The founding of Saint Maron’s Church, one of the first Maronite parishes in North America, dates back to June 15, 1865, when at 10:45 AM, the ship Rainbow (#176) docked at the Port of New Orleans. Sarkees Abraham, at 22 years of age, disembarked and began a long journey up the eastern seaboard of the United States. For the next two and one-half years, this brave pioneer traveled by foot and settled in Philadelphia, thereby becoming the first known Lebanese inhabitant in the Cradle of Liberty. He took an apartment on 10th Street between Catherine and Christian Streets. Unknown to him, twelve other Lebanese immigrants were to follow and in 1885 established themselves in Philadelphia, taking up residence at what is now 1173 S. 10th Street. These brave pioneers established the neighborhood that continues today as the heart and soul of the Middle Eastern community in the Greater Philadelphia region.
Concurrent with this initial immigration to Philadelphia was the development of the Maronite church. An oral parish history has Chorbishop Istfan Corkomaz, an itinerant Lebanese priest, establishing the first Maronite parish, known as Saint Maron’s Church in 1895 on Washington Avenue between 9th and 10th Street. In “The History of the Maronite Catholic Church in the United States”, records indicate that in March 1891, Fr. Joseph Yazbek came to Philadelphia and baptized Joseph Burj before traveling on to Boston, Providence, Worchester, Buffalo, Cleveland, New York, and many other cities and before the arrival of Chorbishop Istfan Corkemaz the records show that a latin priest Rev. Patrick Ryan was helping the Maronites. However, official records in Bkerke mark the establishment of St. Maron’s as of March 1899.