The patron of our parish is Saint George the Great-martyr. St. George is one of the most well-known and beloved of saints. Born into a Christian family in the region of Cappadocia, St. George joined the Roman army when he came of age. Though admired by the Emperor Diocletian, St. George was nonetheless eventually tortured and killed because of his steadfast faith. Standing against Diocletian because of his persecution of the Christians, the young saint openly confessed Christ. The outraged emperor attempted to both persuade and intimidate St. George, inflicting many tortures upon him.
Because of his stalwart faith in the face of suffering and death, and because of the many miraculous events that occurred during his martyrdom, many witnesses became convinced of the truth of the Christianity. Thus, George is honored with the title Great-martyr. St. George is commemorated on April 23rd. Click here to read more about his life.
The parish of St. George is blessed to have been founded by another saint, Raphael (Hawaweeny) of Brooklyn. St. Raphael arrived in New York City on November 14th, 1895, responding to an appeal of a group of Syrian-Lebanese immigrants in need of a priest who could minister in their native tongue. His first of two visits to Kearney occurred on September 20th, 1899, during one of his numerous missionary journeys across the United States. After this visit, he began organizing the local Arab Christians into a parish community.
Having served as a priest under the Russian Orthodox Church for several years, St. Raphael was consecrated auxiliary bishop on March 13th, 1904. His last visit to Kearney just months before his repose on February 27th, 1915. St. Raphael was recognized as a saint during a glorification service on May 29th, 2000, at St. Tikhon’s Monastery in South Canaan, Pennsylvania. In the Antiochian Church, he is commemorated on the Saturday immediately prior to the Feast of the Synaxis of the Bodiless Powers of Heaven (November 8th); in the OCA, he is commemorated on February 27th. Click here to read more about the life of our beloved father among the saints, Raphael of Brooklyn.
Father Nicola Yanney, the first priest of St. George, was a man of several notable firsts. He was ordained on April 3rd, 1904—the first priest ordained by St. Raphael after his consecration to the episcopacy. Fr. Nicola was also the first Arab man ordained to the priesthood in the United States. Immediately after his ordination, Fr. Nicola was assigned as the priest of St. George in Kearney, Nebraska, and, thus, became the first resident Arab Orthodox Christian priest west of the Mississippi River. He spent eight months of the year ministering in Kearney and four months of the year traveling to various communities throughout the region - teaching, holding services, and performing weddings and baptisms. The region covered by Fr. Nicola during his pastoral and missionary journeys was immense, extending from the Rocky Mountains to the Mississippi River and from the Canadian border to the Mexican border. Selflessly ministering to the sick and suffering of his flock in Kearney during the influenza epidemic of 1918, Fr. Nicola fell victim to the flu. He died on October 29th, 1918.
In October of 2008, our diocese gathered in pilgrimage to honor Fr. Nicola on the 90th anniversary of his repose. This event was hosted by the parish of St. George and was held in Kearney, Nebraska. The pilgrimage began with the Akathist to St. Raphael, followed by the blessing of Fr. Nicola’s grave and a new gravestone purchased by the Clergy Brotherhood of the Diocese of Wichita and Mid-America, and culminated in a Hierarchical Divine Liturgy served the following morning. The pilgrimage officially concluded with Great Vespers later that afternoon, after which many drove to a rural cemetery for Trisagion Prayers and the blessing of a grave marker for Fr. Nicola's wife and infant daughter. Click below to see pictures from our diocesan pilgrimage.