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).