February, being a month that we commemorate the life of Fr. Bishoy Demetrious, it is only appropriate to mention a couple of words about his reverence, service, and personal interactions that I was blessed to have with him.
For those who do not know Fr. Bishoy very well… Here is a small excerpt of his ordination history:
“On the morning of May 22, 1977, His Holiness ordained Abouna in a ceremony at St. Mary & St. Antonious Church in Queens, NY. Abouna was the first priest to be ordained in the United States for service in the United States. There was a reception afterward to celebrate the Pope’s visit, and that evening, Abouna left for Egypt on the same plane as His Holiness, to spend his 40 days of training at the monasteries of Anba Pishoy & of Saint Mary (Baramous). Eleven years later, in July 1988, Abouna would return to the same monastery to be ordained as a Hegumen.” The rest of his biography could be found here.
As the Late Holiness Pope Shenouda III said at the funeral prayers “Fr. Bishoy is a part of us, and when we bid him farewell as if we are bidding farewell to a part of ourselves. This beloved father, who is loved by everyone, is the first priest ordained to this church. The rest of the priests are his children and colleagues. He was known for his kindness and was characterized by meekness and a warm heart. He was also a faithful man. His departure is a great loss.”
Abouna was truly part of every congregant’s life at church. He personally touched every single person in a unique way. Whether you were an adult, youth, or Sunday school kid he left a footprint in our hearts. For me personally, I thank God and feel absolutely blessed and honored to be one of the youth that Abouna Bishoy personally discipled. I wanted to share a couple of memories that will never leave my heart.
I was always involved in church since I was young, but I was never asked to do anything officially. That changed in 2004 when Abouna Bishoy asked me to be responsible for all the icons at church. I remember we met at church on a Wednesday to look at all the icons and discuss the order of which they were to be put around the church. (This is when the smaller icons used to be hung around the church walls.) Four years later in 2008, I remember Sonia calling asking me to come to church after school because Abouna wanted to organize the icons in the Saints Room. Despite him not feeling the well that day, he wanted to make sure that I knew what I was doing, when he could have simply asked the construction guys to do what he was asking. He was sitting on the blue altar chair with the synexirium, looking up the Saint and his/her departure date so we could organize appropriately. So that was the first service that I was ever personally asked to do, and until this very day, the Saint’s Room is the most sentimental room in the church for me.
Another blessing that I was undeserving for was when I was allowed to visit Abouna three times at the hospital. The three times I visited started out with the same conversation starter. Who are you? What are you doing here? And a quick laugh, and finally- How are you doing with God? Unfortunately, there was only one time that I went where Abouna was feeling really well. The reason he never knew who I was was because he didn’t have his glasses on AND on a number of times he had a mask on his face. When he asked me how are you doing with God, I always answered and said “I could be doing better!” and his response was always- You better do better before I kick you. (In Arabic). Abouna always had a sense of humor regardless of the pain he was in. May his memory continue to be engraved in our hearts forever.