History of Saint George Church

The history and photos are reproduced from the St. George "Celebrating 100 Years" publication of 2006.

Saint Rafael

Troparion to St. Raphael "Rejoice, O Father Raphael, Adornment of the holy Church! Thou art Champion of the True Faith, Seeker of the lost, Consolation of the oppressed, Father to orphans, and Friend of the poor, Peacemaker and Good Shepherd, Joy of all the Orthodox, Son of Antioch, Boast of America; Intercede with Christ God for us and for all who honor thee."


A summary of the Life and Ministry of St. Raphael of Brooklyn can be found on the Antiochian web site. It can be read by accessing Clicking here: Life and Ministry of St. Raphael of Brooklyn

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Church Members 1904

At the latter part of the nineteenth century, a handful of people who migrated from Syria and Lebanon traveled up the Mississippi River to settle, live, and work in Vicksburg, Mississippi. Gradually, friends and relatives of this small group were drawn to this area in growing numbers, and soon it was evident that they were forming a community of their own, thousands of miles from their homeland.

Although the early days were difficult and challenging, these courageous people faced up to the challenges of being in a new country. They worked hard and steadfastly stuck together and soon found the strength to make every sacrifice necessary to acquire their own house of worship, an Orthodox temple, in this new country. So deeply rooted was their religious faith that these strangers in a foreign land, with the help of God, found the means, will, and determination to purchase their own church. The hardships and sacrifices were many, but the expression of their faith was soon to become a reality.

Church Members 1916

From 1906 to 1910 services were held by the itinerant priest, Father Makarius Saify, in homes and in his storefront home on Openwood Street. In 1908 the community was given official recognition in the Arabic American ecclesiastical magazine, al-Kalimat (The Word), by Bishop RAPHAEL (Hawaweeny), the vicar bishop who headed the Syro-Arabian Mission of the Russian Archdiocese of North America. In 1910 the community purchased the old Gibson Memorial Church and transformed it into an Orthodox temple. In February 1914, Bishop RAPHAEL, while touring around the country to visit the parishes under his care, came to Vicksburg on the weekend of Meatfare Sunday. He was deeply moved by the fact that the community already had its own temple and commended them heartily for their deligent work for the Lord's Holy Church. Father Makarius became the pastor and continued serving the St. George parish until his untimely death in 1924. While traveling in Arkansas in the new automobile which had been given to him, he was hit by another car as he exited from his car. It was during his pastorate in 1924 that St. George received its official charter that placed it under the newly formed Antiochian Archdiocese of New York.

Church Members 1921

St. George was one of the first Orthodox churches in the southern part of the United States and has played a very important role in the lives of many Orthodox faithful, whether Lebanese, Syrian, Greek, Russian, Serbian, or other national background.

Following Father Makarius' death, the parish was served by Father John Saba from 1924-25. Then Father Elias Meena, who was a lay member of the parish, was ordained a priest and served St. George from 1925-27. The fourth pastor, Right Reverend Anthony Bashir, who served from 1927-29, was later to become Metropolitan Archbishop of the Antiochian Archdiocese of North America in 1936. St. George was then pastored by Father Elias Hamaty from 1929-30 and by Right Reverend Agabius Golam from 1930-32. Father Gabrial Debes was the pastor from 1932-37, but sometime in this period he also began to serve as the pastor of St. Michael in Beaumont, Texas. It was during this time that the church complex was enhanced with the addition of a basement for classrooms for the now organized Sunday school. Again in 1937, a member of the parish, Father Michael Baroudy, was ordained to the priesthood to care for St. George. For the next 23 years his energy, dedication, and leadership worked to build a strong church community. It was during the time of Father Michael that the use of English in the Divine Services was gradually increased.

Church Members 1942

Saint RafaelIn 1954 Father Daniel Montgomery was brought in to assist Father Michael, who retired later that year. Father John Barrett then became pastor until early in 1960, and was succeeded by Father Basil Karpelania, who remained until late 1962. It was during this time that the women of St. George began their tradition of an annual Lebanese Dinner and that St. George purchased its parish rectory. Father Theodore Ziton served as pastor until the middle of 1963, when The Right Reverend John Matthieson became pastor for the next two and a half years. In January 1966, Father Nicholas Saikley became pastor. He served as pastor of St. George for 24 years until August 15, 1990, when he retired and was succeeded by Father David Hester. Following on the heels of Father Saikley, Father David Hester labored diligently as the pastor of St. George from August 1990 until August 1, 2000, when he was succeeded by Father Peter Smith. Father Peter served at St. George until 2004, when he was succeeded by Father John Morris. Father John was succeeded by Father Amin Houli in 2016, and then by Father Gabriel Karam in 2018.

Church Members 1942

On April 3, 1966, the ground-breaking ceremony for the new St. George temple was held under the pastorate of Father Nicholas, and in January 1967 the new temple was consecrated by His Eminence Metropolitan PHILIP, then the newly consecrated Metropolitan for North America.

Church Members 1966

The Church of St. George from the beginning has grown and developed. It has grown over the years as new generations of its youth have taken their place in its life, and converts have come to embrace the Orthodox faith. The young generation of today is very fortunate to be the beneficiary of the early settlers of Vicksburg, whose steadfastness in difficult times formed a community strong in the Orthodox faith. They can also be grateful for the guidance and aid of many of the people living today who helped build this new church temple. This and future generations must surely take pride in their rich Orthodox heritage and must find the time, energy, and courage to devote themselves to their Orthodox faith and her deep treasures of Orthodox Christian Tradition. Through their faithfulness may God, "look down from heaven and behold and perfect that which Thy right hand hath planted."

Church Members 2006

In 2006, St. George celebrated its 100th anniversary in Vicksburg, Mississippi, as the oldest Antiochian Orthodox Church in Mississippi and the South.

Priests of St. George

Fr. Makarius Saify
1906 - 1924

Fr. John Saba
1924 - 1925

Fr. Elias Meena
1925 - 1927

Rt. Rev. Antony Bashir
1927 - 1929

Fr. Elias Hamaty
1929 - 1932

Rt. Rev. Agabius Golam
1930 - 1932

Fr. Gabriel Debes
1932 - 1937

Fr. Michael Baroudy
1937 - 1959

Fr. Daniel Montgomery

Fr. John Barrett
1959 - 1960

Fr. Basil Karpelania
1960 - 1962

Fr. Theodore Ziton
1962 - 1963

Rt. Rev. John Matthieson
1963 -1965

Fr. Nicholas Saikley
1966 - 2000

Fr. David Hester
1990 - 2000

Fr. Peter Smith
2000 - 2004

Fr. John Morris
2004 - 2016

Fr. Amin Houli
2016 - 2018

Fr. Gabriel Karam
2018 - Present

Interior dome with the icon of Christ the Pantokrator
Interior dome with the icon of Christ the Pantokrator