Sister Therese Maria Touma directs youth and young adult ministry for the Eparchy of St. Maron of Brooklyn. An eparchy is a diocese in Eastern-rite Catholic Churches, whose territory may span over a large geographic area. It is governed by a bishop (or eparch) and divided into parishes, similar to the Roman-rite churches. The Maronite Catholic Church is one of the largest Eastern Churches, with more than 3.3 million members worldwide.
Sister Touma belongs to the Maronite Servants of Christ the Light, a new religious order of Maronite sisters who serve the faithful in the 16 states of this eparchy, which stretches from Maine to Florida. She is based with two other sisters in Dartmouth, Massachusetts.
In her eparchy, she is the first director of youth and young adult ministries who is not a priest. Initially she was hired as coordinator to assist two priests who were the directors. In less than a year, when the bishop realized her talents and potential, she was promoted to director.
As an immigrant from Australia, she arrived in the United States in 2009 to explore the possibility of joining the sisters. She took her first vows in 2012 and the following year became one of Catholic Extension’s first cohort of leaders to join the Young Adult Leadership Initiative and receive graduate level training. She completed her master’s degree in pastoral ministry from Boston College in 2015 and was hired by the diocese.
Her service to young Middle Eastern Christians includes faith formation, counseling, leading retreats and heading pilgrimages to the annual March for Life in Washington.
This summer she led a group of young adults to Lebanon to participate in World Maronite Youth Days. The goals of the event are to deepen the young people’s relationship with Christ, learn the history and spirituality of the Maronite Church and to create an international community with other young Maronites.
Full of optimism and enthusiasm, the question that Sister Touma asks is not “How can we possibly do this?” but “How can we not succeed?”
Since she became director in the eparchy, participation in youth and young adult activities has doubled and the quality of the programs has greatly increased.
“Youth ministry is a constant giving and receiving,” she said. “As I am being emptied, the Lord is refilling me daily with joy and new energy to serve through each encounter and in my personal and communal prayer life with my sisters.”
With vision and gusto, Sister Touma is greatly helping young Maronites in America find a place and a voice in the Church.