Second Meeting with His Holiness

IMPORTANT DATES

  • Second meeting with His Holiness Pope Shenouda III—2000
  • Abouna Reweis Aziz—2001
  • Third meeting with His Holiness Pope Shenouda III—2003

In December of 2000, members of the Church traveled to Cairo for a family celebration where His Holiness was to be invited. The delegation to deliver the invitation included these Winnipeg members. So according to St. Paul’s teachings, any situation should be used to be built upon, the two members took advantage of being in the presence of His Holiness to discuss the situation in Winnipeg. His Holiness’ answer was like before, “Nominate a candidate and I will ordain him for you.” and the response was, “We are a small congregation and there is no eligible candidate among us.” It was suggested that the larger churches in the East should be contacted to explore the possibility of nominating a candidate for the Winnipeg Church, specifically Abouna Angelos Saad, Mississauga, for this purpose. His Holiness supported that move and he said, “tell Abouna Angelos that ‘foulan’, referring to himself, is telling you to find a candidate for Winnipeg.”

Immediately the delegates placed a call to Winnipeg conveying His Holiness’ response and consequently Abouna Angelos was contacted both by phone and in person, but to no avail.

The situation got even more complicated when Abouna Danial Rizq was transferred from Calgary to Halifax in Eastern Canada with no immediate replacement for him in Calgary.

Priests from the Ontario region were then contacted to serve Winnipeg. Those who responded were Abouna Youanis Shelby from Ajax, Ontario, and Abouna Morcos Hanna from Brampton, Ontario. Over the next period, many other priests from different Churches in Ontario did respond. Through their services St. Mark of Winnipeg had weekly services during the Fasts and at least twice a month services for the rest of the year.

Abouna Reweis Aziz

It came to the attention of the Church Council that there was a priest by the name of Abouna Reweis Aziz who had been delegated to the Diocese of Southern United States under the auspices of His Grace Anba Youssef, that his appointment was coming to an end and was willing to come and serve in Canada. A permission was obtained from His Holiness allowing Abouna Reweis Aziz to come to Winnipeg for one month for a visit. Abouna Reweis came in September 2001 and stayed for one month. During that month there were Sunday Services and spiritual meetings during the week. The Church congregation expressed an interest in having Abouna Reweis continue at St. Mark’s as a permanent priest. Permission was obtained for another month followed by a petition that Abouna Reweis be appointed as the parish Priest. His Holiness approved and a Papal declaration was published in the Kerazah, the papal official paper.

Immediately, Abouna Reweis came to Winnipeg with initial preparations that his family, residing in the US, would follow him.

During this time there was a large population of pharmacists who came to Winnipeg, boosting the Church population.

Sunday services, Holy day services, Wednesday early morning services and spiritual meetings during the week started to take a regular pattern.

In November 2002 this ended when Abouna Reweis returned to Egypt.

Following those events, the Church services were back to Saturday Services with the thoughtful efforts of the fathers from several Churches in Ontario. The following Nativity, Abouna Bishoy Fayek of St. Mary’s Church in Zeitoun served St. Mark’s Church. He went home with a strong message of “What is next for St. Mark’s?”

Abouna Sourial Fahmy

For the two Feasts prior to this motion and the two following the motion, His Holiness delegated Abouna Sourial Fahmy to celebrate the Feasts in Winnipeg. This initiated a dialogue with Abouna Sourial about his interest in staying in Winnipeg and becoming permanent priest of the Church. He was open to the idea.

This matter was discussed with Church members and it became a wish that Abouna Sourial would stay on as the Church Priest. At the beginning, it seemed to be a difficult request since he had been in the same Church in Cairo for about 28 years.

On November 3, 1998, a member of the Winnipeg Church was attending a professional conference in Egypt and was able to meet with His Grace Bishop Youanis, the Secretary to His Holiness to present a letter from the Church describing the current situation of the Church, indicating its needs and requesting that Abouna Sourial be appointed to serve Winnipeg. His Grace promised to convey the request to His Holiness and asked the Church member to return in two days for an answer.

