The First Church Building

IMPORTANT DATES

  • Initial discussions in the summer of 1995
  • Purchase of the building in September 1995
  • His Grace Bishop Tadros officiates the opening of the Church on September 23,1995
  • Abouna Sourial Fahmy—1999
  • Church Icons—2000-2002

The search continued fuelled by His Grace Bishop Tadros’ encouragement. Three Ukrainian Churches: one Orthodox and two Catholic, were visited in which either the condition of the Church building or its location, was not appropriate. As the 1995 Resurrection season approached, two of the members located a Church of a very appropriate size and location, and we were allowed to use it to celebrate the Holy Week Services. The visiting priest then was Abouna Dawood Dawood of St. George Church in Heliopolis, who became the first priest to celebrate a service in what was to become our own Church.


Negotiations to purchase the building continued under very quiet climate between Purchaser and Vendor until the price was set and a financial source was secured. A general meeting was then held at St. Andrew’s College in which a public announcement was presented under the guidance of Abouna Athanasius Iskandar. Some members expressed their concern regarding the way the negotiations were handled and requested to delay the vote until the next day after Holy Liturgy, to give more people a chance to vote. After the Service the next day, Abouna Athanasius explained the situation to the congregation and assured them that his Church would help us in case we had a problem paying the mortgage. A vote was taken and the approval to purchase was 84%. All the members were happy and, thanks are to God, St. Mark Congregation now owned a Church building. The building located at 303 Lakewood Blvd. was purchased from the Presbyterian Church at a price of $150,000. Alleluia!


The possession date of the building was set for September 15, 1995. On September 23, 1995, His Grace Bishop Tadros led a procession into the Church to celebrate the first Vespers prayer with Abouna Danial Rizq and Abouna Athanasius Iskandar co-officiating. A picture of His Grace surrounded by the entire congregation and the priests were taken. It was published in the next issue of the Kerazah.

303 Lakewood Blvd

It is appropriate at this point to go over the history of the first Church building rather than have it fragmented throughout the book in its chronological order:

∗ The building was acquired in September 1995.

∗ Purchase price was $150,000 out of which only $20,000 was in the bank. By the time of the closing of the deal the down-payment was $50,000 to be authorized over 10 years.

∗ The following improvements were done to the building:

⇒ Changing the orientation of the seating to face the east.

⇒ Building the wooden Iconostas.

⇒ An Icon artist, Dalia Sobhy, was invited from Egypt in the Spring and Summer of 2000. She painted (wrote) the icons on the iconostasis, the 12 Disciples, the Last Supper and the Crucifixion (Tabba).

⇒ Replacing the carpets.

⇒ Changing the globe lights to crystal chandeliers.

⇒ Removing the internal walls of two rooms in the basement to maximise the hall capacity.

⇒ Installing a duct system and air-conditioning (the Church had electric heating without ducts).

⇒ Painting the Church on the inside and outside.

⇒ Paving the parking lot (it was a gravel lot).

⇒ Replacing the roof shingles.


Despite the small congregation, mostly transient people, the funding for these projects was never a problem. The Lord provided the material aspect and the committed people to oversee the projects. The last liturgical service in that building was celebrated on Sunday, January 16, 2005 by our present Shepherd, Abouna Marcos Farag, may the Lord reward his services and grant him peaceful times. The first Church served the needs of St. Mark Congregation for almost ten years and was sold to the Eritrean Orthodox Church in 2007. During the time of vacancy, the Church was used by Holy Cross Ukrainian Orthodox Mission.


Now St. Mark had a home in Winnipeg but it was still looking for a shepherd for the flock. This topic dominated the Church meetings for the next period. A general meeting held, August 14, 1997, called especially to discuss the issue of a priest for the congregation, the following motion was passed:


“that, as a first priority, every effort shall be made to have a permanent priest for St. Mark Church of Winnipeg.”


This motion was presented to His Grace Bishop Tadros who in turn presented it to His Holiness.

Abouna Sourial Fahmy

For the two Feasts prior to this motion and the two following the motion, His Holiness delegated Abouna Sourial Fahmy to celebrate the Feasts in Winnipeg. This initiated a dialogue with Abouna Sourial about his interest in staying in Winnipeg and becoming permanent priest of the Church. He was open to the idea.

This matter was discussed with Church members and it became a wish that Abouna Sourial would stay on as the Church Priest. At the beginning, it seemed to be a difficult request since he had been in the same Church in Cairo for about 28 years.

