- St. Ephrem Maronite Church
- Contact: 750 Medford St, El Cajon 619k-337-1350 www.stephremchurch.com
- Membership: 310
- Pastor: Father Toufic Nasr
- Born: Beirut, Lebanon
- Formation: Maronite Patriarchal Seminary, Ghazir, Lebanon; Our Lady of Lebanon Seminary, Washington, D.C.; Oblate College, Washington, D.C.
- Years Ordained: 22
San Diego Reader: Why did you become a priest?
Father Toufic Nasr: I grew up in Lebanon during the civil wars there. During wars in general, and civil wars in particular, people ask big questions: Why is this happening? Why is this going on? Why are people fighting each other? People also pray more and tend to go to church more often during wars, asking those big questions. Because of that, I was active in the Christian activities at my local church, and we did spiritual retreats and adorations, and more and more, like others, I prayed a lot, much like people here in the U.S. started praying a lot, I recall, immediately after 9-11 — I mean, everybody was praying after that happened. So I became very involved with the Church and eventually knew I wanted to become a priest. There was nothing dramatic about it, really. So then I came here because there was a need in this country for Maronite Catholic priests.
SDR: What is the mission of your church?
FN: Our mission here is to build our Maronite Catholic community, and we get parishioners from other Catholic churches also. Ethnic churches normally have a loyalty that is different. The Maronite Catholics in Lebanon, for example, go to Maronite churches, and the Melkite Catholics go to Melkite churches, even though they’re all Catholic. Here in San Diego, people who are Lebanese go to Lebanese churches. So we get Roman Rite Catholics, Melkite Rite Catholics, and Maronite Rite Catholics all attending here because they are all Lebanese — because they feel more at home in a Lebanese church.
SDR: Where is the strangest place you found God?
FN: You can see God anywhere, especially when you grow up in a war. Your take on the world is different — totally different. There are a lot of things people take for granted here or in Europe, or anywhere that doesn’t have war. In such places, your perception of the world is one in which you wake up in the morning and take for granted that there will be electricity in the house. People think this is normal; but it’s not normal where I come from. Seeing water come out of a faucet every day — you don’t know how amazing that is to see.
750 Medford Street, El Cajon
SDR: Where do you go when you die?
FN: Our faith believes we will be with God. Our hope is that we will be with God, because we don’t want to die but we want to live forever. There is a possibility for hell, of course. My faith is the Catholic faith — so you’re either with God or away from God, which is our definition of hell. You choose God in this life and you be with him after death, or you don’t choose him, if you don’t want to be with God but want to be your own self with your own will, not God’s will, like Adam. We believe in a place of torment — but this is God’s decision, and I don’t spend much time thinking about it. God is our father, and he will take care of his children. We believe with Jesus we will have salvation, that through our relationship with God we will have salvation.