On November 5th His Holiness granted his approval to assign Abouna Sourial to serve St. Mark Church as her first permanent priest. His Holiness requested that a signed nomination be received from the Church congregation before Abouna Sourial was notified. On November 7, after Holy Liturgy a nomination sheet was circulated to the congregation in Winnipeg and was signed by the Church council members and 65 members (of all ages). This nomination sheet was faxed to Cairo and presented to His Grace Bishop Youanis on November 9th. His Grace Bishop Youanis then contacted Abouna Sourial and told him that His Holiness approved his appointment to St. Mark Church of Winnipeg.

The formal announcement came from the office of the Pope and a Papal declaration was published on December 11, 1998, of the Kerazah under the title: a Priest for the Church in Winnipeg.” The declaration stated that:

“His Holiness, the Pope, has delegated Abouna Sourial Fahmy, the priest of St. Mary’s Church, Abbasia, and a member of the Ecclesiastical Council, to become the first resident priest of our Church in Winnipeg in Western Canada.”

It was a day of joy and gladness that the prayers were fulfilled and a priest of Abouna Sourial’s caliber became the Church priest. It was a joyous reception for Abouna Sourial in Winnipeg.

Abouna Sourial arrived on January 4, 1999, to assume the pastoral care of St. Mark congregation. To expedite his arrival and in Winnipeg for the Nativity Feast, Abouna Sourial arrived without his family. A temporary residence was arranged for him until he could decide as to his residence, car, furniture, etc… Abouna Sourial started new services in the Church such as a weekly Bible meeting and, for the first time, a servants’ meeting, in addition to some Coptic language classes. When Great Lent arrived, he started, for the first time, a mid-week Liturgy on Wednesdays. The attendance was not great, taking into consideration the still small population in the Church and that almost all people were busy during weekdays, but he continued the Services from 3-5 p.m. followed by an agape meal, and attendance increased over the weeks.

As time went by, Abouna Sourial was faced with the reality of life in Winnipeg in the winter time, the small number in the Congregation, the infrequency of services. That, in addition to deaths in his wife’s family and mostly some problems that arose in St. Mary’s Church in Abbasia, created havoc with his peace of mind. Abouna Sourial could not separate himself from the Church that he looked after since his ordination almost thirty years earlier.

The situation in St. Mary’s in Cairo was on his mind and he was trying to settle issues “long distance.” Abouna Sourial made arrangements with the Church Council to travel back to Egypt after the Feast of Resurrection to try to settle matters in St. Mary’s and to arrange for his family to accompany him back to Winnipeg. He left Winnipeg on Easter Monday, and the following week one of the Church members traveled to Cairo and visited Abouna Sourial at St. Mary’s Church. The mood in the Church and among his family members were very clear that they wished that Abouna Sourial should stay in Cairo, but the fact was that His Holiness had appointed him to the Church in Winnipeg. Weeks and months passed by in which there was very little communication with Abouna Sourial in which the only indicator was “things are not ready yet!”

In the month of October 1999, Church members traveled to Cairo. The Church Council gave them the task to meet with His Grace Bishop Youanis to clarify the situation. A meeting was arranged in which His Grace indicated, with assurances, that Abouna Sourial would be returning to Winnipeg pending His Holiness’ decision as to when. The Committee was assured that if Abouna Sourial was not scheduled to return by the New Year, His Holiness would delegate a Priest to celebrate the Nativity Feast in Winnipeg.

Towards the end of the year 1999, a message came indicating Abouna Youhanna Louka from Shoubra would be celebrating the Nativity Feast in Winnipeg. Abouna Youhanna remained in Winnipeg from the Nativity Feast service until Epiphany. Still, there was no word about Abouna Sourial.

The Church returned to its previous routine of Saturday services, led mostly by Abouna Danial. It became increasingly clear that Abouna Sourial was not returning to Winnipeg, especially when word came that Abouna Youhanna Wadie of St. Mary’s Church in Rod el Farag would be the priest to celebrate the 2000 Holy Week in Winnipeg.

Shortly after that, a member of the Church was in Cairo and visited Abouna Sourial in his Church. Abouna Sourial showed him a copy of a letter he sent to His Holiness indicating that, due to personal circumstances, he requested to be relieved from his appointment to Winnipeg. Abouna Sourial indicated in his letter to His Holiness that he was treated well by the Church in Winnipeg and that his decision was not due to any wrong-doing on their part.

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