One of my heroes is H.G. Bishop Samuel, who departed from this earth in 1981 after a lifetime of great accomplishments for the Coptic Church in Egypt and around the world.
Did his story end in 1981? Far from it; you and I will spend 2015 benefiting from his foresight and hard work. Today, I’d like to offer a reminder of Bishop Samuel’s achievements, and suggest one way we can keep his legacy strong.
First and foremost, Bishop Samuel helped lead the Sunday School movement that revitalized the Church in Egypt. I’m sure you’d agree that in 2015, the energy and vision of that movement is still felt powerfully in our congregations, in our homes, in our spiritual lives.
I’m fond of saying we should all try to make a difference in the world. How did Bishop Samuel make such a huge difference?
Born in 1920 as Saad Aziz, he forsook his law career and was consecrated in 1944 to serve the underprivileged and poor.
In 1948, he became a monk with the name Fr. Makary El Suriany. In doing so, he became the first university graduate to choose the monastic life, inspiring many others to follow in the Coptic revival of monasticism.
In 1954, his participation in the second general Assembly of the World Council of Churches helped end the 1,500-year isolation of the Coptic Church that began with the Council of Chalcedon. As a World Council of Churches leader, he brought millions of dollars to projects that enriched lives in Egypt.
He was the secretary of Pope Kyrollos VI, and his 1962 ordination as “General Bishop of Social and Ecumenical Services” made him the first head of a new bishopric with no geographical boundaries.
He established the Diakonia Program to serve areas without priests, and he set up services for the needy nationwide called “The Brothers of the Lord.” Instead of giving handouts, he created programs that trained people to be self-sufficient. His ideas in this field continue to influence how we think about what is possible when we approach “charity” work. Here at Coptic Orphans, we owe a debt of gratitude to Bishop Samuel for pioneering ideas that underpin our mission of transforming generations by empowering the fatherless.
But Bishop Samuel’s influence went even farther, and continues to 2015. We in the Coptic diaspora lead lives that are especially molded by Bishop Samuel’s hard work. In the 1960s, he set up U.S. Coptic centers that were the seeds of future Coptic churches. With the blessing of Pope Kyrollos VI, Bishop Samuel pioneered the establishment of the first churches in North America, Australia, and Europe. Can you imagine how different your life would be if those churches had not been set up and taken root?
It befits the memory of this great man—a pioneer, a visionary, and a warrior for Christ—to establish a fund in his name that helps people in Egypt who face poverty to achieve dignity and self-sufficiency for years to come.
I’d like you to know that you can help carry on Bishop Samuel’s legacy. The Bishop Samuel Endowment will use your donation to ensure that this great Church leader’s vision lives on. Your generous gift, which you can make by clicking here, will support university scholarships for students who show leadership and commitment to Egypt and the Church.
I think it’s important to close any discussion of Bishop Samuel’s achievements with the observation that he was deeply humble. He considered himself a mere servant of God and the people, fulfilling the Biblical verses, “I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; ….” (Matt. 25:35, 36)
I’m grateful that H.G. Bishop Samuel left behind such a strong legacy for all of us, and I pray that we will all show his courage and commitment in 2015 and beyond.