Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate. Diocese of Mississauga, Vancouver and Western Canada. The Canadian Coptic Centre, Mississauga

Church of Virgin Mary and St. Athanasius

 

The church of The Virgin Mary and St. Athanasius started in April 1974 when four Coptic families organized a weekly prayer meeting for Coptic families and youth. The group met every Friday evening at one of their homes. The first meeting, in May 1974, was led by Father Marcos of St. Mark's Church in Toronto The meeting was named " St. Athanasius " after our Coptic father the defender of the Christian faith. Bible studies, Coptic hymns and prayers were practiced, Father Marcos, Father Mankarius Awadalla, and Father Mittias EL Souriany (currently H.G. Bishop Roweis) took charge of the meeting at various times. In August 1974, Father Pishoi Kamel (1931-1979), of St. George Coptic Church, Sporting, Alexandria, visited Toronto.  The group spent some time with him listening to the word of God. At one of the meetings, Father Pishoi suggested to get in touch with H.H. Pope Shenouda III and to register a Coptic church. The group accepted Father Pishoi's advice as they felt that this message was from God. The group wrote a letter to H.H. the Pope in August 1974 about the weekly meeting and their desire to register a new church in Toronto and asked for H.H.'s prayers, blessings and guidance. A few weeks later, the group met to select the name of the new church. They voted unanimously for "The Church of Virgin Mary and St. Athanasius".

In October 1974, inquiries were made to register a church. The information was phoned to H.H. who gave his blessings, and approval to proceed. His Holiness provided advice, encouragement, as well as his blessings. The new church was incorporated on March 13, 1975. During H.H. Pope Shenouda's visit to North America in 1977, a meeting took place on Thursday April 28, 1977. All eight members of the founding Board attended this meeting, and H.H. selected Mississauga as the site for the new church.

In March 1978, the Saint Athanasius weekly prayer meeting was moved to St. Thomas Moore school by Father Marcos of Saint Mark Church, Scarborough. Many of our beloved priests took turn in coming to serve our congregation.

On September 9th, 1978, H.G Bishop Roweis announced the birth of the new church in Mississauga. In November, 1978, the founding Board phoned H.H. the Pope and obtained his blessing for a weekly Liturgy service to take place on Saturday mornings in Mississauga. The first Divine Liturgy was held at St. Mary Ukrainian Catholic Church, December 2, 1978. From that date until May 1981, the Liturgy was celebrated weekly on Saturday mornings, with the Vespers service and the Sunday School on Friday evenings. Many priests participated in serving the church in Mississauga.

As the congregation grew, new services were established, such as the monthly news letter "Athanasius" which was first published in February 1979. Sunday School activities expanded significantly to include 3 classes for children, one youth class and a Sunday School servant's class. A Building committee was formed, as well as a committee for outreach. A library service was initiated to provide books and tapes for the congregation. Also, a deacon's choir was established for children.

In November 1980, H.G. Bishop Roweis nominated Dr. Adel Iskander as priest for Mississauga. The Board and congregation voted by means of a secret ballot on December 6, 1980, the result was a unanimous consent. His Holiness Pope Shenouda III ordained Dr. Iskander on March 27, 1981 as Father Athanasius, to serve the Copts in Mississauga and vicinities.

On the eve of the feast of St, Athanasius, May 14th, 1981, Father Athanasius was "received" according to the rituals of the church, in a joyous celebration that was led by Bishop Antonios Marcos, at Rene Lamoureux school. The reception was attended by representatives from other churches, officials and the media.

During the following 18 months, the church relocated 6 times while the Building committee investigated 34 places for a permanent church location. In July 1982, the place that God had prepared for the church appeared. The acquisition of the property was completed on October 30, 1982 and the first liturgy service was celebrated with joy and thanksgiving on November 14, 1982.

For the eight years that followed, the congregation of the church grew quickly due to families relocating closer to the church and newcomers establishing themselves near the church site. The old building used by Sunday School was renovated in order to accommodate the growing number of children. Also during this period, Father Mankarios Awadalla was transferred from Ottawa to Mississauga to help serve the growing number of church members. In August 1989, H. H. Pope Shenouda consecrated the church of Virgin Mary and St. Athanasius in a service attended by several bishops, priests, officials and hundreds of Copts.

For the next two years the church grew rapidly and was serving a very wide area. Many families traveled from St. Catharines, Hamiltoln, and Brampton to attend the liturgy service and to bring their children to Sunday School. Near the end of 1991 the church took the blessing of His Holiness Pope Shenouda III for the registration of the two churches and proceeded to look for available properties for church sites around Hamilton as well as in Brampton in order to fill the growing need and to better serve the congregation.

Coincidentally, both committees chose St. Mina as a name for their respective churches. However, since the Hamilton's church registration was processed faster it now bears the name of St. Mina. The church of Brampton was named after Archangel Michael. On July lst, 1992, the first liturgy service took place at the church of St. Mina in Hamilton, Ontario; also, on July 4th, 1992, the first liturgy service took place at the church of Archangel Michael in Brampton. The church of St. Mina was consecrated by His Holiness Pope Shenouda III on September 28, 1993.

 The Canadian Coptic Centre and new church and facilities were completed in 1998.