Dr. George Frem Crucifix

Dr. George Frem, of The Kidney Center of Johnstown, looks at a crucifix located in a hallway at the kidney center on Thursday, March 25, 2021.

Observing the image of Jesus Christ is a part of Dr. George Frem’s day.

Seeing the crucifix provides “my energy – to keep going,” he said. “Especially in a world of pain, suffering and deceit.”

Frem is a nephrologist specializing in kidney diagnosis.

He is also the CEO of The Kidney Center and St. George’s Laboratory, at 88 Osborne St., Johnstown; and Prodigy Dialysis at 105 Metzler St., Johnstown.

He prefers to display crucifixes – defined in some traditions as a cross with Jesus depicted or engraved on the items, and differentiated from a cross without a symbol or figure of Jesus on the same.

Crucifixes are part of the atmosphere in the waiting rooms of all his offices.

“I believe in the crucifix, and not just the display,” he said.

Frem said crosses reminds him of his journey to America.

He immigrated from Jounieh, Lebanon, in 1978 – three years after a civil war broke out there between Muslim Palestinians and Christians.

Before Frem left for the United States, his late father gave him a cross necklace. As he was leaving his hometown, there was heavy bombing and shelling.

“I couldn’t make it to the airport,” he said. “I was forced to take a boat to Cyprus.”

Being 16 and alone, he made his way to Boston. He studied English at Northeastern University, then transferred to Boston College for pre-med. In the difficult times, he credits his devotion to the Blessed Mother and the Rosary.

In regards to his cross necklace, from his father, it never leaves his neck.

“Not even to shower,” Frem said.

‘It’s a reminder’

Frem said the visible Jesus is his strength, but the crucifix is for everyone.

“For Christians, it’s a reminder of who they are,” Frem said.

“For unbelievers, it may open their eyes,” he continues. “Hopefully, they will be curious about the man on the cross.”

When asked why he chooses the crucifix over the cross without “the nailed Jesus,” he answered: “It’s a constant reminder of suffering and pain in the practice of medicine. But it also speaks to hope, healing, and that there will be a resurrection.”

Over the years, patients have responded to seeing the crucifix displayed. A man he never met went to have his blood drawn at St. George’s Lab.

He mailed Frem a “thank-you” card because he was astonished at seeing a crucifix displayed above the drawing chair.

“He was happy and impressed,” he said. “He thanked me for doing it.”

From a business perceptive, Frem believes a business that displays the crucifix is essentially making a statement about itself.

“The business does adhere to Christian values,” Frem said, “like honesty, integrity and striving to provide good care of its customers.”

If someone respectfully told him the crucifix has no business in the workplace, he would tell the person: “Think of it as my business logo.”

‘Ultimate healer’

Frem is a Maronite Christian.

“We are called Maronites after St. Maron,” he said. “St. Maron was a hermit priest on whom God bestowed the gift of healing.”

The Maronite Church is one of the 21 eastern churches of the Catholic Church. The church has its own hierarchy headed by its patriarch in Bkerki, Lebanon. The patriarch is also a cardinal in the Roman Catholic Church.

“The Maronites were always in communion with The Pope,” Frem said. “Therefore, we are also known as Maronite Catholics.”

Like any Christians on Good Friday, Frem will commemorate the crucifixion of Jesus and his death at Calvary – “by fasting, praying and meditating in church,” he said.

On Easter Sunday, he will celebrate the resurrection of Jesus at Mass, then family time. Since cooking is one of his hobbies, he’s preparing one of his favorite meals – leg of lamb.

Along with a traditional dessert, such as ma’amoul – Levantine/Lebanese shortbread pastries, stuffed with walnuts or dates.

At work, Frem will hear patients call him doctor. But, when he glances at the crucifix, and makes the sign of the cross on his forehead, it is a reminder of the “ultimate physician and ultimate healer,” he said.

Seeing a parallel between his work and the broken body of Jesus, he does not limit his revelation to kidney patients.

“Christ, in his suffering,” he said, “shares the suffering of all patients.”

LaToya Bicko is a Johnstown freelance writer.

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