February 2016 – The British Orthodox Church
During the evening of 5 February 2016, Tasoni Effa died in Cairo died in her 97th year.
Miss Effa Boules Garas was born on 28 November 1919 in Nagada, Egypt. She was the eldest of three children in a devout Coptic Orthodox family. In the 1940s, they moved to Cairo where they lived in Shoubra. As a young steward at St Antonios’ Church, Shoubra, she came under the influence of Nazeer Gayed, who was later to become Father Antonios, then Bishop Shenouda and later Pope Shenouda III. His ministry had a profound influence on her life and she retained a keen recollection of those early days until the end of her life. In the 1950s, the family built a 4-storey house in Heliopolis where the two sisters Effa and Adiba, and their younger brother Ezzat, started to serve at St. George Church, Heliopolis. Effa was responsible for spiritual ministry and education; Adiba was a musician who composed and played many church songs; while Ezzat was responsible for Sunday School Preparatory phase for children. In June 1981, Pope Shenouda revived the long-neglected ministry of deaconesses in the Coptic church by consecrating 27 deaconesses to serve in the churches of Cairo. Five of the consecrated were virgins, amongst whom were Effa and Adiba. This first group of deaconesses were followed by hundreds being consecrated throughout different dioceses. After the death of their brother, Effa and Adiba donated their parents’ home to the church, keeping the ground floor flat for their accommodation. The second floor was transformed into a Coptic students’ hostel under the oversight of Metropolitan Bishoy and the nuns of St Demiana’s convent.
“Miss Effa” as she was affectionately known, became a good friend of the British Orthodox Church and on his many trips to Cairo Abba Seraphim always paid a visit to the house in Heliopolis, to which many members of the British Orthodox Church also became frequent visitors. Well into her ninth decade Miss Effa would entertain them with her rendering of traditional Coptic chants on the piano. Although frail with her advanced years, she remained mentally alert and her conversation was always spiritually edifying. Successive young Coptic female students who shared her house delighted in meeting her and shared great love and respect for her selfless concern for others. She was not ill, but on Sunday, 31 January, at noon, her disciple Tasoni Helena watched her staring into the air. When she asked her what was happening, Miss Effa said she was seeing angels and monks. On Sunday night, she asked that she be anointed by the blessed oil of the Virgin Mary which Tasoni did. The following days she stopped eating and talking. For a couple of days, the doctors tried to revive her, but she peacefully slipped away to be with the Saviour she loved and to rejoin all those from earlier generations, with whom she had shared her service and devotion to the Church. Abba Seraphim spoke of her faith and unfailing commitment to service and of the precious memory of times spent with her. Memory Eternal.