John S. Habib, Ph.D. (1930 – 2020) has a great story to share, one that is international but also uniquely American. 

The late John S. Habib

The youngest of 11 children, John was born in Detroit, Michigan, on July 7, 1930, the last of five boys and six girls, to Sasin Habib El Khoury Hannah and Mary Backus Saad lshaq.  Sasin and Mary immigrated to the United States from remote Lebanese mountain villages in 1900 and 1896, respectively.  They were married in St. Peter and Paul Roman Catholic Cathedral in Detroit, in January of 1904, and both became naturalized US citizens later that year.

 “By the time I came along, America was in a full depression and my parents, like many Americans, lost everything they had worked for except their faith in God and in America. Like most Americans they picked themselves up and started over,” John shared. “They taught their children love of country and for each other, and respect for others, and by their example the blessings and rewards of the work ethic. I can still hear my mother’s exhortation, ‘thank God you were born in this country,’ when as kids we got to complaining.”

Sasin & Mary Habib Family, 1942

John benefited from the cumulative sacrifices and love of his parents and ten older siblings. He enjoyed a distinguished career as a US diplomat, national security officer, and professor. Mr. Habib’s deep commitment to education and his desire to honor his family led him to establish a special room marked with a plaque in memory of his parents at St. Jude’s Children Research Hospital. He also recognized his siblings with scholarship endowments at the University of Michigan, and with James Madison College at Michigan State University.

In 2022, Mr. Habib’s Trust opened an endowment fund with the Catholic Foundation of Michigan to support the Capuchin Soup Kitchen’s Rosa Parks Children and Youth Programming events.

I learned of the Capuchin Soup Kitchen and Rosa Parks Youth Program through the Anthony Malcoun Family, of Detroit.  Anthony was one of many of John’s nephews and nieces for whom John had deep admiration.  Education was of primary importance in the life of John.  The Youth Program’s focus on helping kids in need, in John’s home town of Detroit, is something he would want to support,” shared Mark Habib.

Through this endowment, John’s memory will honor his sisters, who from oldest to youngest he described asEva, humorous and compassionate; Agnes, devoted daughter and mother; Bergita, classy and astute; Jemelia, devout and fun-loving; Margaret, innovative and caring;  and Lillian, intuitive and responsible.”

The Rosa Parks Children and Youth Program is a ministry of the Capuchin Soup Kitchen focused on breaking the cycle of poverty through educational opportunities. The program provides art therapy and tutoring in a safe environment that encourages creativity.

“The Capuchin Soup Kitchen is grateful to the family of John S. Habib for their commitment to combating cyclical poverty through educational opportunities provided at the Rosa Parks Children and Youth Program. This vital work promises to plant seeds of hope for the most vulnerable children of poverty-stricken Detroit,” shared Brother Nicholas Blattner, Director of the Solanus Mission Association.

Learn how you can establish a forever legacy today. 

Give to the John S. Habib Educational Fund


 We Adore You, O Christ, and we praise You because by Your holy cross, you have redeemed the world.

Lent reminds us that Christ crucified is our hope. But why can it be so difficult to explain to others? Art can be a way to speak to others about Christ when words fail.

The Catholic Church has used paintings and grand architecture to convey throughout history the story of Christ.

Close up of Station Five

In December 2019, a small group of lay faithful optioned the right to purchase an 82-acre parcel in Augusta, Michigan. With one year to raise the funds, seventeen families came together in support of  “The Sanctuary” project and raised $1.25 million dollars to acquire the land.

Through the expression of great art, The Sanctuary, a professionally designed sculpture park and nature preserve, will tell the story of Christ’s journey to Calvary through sixty larger-than-life bronze sculptures depicting the Stations of the Cross and retelling the fourteen encounters Christ had along the path of sorrows known as Via Dolorosa.

Just twenty minutes from Kalamazoo, the location in Augusta, Michigan lies between Chicago and Detroit and a short drive from Grand Rapids, Lansing and Ann Arbor.. Accompanied by an audio tour, visitors will walk the half-mile circuitous footpath, nestled amongst the serene beauty of wooded hills and wildlife. The Sanctuary will tell the story of Christ’s passion and self-sacrificing love for each of us, moving one’s mind from a Bible story on a page to walking with Christ in his final hours.

We found The Sanctuary struck our hearts as a beautiful blend of faith, art, nature, and evangelization. We were so impressed with the skill of the sculptors and the thorough design of the visitor’s experience,”  shared Eric and Sue Jeska. 

There has never been a more immediate time to share the story of Christ than now. According to a 2022 Pew Research survey, America’s fastest-growing category of religious identity is ‘none,’ or people with no religious affiliation. This group could grow as large as 52% in the next 40 years. 

This data reflects what hearts lack; a personal relationship with God. The Sanctuary will be a place where beauty provides a refuge for the most vulnerable among us who do not know of Christ’s love while offering a place of meditation for the faithful who desire to grow deeper in their relationship with God.

Upon completion in the fall of 2024, The Sanctuary will offer refuge to those who seek to know the love of Christ by encountering His passion in the journey to Calvary made real in the true beauty of art and the haven of nature.  The Sanctuary is a $14.5 million venture. To date, over $7 million has been donated. 

“We chose to partner with the Catholic Foundation of Michigan because they have the infrastructure and expertise in place to accommodate major gift donations with the ability to meet a donor’s preferred method of giving. The Foundation has been a trusted partner handling sensitive donor financial information ethically and confidentially,” shared Sue Jeska.

The Sanctuary team welcomes the opportunity to further discuss the project and its exciting progress with you. Please contact the Catholic Foundation of Michigan with your questions or requests for additional information about how your contribution can be a part of this legacy project.  

Most importantly,  especially during this Lent, we ask for your prayers that God blesses the design team with His guidance and moves hearts to be a part of this evangelization project.

Give Now to Support the Sanctuary Stations of the Cross

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