On November 3, 1998, a member of the Winnipeg Church was attending a professional conference in Egypt and was able to meet with His Grace Bishop Youanis, the Secretary to His Holiness to present a letter from the Church describing the current situation of the Church, indicating its needs and requesting that Abouna Sourial be appointed to serve Winnipeg. His Grace promised to convey the request to His Holiness and asked the Church member to return in two days for an answer.

On November 5th His Holiness granted his approval to assign Abouna Sourial to serve St. Mark Church as her first permanent priest. His Holiness requested that a signed nomination be received from the Church congregation before Abouna Sourial was notified. On November 7, after Holy Liturgy a nomination sheet was circulated to the congregation in Winnipeg and was signed by the Church council members and 65 members (of all ages). This nomination sheet was faxed to Cairo and presented to His Grace Bishop Youanis on November 9th. His Grace Bishop Youanis then contacted Abouna Sourial and told him that His Holiness approved his appointment to St. Mark Church of Winnipeg.

The formal announcement came from the office of the Pope and a Papal declaration was published on December 11, 1998, of the Kerazah under the title: a Priest for the Church in Winnipeg.” The declaration stated that:

“His Holiness, the Pope, has delegated Abouna Sourial Fahmy, the priest of St. Mary’s Church, Abbasia, and a member of the Ecclesiastical Council, to become the first resident priest of our Church in Winnipeg in Western Canada.”

It was a day of joy and gladness that the prayers were fulfilled and a priest of Abouna Sourial’s caliber became the Church priest. It was a joyous reception for Abouna Sourial in Winnipeg.

Abouna Sourial arrived on January 4, 1999, to assume the pastoral care of St. Mark congregation. To expedite his arrival and in Winnipeg for the Nativity Feast, Abouna Sourial arrived without his family. A temporary residence was arranged for him until he could decide as to his residence, car, furniture, etc… Abouna Sourial started new services in the Church such as a weekly Bible meeting and, for the first time, a servants’ meeting, in addition to some Coptic language classes. When Great Lent arrived, he started, for the first time, a mid-week Liturgy on Wednesdays. The attendance was not great, taking into consideration the still small population in the Church and that almost all people were busy during weekdays, but he continued the Services from 3-5 p.m. followed by an agape meal, and attendance increased over the weeks.

As time went by, Abouna Sourial was faced with the reality of life in Winnipeg in the winter time, the small number in the Congregation, the infrequency of services. That, in addition to deaths in his wife’s family and mostly some problems that arose in St. Mary’s Church in Abbasia, created havoc with his peace of mind. Abouna Sourial could not separate himself from the Church that he looked after since his ordination almost thirty years earlier.

The situation in St. Mary’s in Cairo was on his mind and he was trying to settle issues “long distance.” Abouna Sourial made arrangements with the Church Council to travel back to Egypt after the Feast of Resurrection to try to settle matters in St. Mary’s and to arrange for his family to accompany him back to Winnipeg. He left Winnipeg on Easter Monday, and the following week one of the Church members traveled to Cairo and visited Abouna Sourial at St. Mary’s Church. The mood in the Church and among his family members were very clear that they wished that Abouna Sourial should stay in Cairo, but the fact was that His Holiness had appointed him to the Church in Winnipeg. Weeks and months passed by in which there was very little communication with Abouna Sourial in which the only indicator was “things are not ready yet!”

In the month of October 1999, Church members traveled to Cairo. The Church Council gave them the task to meet with His Grace Bishop Youanis to clarify the situation. A meeting was arranged in which His Grace indicated, with assurances, that Abouna Sourial would be returning to Winnipeg pending His Holiness’ decision as to when. The Committee was assured that if Abouna Sourial was not scheduled to return by the New Year, His Holiness would delegate a Priest to celebrate the Nativity Feast in Winnipeg.

Towards the end of the year 1999, a message came indicating Abouna Youhanna Louka from Shoubra would be celebrating the Nativity Feast in Winnipeg. Abouna Youhanna remained in Winnipeg from the Nativity Feast service until Epiphany. Still, there was no word about Abouna Sourial.

The Church returned to its previous routine of Saturday services, led mostly by Abouna Danial. It became increasingly clear that Abouna Sourial was not returning to Winnipeg, especially when word came that Abouna Youhanna Wadie of St. Mary’s Church in Rod el Farag would be the priest to celebrate the 2000 Holy Week in Winnipeg.

Shortly after that, a member of the Church was in Cairo and visited Abouna Sourial in his Church. Abouna Sourial showed him a copy of a letter he sent to His Holiness indicating that, due to personal circumstances, he requested to be relieved from his appointment to Winnipeg. Abouna Sourial indicated in his letter to His Holiness that he was treated well by the Church in Winnipeg and that his decision was not due to any wrong-doing on their part.

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