Founded by a Saint
The parish of St. George of Cedar Rapids , Iowa has a long and rich history. Started in 1914 by a group of 25 Syrian and Lebanese immigrant families, St. George has evolved over the years into a multi-ethnic parish serving close to 200 families. The founding families had gathered in Cedar Rapids from several nearby farms and small towns and sought to build a church in order to help them raise their children in the Faith. Under the spiritual guidance of our Father among the Saints, RAPHAEL of Brooklyn, who presided at the first Divine Liturgy, those founding families managed to collect $4,000 in donations and borrow an additional $6,000 to finance the construction of their beloved St. George Church. Today, a shrine housing the icon of St. RAPHAEL, along with his Holy relic, stands along the north wall of the church sanctuary in recognition of his role in the founding of our parish.
As the years passed and the parish grew, the physical structure of St. George was in need of major repairs and expansion. By the grace of God, we were able to build a new Church in a still-developing part of the city. Our current Church was consecrated by His Grace Bishop BASIL, on St. Thomas Sunday, April 23, 1993. In December 1996, a new and larger hall, donated by former parishioner and attorney Helen G. Nassif of Washington D.C., was added. This new hall would be named The Michael G. Nassif Education and Cultural Center, in honor of her beloved brother.
Nineteen priests have served our parish in its ninety-five year history. Three years ago we welcomed our current pastor, Fr. Fred Shaheen and his family, into our St. George community. He has been a wonderful spiritual father to our parishioners. Additionally, St. George was blessed in January 2008 to see Edmund Abodeely, a son of the parish, ordained to the Holy Diaconate and assigned to serve here, a first in the history of St. George.
Among her many accomplishments, two that the parish of St. George cherishes the most are: 1) the birth of Camp St. George, the Camp of the Diocese of Toledo and the Midwest, which was started here in 2001 with a vision for the spiritual well-being of our children (www.campstgeorge.org ); and 2) the establishment of our daughter parish, St. Raphael of Brooklyn Antiochian Orthodox Mission, in Iowa City, Iowa (www.straphaelorthodoxchurch.org ). The mission recently raised enough funding to purchase a building that will accommodate their growing community of Orthodox faithful.
As one of the first Antiochian Orthodox parishes built west of the Mississippi, St. George looks forward to celebrating its Centennial Anniversary in 2014.