Regular Services and Guidance
There were no Liturgy services for about a year. When another of
our members got married in Chicago, he gave the Parish Priest there,
Abouna Shenouda Anba Bishoy, an idea about the situation here and
invited him to serve the Winnipeg congregation. Seeing our need,
Abouna committed himself to a monthly service in Winnipeg. This
initiative marked the first step toward a regular service in Winnipeg. The
services were held in the evenings during the weekdays at St. George
Romanian Orthodox Church. Abouna Shenouda used to come to
Winnipeg on Monday and stay until Wednesday or Thursday, to
celebrate Holy Liturgy, hold spiritual meetings, and hear confessions.
This was very generous on his part, to spare that much time, when other
Churches had only the one priest, or, even when two Churches would
shared the services of the one priest.
The Church supplies were carried around in two cardboard boxes: one
contained the vessels, covers, candles, incense. The other contained
the Church books and the deacons’ tonyas, and, later on, one of Abouna
Shenouda’s tonyas, which he left behind for his visits. A new need
arose when it was apparent that the Church needed a Chalice seat,
since Abouna Shenouda brought us a foldable one every time he came.
Therefore, the pattern was copied and a foldable one was built, followed
a few years later with a permanent one complete with icons, a hinged top and all! All locally done.
Abouna Shenouda’s services were not always regular or on time, due to
his ill health, and needs and demands of his congregation.
Nevertheless, that was the best we could have since there were no
priests yet in Western Canada nor in the North Western United States.
Despite the fast growth of the Coptic communities in Calgary,
Edmonton, Vancouver and Seattle, they still had to rely on services from
priests from the Western United States.
The regular pattern of liturgical services put a special emphasis on a
regular weekly Bible Study/Prayer Meetings, which still had no home
other than a rotating pattern among the homes of the members of the
congregation. These did not exceed ten or twelve families and about
four single individuals. Still the pattern of growth in Winnipeg was a
migrant one: some came and some left; with a nucleus of about four
families who were established in Winnipeg and were the contact for
The First Hierarchal Visit in 1981
His Grace Bishop Tadros of Port Said was visiting with Abouna
Shenouda in Chicago in April of 1981. Abouna Shenouda accompanied
him on a visit to Winnipeg. His Grace held a spiritual meeting for the
Coptic group and celebrated Holy Liturgy. This marked the First
Hierarchal Liturgy in Winnipeg. With the structure and the migrant
nature of the Coptic community, the start of a Church in Winnipeg was
more of a hope and encouragement than a serious conversation.
The Nucleus of the First Church
It was time to think of the future. The treasury of the Church
consisted of a collection to be used for the travel expenses of Abouna,
then it was rounded up and the surplus was left to accumulate in an
envelope with one of the members. Funds were collected as needed and did not amount to a serious financial commitment. However, there
was a need to register the Church for tax purposes.
On July 14th, 1984 a meeting was held in the house of Drs. Wafik and
Safaa Wassef on University Crescent.
Other members in attendance were: Drs. Magdy and Nadia Dawood, Mr.
Adel and Dr. Shafica Takla, Dr. Sami and Mrs. Mary Rizkalla, Mr. Maher
and Mrs. Zapure Fouad , and Dr. Amazis and Mrs. Salwa Louka.
After a short discussion, it was unanimously decided to file an
application with the Government of Manitoba to register a non-profit
organization under the name of :
“St. Mark Coptic Orthodox Church of Winnipeg”
Other names that were considered for the new Church were St. Cyril
and St. Mary, but because this was a new addition to the See of St.
Mark, it was more appropriate to use St. Mark’s name.
Since the Corporation Act of Manitoba requires a Board of Directors for
the Organization, a nomination was made and approved that the Board
President : WAFIK WASSEF
Vice President : ADEL TAKLA
Treasurer : AMAZIS LOUKA
This election did not take more than five minutes!
Unfortunately, there are no written minutes for this meeting since it did
not start as a formal meeting nor was it expected to end as such in one
No time was wasted. On July 16th, 1984, Dr. Wafik Wassef, President
of the Board, filed the application to incorporate the name “St. Mark
Coptic Orthodox Church of Winnipeg” and by July 25, 1984 the Church
was incorporated under corporation number 66423 according to the
Corporation Act of Manitoba. Thus the Church had a legal status and
could issue tax receipts for donations. It was not until two years later
when one of the members’ donation receipts was rejected by Revenue
Canada that we realized that Government Departments do not
communicate with one another and we had to file an application with
Revenue Canada to receive the “non-profit” status, and acquire a tax
number that should be printed on the receipts.
The more difficult step was registering with “Vital Statistics of Manitoba”
to give the right to the Church Priests to officiate marriages. This
required that we have a constitution to govern our denomination.
The next step: the budget that was in the form of an envelop in one of
the member’s possession needed to take an official form, and in the
interest of serious growth, a bank account with the Bank of Montreal was
opened on August 10, 1984 with an initial deposit of $380.00. This
amount was the surplus of the monies collected for the priests’ tickets
over the last four years! A good start.
Registering with Revenue Canada
To register with Revenue Canada as a “non-profit organization” and
receive a tax number that allowed us to issue tax receipts, we were
required to submit the first financial statement for St. Mark.