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Antonine Sisters History

Antonine Sisters

Our Patron Saint - Saint Anthony the Great

The Antonine cloistered nuns of the Antonin Order existing in Lebanon at the very beginning of the 18th century are at the origin of our Antonine Sisters Congregation which became apostolic in 1940 thanks to Mother Isabelle El-Khoury (1878-1953) of Jezzine, who wanted to devote herself to the service of the men and women of her time. As a community, the Antonine Sisters belong to the Antiochene Maronite Church.

The spirituality of the Antonine Sisters comes from both the rich heritage of Saint Anthony the Great, founder of religious life, and the Maronite Church, based on the spiritual life of Saint Maroun.

The Tau

The Tau or Cross of Saint-Anthony the Great (250-355).

Our Logo is the Antonine Tau, a symbol of Saint Anthony the Great of Egypt. We carry it as a cross around our necks. It is a sign of our devotion to the Lord and service to our fellow human beings. Dedicated to love and service at the heart of the Church for the world, we belong to the legacy of our father, Saint Anthony the Great and to the legacy of Saint Maroun.

Our Beginnings: 1700-1940

The Antonin Order of Saint Isaiah was founded in Lebanon on August 15, 1700, at the convent of Saint Isaiah on the Arant Mount at Broumana, by Bishop Mar Gabriel Bluzene and two monks from Our Lady of Tamish. The Antonine monks and nuns take their name after Saint Anthony of the Desert who heard the words of Jesus “Go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me” (Mark 10:2).

The Constitutions and the Laws of the Antonine monks and nuns of the Maronite Antiochene Order of Saint Isaiah were approved by Pope Clement XII, on January 17, 1740, in the brief “Misericordiarum Pater.”

After residing in Lebanon in different convents, the Antonine nuns were established permanently in two monasteries: Saint Elias (Ghazir, Lebanon) in 1748 and Saint Anthony (Jezzine, Lebanon) in 1774. They led a solitary and cloistered life that was based on prayer, manual work, and service inside the cloister.

Mother Isabelle El-Khoury (1878-1953)

Mother Isabelle is the charismatic reformer and the first Superior General of the new generation of the Maronite Antonine Sisters (1932-1953). While living in the cloister, Mother Isabelle felt a deep calling to minister to the poor and needy at a time when Lebanon was undergoing great hardships and poverty following First World War. She was concerned about the education of women and the youth in poor villages and strongly believed that people deserved assistance to build a better future for their families.

On May 10 of 1932, according to her request and the decision of the General Council of the Antonine Fathers, Mother Isabelle Khoury left Jezzine with Sister Mariam Aoun to reside in Saint Doumit’s Monastery Roumieh, a village 15km north-east of Beirut. With the help of the Superior General of the Antonine Fathers, her parents, some relatives and friends, Mother Isabelle renovated that monastery to become the Motherhouse and the headquarters of the Antonine Sisters. She established a new way of religious life based both on contemplative prayer and apostolic work. On April 10, 1940, the nuns were authorized by the Holy See to start an apostolic life outside the convent.

According to the instruction of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, the sisters decided in 1953, in a definite way for the apostolic life. Their new Constitutions were approved on January 17 of 1958. Afterwards, different Chapters were held to finalize the new adapted Constitutions that the Congregation for the Oriental Churches approved on April 26 of 1996. At the request of the Antonine Order and many Bishops, several schools were opened in different parts of Lebanon.

Although the Antonine Sisters Mother House has remained in Roumieh, Lebanon, the sisters established convents and ministries overseas, namely in the United States of America (1959), Cyprus (1979), Australia (1980), France (1982), Canada (1988) and Jerusalem in the Holy Land in 1994.

Drawing from the Maronite tradition and from the desire for world peace, the Antonine Sisters Missions interact between the values of the Orient (the East) and the Occident (the West). The sisters minister to the Maronite and non-Maronite communities alike. The Antonine Sisters mission expanded to include different fields of action such as:

  • Education
  • Healthcare
  • Childcare
  • Pastoral Care and Parish Life

Antonine Sisters Australia

Our work in Melbourne is like a mustard seed that was planted in good soil, it grew into a big tree and bore good fruit. In 1980, in response to the request of Archbishop Abdo Khalife, Maronite Bishop of Australia, four nuns arrived in Melbourne and resided in the endowment house of Our Lady of Lebanon Parish in Carlton. Mother Henriette Roufail, Sister Florence Dahdah, Sister Charles Akle and Sister Marie Nassar quickly gained the love of the Our Lady of Lebanon Parish Community, the trust of the priests, and the blessing of the bishops who took care of the diocese. They were heavily involved in the liturgical and pastoral life of the parish, taught sacramental classes, formed a choir, cared for families, visited the sick and began teaching the Arabic language to the community’s children.

Our founders in the spirit of Mother Isabelle El-Khoury, had a vision of opening learning centres for young and older children. We give thanks for their years of hard work and dedication and acknowledge all the Antonine Sisters who have followed them to serve the Our Lady of Lebanon Parish and Antonine College Community.

The Saturday Arabic language school grew from humble beginnings followed by the official opening of the Antonine Sisters Child Care Centre on 16 November 1986, the establishment of Saint Paul’s Hostel in 1995, the Antonine Sisters Maronite Primary School in 1998, the Antonine Sisters Trinity Maronite Catholic Secondary College in Brunswick in 2002 culminating in the amalgamation of the two schools to form Antonine College in 2005.

In 2010 Trinity Campus was sold making way for the establishment of a newly renovated St Joseph Campus, Pascoe Vale South with future construction plans underway.

The Blessing and Opening of the new Mother Isabelle El-Khoury Sports Stadium by His Eminence Bishop Antoine-Charbel Tarabay on September 14, 2023 was held in the presence Mother Superior, Sr Nazha El Khoury, Sr Mariette Kareh, Ms Joanne Bacash, as well as, former principals Sister Marie Nassar and Sister Daad Azzi. It was a great joy for the whole community and a tribute to the vision and mission of the Antonine Sisters in Melbourne over the past four decades.