The Establishment of the Church (1980-1986)

IMPORTANT DATES

  • Coptic Church in Chicago relationship-1980
  • Fr. Shenouda el Anba Bishoy - 1980-1988
  • His Grace Bishop Tadros’ first visit - 1981
  • Registration of the Church name - 1984
  • First Church Council - 1984
  • First Church Bank Account - 1984
  • Registering with Revenue Canada - 1986
  • Registering with the Statistics Department

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 newcomers.

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 consists of:

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 short meeting.


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.

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