Fr Antoun Bou Antoun

Reflection given by his niece Tina Khouri after his Funeral

Your Excellency Bishop Antoine-Charbel Taraby, Reverend Monsignors, Superiors, Fathers, Deacons and Sub Deacons, Reverend sisters of the Holy Family, Brothers and Sisters in Christ I promise to keep this simple and of quality – a true reflection of Khoury Antoun.

Born Fariz Bou-Antoun in October 1933 to parents Antonios and Tamini Bou-Antoun from Imar in the northern part of Lebanon, Father Antoun lived a simple, yet full life.

In 1938 at the age of 5 he attended only a year and a half of school before joining his dad, tending to their land.

The death of his baby sister would be his inspiration into the priesthood. He would talk about seeing his family home filled with priests and prayer, and the comfort it brought to his grieving mother.

He would hear the Lords call numerous times over the next 20 years before making the decision to leave his family and travel to the village of Demour, Lebanon. There, he would spend the next 5 days enquiring about joining the Monastery. Due to his poor education he was advised to study, before considering a monastic life or vocation to the holy Priesthood. He returned home to Imar where he packed his bags for Brazil.

It was 1956 and he would spend the next 7 years in Brazil living and working with his relatives – the Mouwad family. During this time his relative Nazira discovered that 23 year old Fariz had been preparing for the priesthood as early as the age of 11, when he started fasting all year round.

In 1963, he travelled to Rome where he was fortunate to be in the presence of the newly appointed Pope Paul VI. While in Rome, he spoke to Bishop Antoine Abed about his vocation to join the Holy Priesthood. The Bishop advised him to return to Lebanon and begin his journey there. He would return home to meet his 8 year old brother for the first time, my dad, Halim Bou-Antoun.

He followed the Bishops advice and in 1964 went on to study at Mar Yacoub in Karem Saddih. Almost 42 years ago, on the 6 March 1976, Father Antoun Bou-Antoun was ordained into the Holy priesthood at the age of 43 by our own Father Paul’s brother, Bishop Antoine Jbeir (may God rest his soul).

His first visit to Australia in 1980 would last 4 years before he returned to Lebanon in 1984. Over the next 2 years he would watch my parents marry, bury his father and more importantly learn about the growing need for Maronite priests in Australia.  Bishop Abdu Khalifi was visiting Lebanon from Australia and asked to see Father Antoun. Father Antoun travelled to the Bkirki where they reflected on his 4 year visit to Australia and the growing Maronite parish with long lines of communion and a yearning for Maronite priests.  After speaking to Bishop Antoine Jbeir, he left for Australia in 1986.

Father Antoun joined his siblings, my uncle, the deceased, Mehriz, my father Halim, and my aunt Hissni and their families here in Australia and joined the clergy of priests at Our Lady of Lebanon where he served for over 35 years.

Father Antoun along with his religious family would serve their brothers and sisters in Christ with indestructible faith. Together they would serve the holy Mass, hear confession, and visit the healthy, the sick and dying and give them their blessed sacraments.

Being amongst the Parish is what Father Antoun lived for. It was never too hard to visit someone, just a simple walk, taxi or train ride away or his main and favourite mode of transport – hitch hiking. You would often hear my uncle asking Parishioners which direction they were heading and if it was in the direction of those he was visiting he would say drop me off part of the way and I will walk the rest. He didn’t need anyone to wait for him or take him back home, he would use his Australian villages of Harris Park, Concord, Strathfield, Burwood (the list goes on) to hitch hike back.

During this time he often spoke about visiting Lebanon. My sister Sally and I were lucky enough to travel back to Lebanon with my uncle in 1997 to visit his sick mother, our grandmother, Tamini before her passing. Since that visit my uncle returned to Lebanon twice. Once in 2015 with a party of 10 including my parents, siblings, myself and my husband and finally in May of this year where he travelled with my father and brother John to spend time with his sister Hanneh and their nieces and nephews in their hometown of Imar.

My uncle spoke of going back to Lebanon twice more. Firstly, to plant cherries and finally to rest. Although we never got around to planting those cherries with him, he will be making his final journey back there tonight accompanied by my mother and father.

To his religious family, Your Excellency Bishop Antoine-Charbel Tarabay, Reverend Monsignors, Superiors, Fathers, Deacons and Sub Deacons and Reverend Sisters of the Holy Family my condolences on the loss of your brother. Thank you for all that you did for him. You lived with him, prayed with him (and for him), served with him, visited him and joked with him.  Thank you for a beautiful service today and your support during this time and always.

To the Parish members that he served alongside his religious family, there was nothing more that made my uncle happier than seeing the church full, no matter what time of day, night or year. Some of the happiest news he would receive would be the acquisition of a new church property to be used for new schools, nursing homes, new churches and other church facilities. I pray that we continue to fill and grow the church he was so proud of.

To the doctors, nurses, chemists, health aids and staff who cared for my uncle, the family and friends who drove him to his appointments, translated for him, my mother Afaf who we all relied on to rattle off every medication and his bill of health, THANK YOU. Thank you for your time, your patience and most importantly keeping my uncle healthy. In his own words “Allah 3mir hal ballad” (God build this Country) he called home for so long.

Whether you called him, father, Abouna, ya Meh-ta-ram, Khouri Antoun, ya Khou, khawli or Umi (Uma as he called us) it will be hard to see the holy Altar and smell the blessed Bakhour (incense) and not remember him and his humble ways.  Together we have mourned his loss, we celebrate his life and know that he is truly where he wants to be – finally home with our Lord.

May his soul rest in peace in Our Fathers Heavenly Kingdom.

Thank you and TA-RRA

Tina Khouri – niece of Fr Antoun