History of Saint George Maronite Catholic Church
From the beautiful shores of the Mediterranean, from an area now known as Lebanon
(earlier a section of Syria), our forefathers came to the New World to find more
opportunities in the "Land of Plenty". These descendants if the ancient Phoenicians,
came from towns and villages such as Abdilly, Beirut, Saida, Iddee, Batroun, and others.
Most of the immigrants spoke little or no English when they arrived at the shores of the
United States in the late eighteen hundreds.
The city of Uniontown, Fayette County seat, is located at the foot of Chesnut Ridge of the
Allegheny Mountains. Founded by Henry Beeson in 1796, it has grown into a thriving
community, serving the needs and requirements of its population. It is approximately
fifty miles south of Pittsburgh.
The area immediately surrounding Uniontown varies from mountainous to gentle rolling
valleys, rich in historical tradidion and early American heritage. It still retains the hardy
spirit of the pioneers who blazed the trails and settled here.
The early Maronites of Uniontown found the terrain very similar to their native land.
They cherished their traditions and most precious to them were their religious beliefs.
They worshipped at St. John Roman and St. John Byzantine Catholic Churches in the area
until 1922. Because of their love for their Maronite background, they yearned for a church
of their own. It was then that Father Paul Abi-Rizk, a Maronite priest from Lebanon,
founded the first place of worship in a home at 10 Wilson Avenue in Uniontown. There,
for several years, a handful of Maronite families gathered in prayer. Father Abi-Rizk was
assisted periodically by Fathers Peter (Eid) Elian and Gabriel (Nader) Koury.
In 1927, a group of thirteen parishioners petitioned Bishop Hugh C. Boyle, Ordinary of the Pittsburgh Diocese, to grant permission to establish a formal parish consisting of 110 parish families. Bishop Boyle assigned Father Elias Basil, a Maronite priest from Lebanon, to assist in founding the parish and serve the Maronites of Uniontown and surrounding area. Father Basil had previously served twenty-one years as a priest in Paris, France. He came to America in 1925 to attend Eucharistic Congress in Chicago, Illinois, and settles in the United States.
Through his zealous efforts and supervision, joined with the cooperation of the faithful, the first St. George Church was underway. A lot 50 x 150, at a cost of $3,000, was purchased at 124 Lincoln Street and construction began. The building was to be a temporary church, with plans to convert it to a school later and a bigger church was to be constructed toward the front of the land; however, this never materialized. The building was complete and dedicated March 25, 1928, and in July of that year, Father Basil was assigned to new duties in Pittsburgh.
He was succeeded by Father Nahamtallah Hayek, a Maronite Priest from Bijji, Lebanon. Under his guidance, the parish prospered and grew. Though these were World War II years, the parish worked and prayed together and formally burned the original mortgage in 1942.
Father Hayek (then Monsignor) retired in 1947 and returned to his native Lebanon. The parish needs were placed under the spiritual ministry of Father Harold Phillips, O. S. B. of St. Vincent Archabbey, Latrobe, Pennsylvania, with Father Thomas J. Dunn, then pastor of St. John R. C. Church, Uniontown, as financial administrator. Father Harold, as he was affectionately called, would travel to Uniontown each weekend to celebrate Liturgy and it was during his tenure, that the rectory was purchased in 1949, and the first May Crowning was held at St. George.
It was not until March, 1950, that Elias G. Nader, one of two priestly vocations from St. George, returned to his home area to become pastor. He previously had been pastor of St. John the Baptist Church, New Castle, PA for thirteen years. Many changes and developments took place almost immediately upon his arrival – Young Ladies Sodality officially organized; Men’s Holy Name Society reactivated; Building Fund for the Church in Abdilly established; altar boys regrouped; religious instruction for the children was place under the guidance of the Sisters of St. Joseph, then teachers at St. John Grade and High Schools; new organ purchased; new bell installed; fund for addition to parish rectory begun; new tabernacle placed and an extensive remodeling program was finalized and new windows installed. St. George Church in Abdilly was sponsored and completed through the efforts of a handful of our local parishioners. The Church still stands and is utilized presently by residents of Abdilly and surrounding area. In 1952, additional property was purchased adjacent to the parish rectory on Lincoln Street. All parish organizations were actively functioning – Church Committee, Ladies Guild, Holy Name Society, Sodality and Altar Boys. An informal building fund began in 1953 and each family was assessed $25.00 per year… the goal at that time was $25,000.00
During the early fifties, Msgr. Paul Abi-Rizk returned to the parish and Bishop Lamb of Greensburg Diocese also visited. The loss of former parish priests saddened all – Msgr. Abi-Rizk, a year following his visit, and Msgr. Basil in August 1957.
The parish of St. George Maronite Catholic Church has been blessed with the spiritual guidance of many leaders who have made tremendous impacts on our parish family and our lives. Those called to serve the parish of St. George have included:
1922-1927 Chor-Bishop Paul Abi-Rizk
1927-1928 Rt. Rev. Chor-Bishop Elias Basil
1928-1947 Chor-Bishop Nahamtallah Hayek
1947-1950 St. George remained without a pastor; needs were administered by the Roman Catholic Diocese for 3 years.
1950-1969 Fr. Elias G. Nader
1967-1969 Fr. Joseph Shaheen (First and only Assistant Pastor at St. George)
1969-1983 Fr. Peter J. Mahfoud
1983-1994 Fr. Gregory John Mansour
1994-1998 Fr. Christopher Henderson
1998- Fr. Joseph R. David
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