‘An Incredible Blessing’ — A Visit to St. Mary and St. John the Beloved Convent

Mother Marina, head nun of St. Mary and St. John the Beloved Convent, and Coptic Orphans staff member Michel Awad.
Mother Marina, head nun of St. Mary and St. John the Beloved Convent, and Coptic Orphans staff member Michel Awad.

I’m excited to share the reflections of Michel Awad, one of our donor relations associates based here at our headquarters in the greater Washington, D.C. area. — Nermien Riad

It was a great blessing for Coptic Orphans to visit St. Mary and St. John the Beloved Convent in Warren, Ohio over the July 12 weekend.

The convent is the first Coptic Orthodox facility of its kind for nuns in the United States and Canada. It is located about 70 minutes from Cleveland, a major medical hub where many Coptic doctors work, and where many Coptic bishops and priests visit every year. It is an area that was often blessed and visited by our beloved father, H.H. Pope Shenouda III. The monastery reports directly to H.H. Pope Tawadros II.

Being the first and only convent for Coptic nuns in North America, the facility is always fully booked by trips and retreats by several churches in United States and Canada. It is an ideal place for overnight trips for girls (khelwa). There, they can be blessed with the prayers of the Coptic nuns. They can also enjoy learning many handicraft and art skills directly from the nuns  an opportunity they would never have unless they visited this type of holy Coptic institution in Egypt.

I reached the convent on the evening of Saturday, July 12. I met with Mother Marina, the head nun, who kindly welcomed us and gave me permission to make a presentation just after the liturgy and meet with the whole congregation. Mother Marina also introduced me to Abouna Kyrolos, who also welcomed me and invited me to pray the liturgy with him and make a presentation on Sunday, July 13. I attended Saturday prayers in the church with all the nuns and Abouna Kyrolos. I also met several young women who were visiting the convent.

My presentation covered Coptic Orphans’ different programs and services, and featured a video of H.H. Pope Tawadros II sharing kind words about our work. The presentation explained the Serve to Learn program and mentioned that the current group met with Abouna Dawoud Lamie and visited H.H. Pope Tawadros II.

Sharing the news and pictures of these events seemed to have a strong impact on the young people who were present, because they expressed a lot of interest in joining Serve to Learn in 2015. In fact, after the presentation, three young women (one from Canada and two from the United States) asked questions about Serve to Learn and shared their contact information in order to learn more.

This visit to St. Mary and St. John the Beloved Convent was an incredible blessing, with many positive outcomes. We’re grateful to the nuns and Abouna Kyrollos for their hospitality and love for the children of Egypt.

About Nermien Riad

Nermien Riad founded Coptic Orphans in 1988 after volunteering for an orphanage in Cairo. When she saw that most of the children had living widowed mothers who simply couldn’t afford to feed them, she gathered family and friends to sponsor children in Egypt. Today Coptic Orphans works through a network of 400+ church-based volunteers in Egypt, who visit fatherless families in their homes and make sure they get everything they need to unlock their full potential. That way, they don’t have to get married off as child brides, work as 10-year old family breadwinners, or go to live at an institutional orphanage.