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Orthodox church marks 100 years in Cedar Rapids

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CEDAR RAPIDS — The St. George Antiochian Orthodox Church is celebrating 100 years as a part of the Cedar Rapids community. One member, Geraldine Hanna, has been a part of the church for 93 of those years.

“I always said that was my Saint George, because I was married there, my kids were all baptized there,” Hanna said.

She was born in Thompson, Iowa in 1921. A year later, her parents moved their family to Cedar Rapids and joined the parish. Through the years, Hanna watched all four of her children get baptized and later, married, at the front of the church.

“This will always be a part of our family,” she said.

St. George was first founded in 1914 by a group of 25 immigrant families from Lebanon and Syria. It’s one of the oldest Christian Orthodox churches in the country and the first built west of the Mississippi River in the contiguous United States. Holy Assumption of the Virgin Mary, in Kenai, Alaska, was founded in 1846.

One church leader said the church has expanded to about 200 families today.

He sees potential for that growth to continue.

“Iowans and Americans in general are still discovering what Orthodox Christianity is and it’s the oldest church in the world,” said Nick AbouAssaly, the church choir director.

Hanna agrees.

She said this centennial anniversary is something she’ll remember for the rest of her life.

“This is a limelight in my life because to live this long and to see this happen, that’s a miracle,” she said.

The church is wrapping up a weekend of celebration with a dance at the Cedar Rapids Marriott.

Leaders say friends and family from all over North America will attend.

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