “great plan” — an absorbing determination that a “new church” for his people would come into being.

In June 1952, the present site at the crossroads of Armory Drive, Sherman Drive and Madison Avenue was purchased, and in November of 1953, the ceremony of the laying of the cornerstone took place.  Within seven years after his arrival, this “great plan” became a reality. A beautiful edifice, the new St. Basil’s, was dedicated in February of 1955 and within five years a mortgage-burning ceremony took place. In November of 1961, the rectory was completed and dedicated.

Numerous clubs and organizations have thrived at St. Basil’s under Father Eliane’s tutelage: The Women’s Club, St. Theresa’s Society, the Holy Name Society, Allepian Brotherhood, and the Sodality of Mary have all made their marks on the community. Father Eliane’s speaking engagements on the subject of Eastern Catholics, in the spirit of Ecumenism, were made very popular with religious and civic organizations and have endeared him to the heart of sister churches.

Father Eliane also taught French at Notre Dame High School for a short time.

In 1968, he was elevated to the rank of Right Rev. Archimandrite (Monsignor) (A title that he never used. “I am Father Julien,” he would say) by the very same bishop who ordained him, the late Patriarch Maximos V. Hakim.

Father Eliane dedicated his entire priesthood to St. Basil’s Church, and his motto was always “In God I trust.”

Father Eliane is survived by a nephew, Phillippe and Laura Subey and their children Marcel and Martine, of Gardiner, N.Y.; an aunt, Antoinette Khayat, and cousins, Josette and Vincent Cuccia, all of Brooklyn; cousins Therese Artus of Queens, Henri Cassis of Manhattan, Laurice Maloof of Poughkeepsie, Maggy Tager, Cesar Eliane, Dr. Edouard Eliane, Janine Eliane, as well as their families, all of Lebanon, and Richard and Laurice Eliane of Canada. Father was predeceased by his sisters and their husbands, Victoire and Marcel Subey, Vanda and Joseph Cernius.

Heartfelt appreciation is offered for the care and dedication of the following professionals who assisted Father during his illness: his team of physicians throughout the years, the Carmelite Sisters, and the entire staff of the St. Joseph’s Nursing Home who embraced his needs with compassion and dignity. The many acts of kindness and prayers from area clergy, parishioners, friends and the Utica community are greatly appreciated and will be remembered.

Father Eliane’s funeral Mass was held Feb. 14 with the Most Rev. Archbishop Cyril Bustros, Eparch of Newton and Most Rev. Nicholas Samra, retired Auxiliary Bishop of Newton, officiating. Acts of sympathy in the form of a remembrance may be made to the St. Basil’s Melkite Catholic Church. Entombment will take place in Calvary Cemetery Mausoleum.

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