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95th Anniversary of the St. George Orthodox Church, Michigan City, IN

Very Rev. Fr. Antonios Abu-Alam Farah
Very Rev. Fr. Antonios Abu-Alam Farah
Very Rev. Fr. Antonios Abu-Alam Farah
Consecration of the church, 1911
Consecration of the church, 1911
Consecration of the church, 1911
Since 1900 Orthodox Lebanese-Syrians have lived in Michigan City, Indiana. The people here would make a trip to Chicago for special feast days like Pascha and Christmas. Tanous Abu-Alam Farah was for the most part the lay leader in the Arabic speaking community. At this time itenerate priests would make their way thru the Midwest always stopping at the home ‘Tony Bohlim’ his Americanized name. Many baptisms, weddings were performed during this time with the rise of industry here, and more men brought their families over here to live. Most having lived under the domination of the Ottoman Turkic Moslem oppression and their Christian pogroms of the 1860's and 70's saw a depopulation of Christians in the Middle East, most chose to live in freedom of Moslem persecution. Since contacts were already made, Michigan City was ready for their own parish for the Orthodox community. Archbishop Tikhon foresight of creating the Syro-Arabian Mission under the Russian Orthodox Church led the way of uniting all Orthodox in the diaspora under the Russian Orthodox Church. His immediate auxiliary Bishop Raphael Hawaweeny the first bishop to be consecrated on American soil was a Syrian by birth, a Russian by education an American by adoption. On August 1, 1910, His Grace Bishop Raphael sent his dean of the cathedral in Brooklyn Archpriest Basil Kerbawy to start and incorporate the new mission. The property was bought and the ground breaking took place at this time also. The cornerstone was laid on the feast of the Dormition of the Theotokos on August 28, 1911 by Fr. Phillipous Abou-Assaley, with the temple finished by December 1911. At this time the election of the parish board took place and a petition to His Grace Bishop Raphael for a priest to be assigned. The name of Tanous Abu-Alam Farah was given as a potential candidate for the holy priesthood. Before leaving his native country of Lebanon he had been studying for the priesthood at a seminary. He immigrated to the United States with his sister in 1890 working in Chicago. He found his future wife at the Columbian Exposition which all had been working in the Moroccan exhibit. The Haskell and Barker Company recruited Tanous in Springfield, IL. in 1899 and moved him and 19 other families to Michigan City to work in the train car works factory; this factory eventually became Pullman Standard. Tanous became a leader in the community quickly because he was able to speak English as well as Arabic he provided supervisory management of the swelling Arabic speaking community which was made of Christian, Orthodox, Melkites, and Maronites and Moslems. Tanous went to New York and studied further with His Grace Bishop Raphael and was ordained a deacon on Nov. 15, 1912 and to the holy priesthood on January 13, 1913. On September 6, 1914, the church was consecrated to the Glory of God by His Grace Bishop Raphael Hawaweeny the last church before his untimely repose on February 27,1915. The community grew until 1930 when Fr. Anthony passes away during Holy Week of that year. Archbishop Aftimios Ofiesh buried Fr. Anthony on Bright Tuesday. Because of the problems created by the Russian Revolution and new immigration laws fewer men chose the priesthood and priests were scarce for the Syro-Arabian Mission. Ofiesh created an American Orthodox Church splitting the mission into two factions. From my records we favored Russian jurisdiction but in 1936 the Syro-Arabian Mission ceased to exist and the parishes in America were handed over to the Antiochian Patriarchate, which we remained until 1996 when we petitioned His Eminence Archbishop Alypy to be received under his omophor and the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad. On August 8/21, 2005, His Grace Bishop Peter of Cleveland arrived in Michigan City to celebrate our 95th anniversary. Vladyka humbly served as priest since none were available to help him. A small dinner was held for those present. Very Rev. Abbess Evpraksija from the Nativity of the Mother of God Stavropegial Serbian Orthodox Monastery in New Carlisle graced us with her presence, she brought with her a sister and some guests. The numbers of yesteryear has dwindled but we continue to witness our presence here in Michigan City. Consecration Picture Left to Right (Front Row): Archdeacon Emmanuel Abou-Hatab (last bishop of the Syro-Arabian Mission consecrated in 1930, Died 1933), Very Rev. Fr. Antonios Abu-Alam Farah (parish priest), His Grace Bishop Raphael Hawaweeny, Bishop of Brooklyn, NY, (Canonized a Saint by the OCA on May 28, 2000) His relics were found to be uncorrupt., Very Rev. Phillipous Abou-Assaley, priest in Grand Rapids, MI, Tanous Tumber Abu-Farah, Ibrahim Abu-Alam Farah, Left to Right (Second Row): Bu-Brahim Tumber, Abu-Farah, Abdallah Abu-Alam Farah, Sada Abu-Farah, Wadiha Aziza Haddad, Lena Tumber Abu-Farah, Adla Abu-Alam Farah, Toufiq Abu-Alam Farah, Maryam Abu-Alam Farah. Timothy Tadros pravoslavney@yahoo.com 219-872-0210
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