Zara plot at St. Luke’s, Germantown

In this small plot at St. Luke’s, Germantown are contained the graves of an important epicenter of Italian-American Episcopal Church life. The stones, unrecorded on the Find a Grave inventory until March 2022, are for members of this family:

Michele Zara was an Italian Roman Catholic priest born in 1844 in Lecce, Apulia, and convicted of theft in an Italian court before his arrival in the United States via Liverpool in 1872. Zara lived in Galena, Illinois from 1872 to 1879 and became a member of the Protestant Episcopal Church in Chicago in 1882, the same year the Diocese of Pennsylvania began serious missionary activities among Italian immigrants to the city. Zara founded the Church of L’Emmanuello in 1882 to offer worship in the Italian language, night school, English lessons, sewing classes, food and clothing distribution, and assistance with local social agencies for the vast population of Italian speakers who were not always served adequately by the Roman Catholic Church. Between 1891 and 1904, he oversaw the construction of a church building and parish house at 1020-24 Christian Street in Philadelphia. In 1903, Zara translated the Book of Common Prayer into Italian under the auspices of the Bishop White Prayer Book Society, a major Philadelphia charity of the time. Zara retired in 1908 on account of ill health, and died at 81 on September 5, 1925 in the Episcopal Hospital of Philadelphia of bronchopneumonia and carcinoma of the stomach. He was buried at St. Luke’s on September 8.

Mary Cameron Zara (née Adams) of New York City (1865-1955) and Michele Zara married in Philadelphia in 1886, cementing Zara’s identity as a new American and as a married Protestant clergyman. Twenty-one years younger than her husband, she survived him by 30 years, also dying in Philadelphia, and was buried at St. Luke’s on January 24, 1955. Mrs. Zara is buried with her mother, Eliza Adams (née Cameron) (1830-1919), a North Carolina-born woman whose parents were from Scotland and Virginia. Mrs. Adams had already been widowed by her husband John Adams when their daughter Mary was 15 in the 1880 U.S. Federal Census.

The Zaras are buried with two of their daughters. Caterina Cameron Zara (1887-1973), who never married, taught music in Chestnut Hill, and cared for both of her parents until their deaths. And Marie Christine (Zara) Randall (1895-1975), who was married to widower Alexander Burton Randall at St. Luke’s, Germantown on June 27, 1925. Marie was a popular Philadelphia soprano active in Gilbert and Sullivan productions and a regular performer with the Philadelphia Grand Opera Company. Mr. Randall predeceased Marie by 30 years and is buried at Woodlands Cemetery.

The Zaras also had two Philadelphia-born sons: Luigi (Louis Washington) Zara (1892-1975) and Francesco Augusto (Frank August) Zara (1889-1987). Luigi served as a first lieutenant in the First World War and is buried at Long Island National Cemetery. Francesco married twice, and is buried at Southampton in Suffolk County, Long Island.

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Filed under Episcopal Church history, Genealogy

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