Coptic Orthodox Diocese of the Southern United States

Choose the Best

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This is a story which often repeated itself on many occasions. Father Pishoy Kamel used to telephone some of the deacons at night and would say, "Choose the best icons, crosses, service equipment, utensils to take with you..." The servant would ask "Why Father?" Father Pishoy would answer, "We are going to open a new church!" He would say it with great excitement and joy, as if he was organising a wedding feast.

In opening the new church he would choose his best servants, and invite them to serve in the new church, and he would tell them, "I do not want to see you here again...but you are to concentrate all your energies on serving the new church."

In this manner Father Pishoy's heart used to rejoice at the opening of a new church as a new centre of service. No matter how close or how far it was from St. George's church in Alexandria.

He fulfilled the word of St. John Crysostom, "O priest, you are a father to all humanity". His heart was open to everybody, whether friend or stranger. His fatherhood knew no bounds and everyone had a special place in his heart.

He was not concerned over the number of servants or worshippers in St. George's church, but rather that every soul was being served by a church. His efforts were near incredible in establishing churches, some being in the vicinity of St. George's church and he would often repeat, "The success of the service in the other churches is a success for our church".

On this point, His Holiness Pope Shenouda III said of Father Pishoy that one of the strangest requests that received as a patriarch from a priest is to appoint another priest to assist him. For it is often said and thought by the older priests that when a new one is appointed that they will take away their authority, their areas of competences, their services, the people who follow them and those who confess to them or even their control over financial matters.

Father Pishoy represented a new way of spiritual thinking and a good example to be followed by the fathers who came after him. His level was above the ego reaching the level of the Kingdom of God. He did not care about concentrating everything in his person. He opened the way for others to serve. He gave them the chance to build with him as he realised there was too much to accomplish alone.

He requested one priest after another to be appointed. In his own church alone of St. George he requested a priest, so His Holiness appointed one. Three years later he requested a second, so he appointed Father Tadros. Five years later he requested a third, so he appointed Father Luke. He requested a fourth, so he appointed Father Matta. To His Holiness' surprise he then requested a fifth, so he appointed Father Michael.

His Holiness says, "We use to wonder about St. George's church in Sporting, that it was letting go of so many people to other churches being established around it and yet at the same time requesting an increase in the number of its priests...This church became characterized by a special spirituality...she became a mother to all the services which developed out of her...and a special beacon in Alexandria."

Father Pishoy carried in him the spirit of his Master and the big heart which loved everybody.

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