There was hardly any growth in numbers at that time; but every family or
individual who came and left had some kind of impact on the Church
community. Gradually, the Church activities that were limited to the
Liturgy Services when Abouna came and the family Bible meetings,
were not enough. With the arrival of new families with young children
came the need for Sunday School. But because of the small number of
families, there was only one classroom for all ages and it was up to the
servants to accommodate all ages. Within the same period the children
of the first families became teenagers and a Youth Group was started.
The family prayer/Bible meeting started to be a real Bible Study meeting
with a regular study that started with the Gospel of St. John. Thanks be
to God for the arrival of a family of a servant who was gifted in
conducting Bible studies. Another area was covered by yet another
newcomer who started teaching the group the Liturgy responses in
English handed down to him by Tasoni Mary, Abouna Tadros’ Malaty's
wife. Since then the use of English in the Holy Liturgy became more
common. Also, the Chorus of Deacons was never without one who was
talented in using the instruments. If the will of God allowed such a
member to be transferred elsewhere, He was sure to provide the Church
with a replacement.
Looking for Alternatives
Unfortunately, during the same period, specifically in the summer
of 1988, Abouna Shenouda was transferred to New Jersey, and he was
no longer available to serve Winnipeg. Abouna Tadros Malaty arrived in
Chicago to take care of the Church there. He was contacted and he
visited Winnipeg two times. After that Winnipeg was not to be covered
by the Church in Chicago, so other areas were sought. One of the new
members at that time who had come from Ottawa, contacted Abouna
Bisenti Guirgis, who was serving Ottawa at the time, and Abouna Bisenti
graciously agreed to serve Winnipeg. He offered one Saturday morning
every month. He kept that commitment as much as he could, but since
the Ottawa congregation was growing much faster than the Winnipeg
one, the demand on his time started to make his visits to Winnipeg more
difficult. God did not allow his flock to be without a shepherd for long. In
1988 Abouna Danial Rizq was ordained to be the priest for the Churches
of Edmonton and Calgary, AB, and the Church of Vancouver, BC, with
some services for the Church of Seattle, WA, in the United States. He
willingly added Winnipeg to his long list, alternating services with
Abouna Bisenti. This gave the Church in Winnipeg a more regular and
stable service pattern, despite the complicated travel arrangements. The
number of families in the Church was around 15 families during that
time. The financial aspect of the Church started taking a more serious
form rather than the leftover monies from the priest travel expenses to
more regular donations to a Church fund, and more specifically a
building fund with the idea of accumulating monies towards acquiring a
house for the Lord.
First Fundraising Event
The first Church fundraising was encouraged by Abouna Bisenti
and was called “Dinner with Abouna”. It was a BBQ in the backyard of
the member who suggested the idea. He had three BBQs going and the
flames and the smoke billowing made the neighbours call the fire
department who surprised the group by rushing to the backyard ready to
douse the said fire. They examined the BBQs and assured their safety
and left. They did not accept a dinner invitation since they were on the
During the same period, the same family dedicated their
basement for Church meetings, and that expanded to building an altar
with curtains and some of the Liturgy services were celebrated there.
With the larger number now, meetings could not be accommodated in
homes, and the distance to St. George deterred people from attending.
We started looking for a local meeting place since most of the
community was clustered in the southern part of the city and St. George
was located in the north eastern part of the city. Fort Garry Mennonite
Fellowship in Fort Richmond became available for meetings but it was
not equipped for Liturgies due to the absence of an Altar.
Considering the Purchase of a Building
In 1987 a Church building in Fort Richmond, at the corner of Dalhousie
& Silverstone came up for sale and the asking price was $400,000.00.
