The nearly-completed St Mark’s Coptic Catholic church in Prospect will serve to remind parishioners of Egypt’s long history, says parish priest Fr Andrawes Farag.
As the only Coptic Catholic church in Australia, Fr Farag said, the new church will give subsequent generations a little piece of Egypt, the land of their ancestors.
“It’s important for us to know our origins… We are proud of being Australian but we can’t forget we are of Egyptian origin. We are Coptic Catholic and Australian Christians as well,” Fr Farag told The Catholic Weekly.
“The church here also represents a long history in Egypt that goes back 7,000 years. I hope it’s always a sign, a beacon. As the Pope has said, the Church is like the moon which gets its light from Jesus Christ.”
The church is expected to be completed in the next few months and will serve 200 to 300 Coptic Catholic families in Sydney.
It is hoped that the Coptic Catholic Patriarch, Ibrahim Isaac Sidrak, will travel from Egypt for the official opening in February next year.
Wooden pews have already been shipped from Egypt, filling the church which will hold about 500 people. The altar, lecterns, Stations of the Cross, and other furnishings, are also being shipped from Egypt.
Fr Farag, who himself only arrived from Egypt five months ago, said that while Coptic Catholics need to preserve their tradition, the design of a church is not the most important thing.
“A church is a church. The design is not really the most important thing… The Church is the people. Even though the buildings are important, the people make the Church. I want to see people in the Church. I don’t want to see empty pews.”
In order to build their church, St Mark’s Parish were granted a loan from the Parramatta Diocese which they are now seeking to reduce by fundraising.
The Parish will host a black-tie event on 24 November to raise the much-needed funds. The evening will include dinner, dancing and entertainment and an icon and a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary will be auctioned.
“We’re hoping to raise in excess of $20,000,” parishioner Janet Salem said. “There are still some furnishings that need to happen in the education centre, and the stained-glass windows in the church. Some of the cost will go to reducing our mortgage.”
Underneath the church is a brand new multi-purpose hall complete with classrooms for catechism classes and an industrial kitchen. Next to the church an education centre has also been built.
Parishioner Michael Shenouda, who migrated from Egypt in 2011, said the extra amenities are important for keeping young people involved in the parish.
“We have Sunday school after Sunday Mass, bible studies every week, a youth group. Just to keep it all running we need the space because what keeps the youth attending is the activities that you do along with Mass. That’s the idea behind having the hall and education centre, so we can have some more activities running.”
“It’s the only Coptic Catholic church in Australia, so we’re trying to raise funds before the building is finished so we don’t have to use all of the loan. To keep the tradition of the Coptic Catholics, we’re all hoping to have the church up and running.”
“The church here represents a sign of salvation for the people,” Fr Farag said. “The parishioners themselves and the believers should be the light of the world and the salt of the earth. That is what I hope.”
“As the children grow up in this church, even though they haven’t been to Egypt, they still have a piece of Egypt to share… If they can’t travel overseas and see Egypt, they can always come here.”
For more details of St Mark’s Coptic Catholic Fundraiser on 24 November contact 0433 889 212 or go to https://www.facebook.com/events/933258233525175/