The Early Congregation (1970-1980)

IMPORTANT DATES

  • Status of the Coptic Church in Canada - 1970
  • First Holy Liturgy in Winnipeg - 1973
  • St. George Romanian Orthodox Church - 1974
  • First Baptism (Fr. Morcos Morcos 2nd visit) - 1978
  • Visit by Abouna Pisenti (His Grace later) - 1978
  • Service needs: vessels and books 1979-80

The Beginning


St. Mark visited Winnipeg about 1900 years after he evangelized Egypt through his faithful children, who started growing in numbers to become a handful of young families together with a few single individuals. They were mostly graduate students or hospital interns who were attracted to the opportunities that this city offered. Seeing that a nucleus of a community was formed, an increasing number of people were encouraged to stay on.


The Early Spiritual Activities


In the early 1970s there were only two Coptic priests in Canada: Abouna Morcos Morcos Elias in Toronto and Abouna Roufael El- Doweiry in Montreal and this was where most of the Egyptian immigrants settled. Outside of these communities, the numbers were not enough to form a Church and sustain a priest. Therefore, most other communities were getting together for some form of spiritual meetings and sporadic visits from Abouna Morcos who shepherded Western Canada. Meanwhile, individuals and families were always looking for a nearby Church to worship at. Access to other Orthodox communities such as the Greek and Ukrainian Orthodox was very limited because of the language barrier, which made it very difficult to worship there.

The Coptic Church and Worship in Winnipeg


The first spiritual gatherings for the Christian Egyptians in Winnipeg were in the form of bi-weekly meetings held in homes, on a rotating basis, where hymns were sung and the Word of God was shared. Recorded sermons were the learning media for the group. The first Liturgy was celebrated in Winnipeg in March, 1973, when Abouna Morcos visited Western Canada. Abouna Morcos brought all the needs for a service with him: vessels, books, etc... He even baked the Korban himself. This first Liturgy was celebrated at St. George Anglican Church at the corner of Grosvenor and Wilton. The Liturgy was held in a small side Chapel. The Pastor of the Anglican Church, after attending the Liturgy, threatened his congregation that, if they ever complained again about the length of his sermons, he was going to lock them in for three hours and call Abouna Morcos with his holy incense!! The situation continued as is for some time. The children who were born during that time had to travel to the East or South to receive the Sacraments of Baptism and Chrismation.

St. George Romanian Orthodox Church Support


The latter part of 1974, one family, whose child was attending Elementary School, discovered during a Parent/Teacher meeting that the child’s teacher was the wife of an Orthodox Priest, who offered services in English. This is Father Mirone Klysh, who welcomed any member of the “Coptic Community” to attend the services at St. George Romanian Orthodox Church in Transcona. This Church, through the generous and loving welcome of her Priest and congregation, became the temporary home for most of the Coptic Community in Winnipeg and the main place where the Coptic Liturgies were celebrated for almost 21 years until, the purchase of the first home for St. Mark.

Intermittent and Far-between Services


The second Liturgy in Winnipeg was not until 1976, when Abouna Morcos Morcos performed the first Baptism in Winnipeg. This time the Liturgy was held in St. George Romanian Orthodox Church. In 1978, a member of the Winnipeg Community went to Montreal for his wedding. He told a monk priest, Abouna Pisenti, about our need. Abouna offered to come to Winnipeg to celebrate Holy Liturgy. He came once in 1978 and again in 1979. Abouna Pisenti was called to Egypt to become His Holiness’ Secretary. Later he was ordained Bishop Pisenti of Helwan and El Ma’asarra. May the Lord keep him at the pulpit of the elders and in the congregation of His Church.

Altar Vessels and Books


The books that were in St. Mark’s possession at the time were the Sunday Katamaris and some Arabic Liturgy books. Abouna Morcos brought with him the first Liturgy book in the English language, published by a Church in Toronto. It was some time later, the exact date is not noted anywhere, that we acquired the tri-lingual edition of the Liturgy books published by St. Mary’s Church in Los Angeles, followed by the ones published by the Church in Detroit. This was the first book that was brought in bulk to Winnipeg: about 20 copies! It was decided by then that our Church should have her own altar vessels, covers and books; and, so it was, that the Church received her first set of altar covers and vessels (still in existence but have not been used for a number of years).

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