Abouna Bisenti celebrated a Liturgy in the Church to give a chance to
the congregation to see it first hand. After the service Abouna
recommended to have a general meeting and cast a vote for purchasing
the building. He also recommended that the “Yes” vote should
constitute at least 70% to proceed. The first General Meeting of the
Church was held and a motion was make: “Do we buy the Church
building?” An amendment was made to the motion to read: “Do we need
a Church building in Winnipeg?” With a fund of less than $4,000 in the
bank that motion proved to be impractical to some. Less than 70%
voted yes, and the motion was defeated. A positive directive came out
of this meeting that a Church “Building Fund” be started with donations
and activities geared towards that purpose, and by the end of 1990 the
“Building Fund” balance was $8497.66, the General Fund was $4232.23
to a total of $12, 729.89. Alleluia!
First Meeting with His Holiness
Pope Shenouda III
The time was October 1989 and the occasion was the first
hierarchal visit of His Holiness Pope Shenouda III to North America after
his release from the house arrest in the monastery that was ordered by
the government. Two Church members went to meet him during his visit
to Ottawa, and through a meeting with one of the accompanying
Bishops, it was recommended that it would be more effective if a folder
containing all the information about the Church be prepared and
presented to His Holiness. So, returning with this idea a folder was
made that contained:
A. a letter addressed to His Holiness
B. A membership list (this was the first membership list compiled for the
C. A group of pictures of the Church meetings.
It was decided that a good time to present the folder to His Holiness
would be when His Holiness consecrated the Church in Minneapolis.
Arrangements were made and three families went to meet with him.
Seeing the crowds, His Holiness directed them to meet him at the hotel
(to the surprise of the accompanying Bishops). The group went to the
hotel, met with him alone where he focused on them, and they
presented the situation to him, and his response was “fifteen families
and you want to have a priest. Do you think I have a box that produces
priests?” So the delegation was dismissed with his blessings and gifts.
The only outcome from this meeting was that St. Mark Church of
Winnipeg became known to His Holiness. (Father Mirone Klysh of the
Romanian Orthodox Church was very anxious to meet His Holiness, so
he joined the group and until this day, he frequently speaks of the impact
of this visit on him).
The following years saw little growth in the Church membership. It was
more of a substitution process rather than a growth, every person or
family who came to Winnipeg and stayed for a variable period of time
left a mark on the Church. One of the main sources of supply to the congregation was the University Graduate students or researchers, and
with the decline in University funding for such programs, the numbers
went down. The Province had not opened her doors for professional
licensing yet, therefore, the incentive was not there for foreign
graduates. At the same time, the spiritual needs were increasing as the
children of the first generation were growing up and in need of guidance
and spiritual nourishment.
The Church was served by Abouna Bisenti from Ottawa, Abouna Danial
from Calgary and Abouna Moussa, recently ordained, from Edmonton.
Even with three priests serving St. Mark, the Services did not exceed
one every two or three weeks, taking into consideration that the three
priests were sole servants in their own Churches and expected to attend
to the home Church’s needs first. And, of course, there were no
Services in St. Mark’s for major feasts.
Some of the Church members had approached Abouna Shenouda Anba
Bishoy in New Jersey to officiate, for the first time in Winnipeg, the
Services of Good Friday, Abou Ghalamsees and Resurrection of 1991.
He accepted the invitation and came. (The Holy week Services were
celebrated in three different locations subject to availability of space).
We knew later that such delegation for the feast services was supposed
to be through His Holiness and not through individual invitations. So as a
result of the initiative taken by the members, Winnipeg was not served
the following year. Instead, a group set out to Minneapolis to attend
Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Resurrection Eve there. Letters were
sent to His Holiness entreating that Winnipeg would be considered and
included in the delegation of priests for the Holy Festivities.
Abouna Danial Rizq made a plea on our behalf to His Holiness while
attending the annual priests’ seminar, and His Holiness delegated
blessed memory Abouna Mikhail Dawood of St. Mary’s Church of Rod al
Farag for the 1993 Resurrection Services.
That was the beginning of regular Services for the Holy Feasts that
carried on without any interruptions until St. Mark had the first appointed
priest in 1999.