On Saturday 8 May and Sunday 9 May 2021, the parish of St George’s Cathedral in Thornbury, Victoria, joyfully celebrated the golden jubilee of priesthood for the V. Rev. Fr. George Nasr blessed by the presence of His Eminence, Metropolitan Basilios. It was especially befitting that this event coincided with the celebration of the feast of St George, the patron saint of the cathedral as well as Fr. George.
The weekend-long celebration commenced on Saturday evening with vesper service at St George’s Cathedral presided by His Eminence and co-celebrated with all the Antiochian clergy in Victoria. The parish was also honoured with the presence of the federal member for Cooper, the Hon. Ms Gad Kearney, MP; the Hon. Nazih Elasmar, AOM, President of the Victorian Legislative Council, and members of the Antiochian Archdiocese Board of Trustees – Melbourne chapter.
The celebration continued with a celebratory dinner held at St. George’s Reception attended by all the dignitaries and other guests, the Antiochian reverend fathers – some with their Khouriye; immediate and extended family members and close friends of Fr. George; and parishioners of the Victorian churches. After the blessing of the event by His Eminence, the MC, Mr Antoine Freijah relayed glimpses and highlights of the 50-year journey of the priesthood of Fr. George which began with his ordination on 4 April 1971. A booklet was also given to all guests detailing a brief timeline and some photos of Fr. George’s achievements over the past five decades. Starting with a handful of families and conducting services in a rented hall, Fr. George guided and guarded and developed the parish of St. George’s Church into the cathedral that exists today. Among the achievements are the purchasing and renovations of the church, adjacent presbytery and hall; the building of a community sports/community centre; publications; the establishment of an active parish council, ladies society, youth group, choir, Sunday School, and adult Orthodox Christian Education program in Arabic and English.
The three speeches of the night highlighted further important aspects of the character, contributions, and service of Fr. George to his family, his parish, and the wider community. The Hon. Nazih Elasmar spoke of Fr. George’s invaluable assistance to his newly arrived parishioners and other people within the Arabic-speaking community with all their settlements needs in Victoria. Fr. George’s son, Mr Paul Nasr, gave a more personal account of Fr. George. The attributes and character of Fr. George was summed up with the story of how Fr George caught an intruder in his house but out of love and compassion had mercy on the thief and let him go – even though he stole his wallet! His Eminence, Metropolitan Basilios spoke of the extremely hard work and especially of the sacrifices made by Fr. George and bestowed upon him the grand and honouring title of ‘the good shepherd’ who faithfully and diligently looked after his flock.
In his speech, Fr. George attributed his achievements to God, first and foremost, and to the Christian foundations laid in his life by his mother and grandmother, and the priestly environment of his family. He spoke of the development of his love for reading Scripture and Byzantine chanting, and how this played an important role in responding to the call to the priesthood. Fr. George gave thanks to the many people who helped and supported and encouraged him over the last 50 years. Fr George extended special gratitude to His Eminence, Metropolitan Basilios for the love and support he gives him and for being the ‘good shepherd’ to all the clergy and churches.
The love, respect, and appreciation of St. George’s parish for Fr. George was represented by a poem written and performed in Arabic by parishioner Mazhar Ishak entitled, ‘Rejoice O cathedral of St. George’. The evening concluded with presentations of gifts to Fr. George and Khouriye Nouhad. Throughout the evening Khouriye Nouhad was continually thanked for her important role and service to the parish and was acknowledged by all as the backbone for all that Fr. George achieved. Among the gifts was an icon of St. George given especially for this occasion by parishioner Amal Farah.
The celebration in honour of the golden jubilee and the feast of St. George continued on the Sunday beginning with the Divine Liturgy. At the end of the liturgy, the Sunday School students chanted the Troparion of St George and presented a gift they had all made for Fr. George and Khouriye Nouhad. Outside in the street, the St George Stewards performed a musical ensemble. His Eminence, Fr. George and Khouriye then entered the reception hall to the beating of drums, where they enjoyed refreshments and fellowship with all the parishioners.
All glory and honour and thanks be to our Lord Jesus Christ for all that has been achieved by the parish of St. George’s Cathedral under the leadership and guidance of V. Rev. Fr. George Nasr with the help and support of Khouriye Nouhad. May God grant you many more fruitful years.