Maronites in Utah
The Establishment of St. Jude Maronite Catholic Church
A handful of people, filled with a love for the faith of their forefathers; a Bishop, with a vision and the foresight to pursue it; one very determined Priest, obedient to his Bishop, and willing to sacrifice for the dream of the people… for the Glory of God.
This was the recipe that, mixed with many graces from God, brought St. Jude Church from that dream to the reality that it is today.
Bishop Francis M. Zayek, Shepherd of the Diocese of St. Maron, U.S.A – The Maronities in the United States – called Msgr. John Trad to his office in December of 1975, informing him of his desire to establish a Maronite Mission in Salt Lake City, Just a month later, on January 26, 1976, Msgr. arrived in Salt Lake City, bringing with him only one vestment, a home-made copy of the Maronite Liturgy (Quorbono), A Chalice, and a Ciborium. The task ahead was a difficult one, for there was no church, no formed congregation, not even a place to lay his head.
Through many struggles, and the generous support of the Shepherd of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City, Bishop Joseph Lennox Federal, Msgr. Trad was invited to stay with Rev. James Kenny at St. Ann’s Church, This is where the first Maronite Masses (Divine Liturgies) were celebrated with his small Maronite congregation in the Utah valley. This arrangement, so kind from the good Father Kenny, was not one that could cultivate growth within the Maronites. Msgr. Trad recognized this and expressed the need for the people to have their own Church. Again, Bishop Federal came to the aid of the Maronites. He instructed Msgr. Trad to meet with Father Mark Benvegnu at St. Vincent de Paul Church in Murray. This meeting was the beginning of the arrangement that brought the St. Vincent Church building (erected in 1927) and rectory to its new ‘life’ as St. Jude Mission and Rectory. St. Jude, the saint of desperate cases.
Many times the dream of the Maronite Church in Utah seemed a desperate case. And so, turning to Saint Jude, Msgr. made the promise that, if the good Saint would intercede for this cause, the new Maronite Parish would be dedicated to him.
Almost unbelievably, but with the shrewdness of our determined founding Pastor, the generosity, guidance, support, and encouragement from both Bishop Zayek, and Bishop Federal, and many Maronite and private donations, the money was raised, and the property was purchased from Father Benvegnu. The Rectory first, then the Church Building, finally belonged to the Maronites. A little more than 4 years later on April 12, 1980, St. Jude Mission became the New Parish of St. Jude Maronite Catholic Church.
Msgr. Trad has been quoted as saying of Bishop Federal and Father Benvegnu, “I consider them great personal friends and friends of the entire Maronite community. They could rightly be called the co-establishers of this Mission, for without their unlimited generosity, advice, and kindness, this Mission might never have been.”
We can say now, that without the determination of this holy Priest, Monsignor John Trad, and the faith and perseverance of the handful of Maronites who had a dream, St. Jude Maronite Catholic Church may never have been.
Each year, by the grace of God, and the intervention many times of our patron, St. Jude, our small band has grown. St. Jude Community has been blessed with six holy Priests, all of them bringing the beautiful spirituality of the Maronite Traditions into the hearts and souls of the people.
Monsignor John Trad was reassigned, five years and one day later than his arrival, on January 25, 1981, to St. Teresa of the Little Flower, in Brockton, Massachusetts. He had accomplished his mission in Utah, seeing the little Mission become a Parish only eight months earlier. Msgr. touched many lives during his priesthood. On November 11, 2002, Chorbishop John Trad passed away.
Father Jonathon (William) Decker was the second priest assigned to St. Jude Church. Under Father Decker’s loving care properties to the side of the Church were purchased, and improvements to the Rectory and Church buildings were done. The buildings were not the only part of St. Judes’s to receive improvements, however. Father Decker’s love for God and our Holy Mother, shone in everything he did. In Father’s humble way he imparted an even deeper spirituality into the hearts and souls of the community. The social life of the parish also grew, and the community continued a tradition started by Msgr. Trad. The very first Lebanese Festival, begun as a Spaghetti Dinner, flourished as the ladies of the community prepared mouthwatering Lebanese food for family and friends. The good food and dancing at the Annual Lebanese Festival, or ‘Huflee’ was one that all looked forward to. Father Decker is now Pastor of St. Sharbel Maronite Church in Portland, Oregon. He still speaks fondly of the community and his years in Utah.
Then came Father Anthony Spinosa. Father Spinosa came to St. Jude’s in 1984 and contributed to our growth until 1987. Father Anthony also looked after the physical improvements to our little Church and parking lots. With his guidance, in 1985, a group of St. Jude parishioners brought our Lebanese food to the public, at the very first Living Traditions Festival held at This is The Place Monument in Salt Lake City. The Anton Family Band added to the Lebanese presence by supplying Traditional Lebanese Music for that Festival. St. Jude church, and the Anton Family Band, have participated every year, in each Festival since then. The beauty of Father Anthony’s love for our dearest Mother Mary, and his devotion to our rich Maronite heritage, showed in every celebration of the Divine Liturgy and other Spiritual activities he celebrated. Father Anthony is now Msgr. Anthony Spinosa, and he is the rector of the National Shrine of Our Lady of Lebanon in Jackson, Ohio. Msgr. will always be remembered for his expressive hats and cassocks, and he still speaks of St. Jude as his ‘Camelot’.
Monsignor William Boneczewski, a holy priest of 34 years, was our priest from 2008-2011. Father Bill, as he humbly introduces himself, has captivated the hearts of our St. Jude’s community. In his short time here he was always busy organizing all areas of the Church and Rectory. Under his watchful eye, our Sanctuary had a beautiful renovation, with the addition of wood flooring in the High Altar area, and tile flooring with a mosaic design on the Bema area. Father Bill loved the personal contact with all our people and reached out to those absent and in need. The community, through his guidance, opened our doors to weekly AA meetings, and among our organizations, we have a St. Jude Dance Troupe, made up of Youth from our community, ranging in age from 7 to 17 years old, and a Men’s Club, which serves the parish in many ways. His love for the Eucharist, the Trinity, our Holy Mother and our Maronite Faith and Traditions, permeated the Church. He knew how to get people involved with his spiritual presence and leadership, He had many plans for our little parish that became a reality. We wish him all the best and pray for him to touch many other people in his new assignment.
As you can see, each of our priests has blessed us in special ways, and our Church has grown in different ways under the guidance of each priest. We are a small, but intimate congregation – united by our love of God, the Catholic Church, and our Maronite Faith and Traditions. Perhaps our numbers have not grown in leaps and bounds, but our spirit reaches beyond the walls of the Church building.
Monsignor Joubran BouMerhi