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Fr. Joseph Kacere

Farris Kacere was born in Lebanon in 1885 and moved to the United States in 1908. He married Mary Kawaja in 1915 and was ordained as a priest in 1916, taking the name Joseph. Though not the first priest to serve at St. George Orthodox Church in Cedar Rapids, his legacy there is extraordinary nonetheless. For the next seventeen years, Fr. Joseph’s leadership and dedication to his parish would help to build a strong and faithful community, growing the parish to over 500 persons.

The evidence of his love of and dedication to his church and parish is known through his many contributions. Father Joseph started the first Sunday School, teaching children and many of the parishioners not only English, but Arabic as well. Many were to become so fluent in Arabic that they were capable of reading the epistle during services as well as serve as chanters. He began and conducted a choir of sixty youth voices which sang entire services in Arabic. He would often give legal advice and counseling to those members of his parish in trouble. Once, his civil activism lead him to prevent the deportation of one Freddie Abdnour, an eleven year old newsboy.

In 1931, through his leadership and energy, the church was able to purchase a plot of land that would become the St. George Cemetery. Father Joseph also showed his desire to participate in civic organizations apart from the church, such as becoming a valued member of the Mt. Hermon Lodge.

Tragically, Fr. Joseph’s beautiful life came to a sudden end when he, his mother, and ten year old son, were killed in an automobile collision while on their way to perform a baptism. According to news reports, over 1500 persons attended Fr. Joseph’s funeral, including His Eminence VICTOR AbouAssaly, Archbishop of New York. He was buried in the cemetery he helped establish.