When Cairo children asked that Ayman Zohair become a priest, His Holiness Pope Shenouda listened. Today Ayman Zohair is Abouna Mikhail, a priest, but as Ayman, he was a Coptic Orphans Rep. For 12 years, he spent most evenings and weekends visiting the homes of children who have lost a father in Egypt neighborhoods near his church.
Fr. Mikhail’s ordination is part of an increasing trend of Coptic Orphans volunteers becoming priests. This past summer, the 22nd Coptic Orphans Rep became a priest since 2001.
Abouna Mikhail’s Story
At his church, “Rep Ayman” was one of the leaders responsible for training new servants – a process that lasts three years with every new group of servants in his Greater Cairo diocese. In May of 2010, he attended the weekly Cairo audience for Pope Shenouda with a group of servants he was training for church service and some of the 15 children he mentored in Not Alone, the flagship program of Coptic Orphans. The pope asked the crowd for nominations to the priesthood. A child put forward Ayman Zohair’s name, the crowd voted him in, and within the week His Holiness ordained him.
Magda Abdelmalak, Coptic Orphans program manager for the area in which Fr. Mikhail had served as a Rep, says that Rep Ayman was one of the most reliable Reps in her service. In an organization known throughout the Coptic world for its rigorous attention to excellence, “I never had to worry about details and logistics in home visits, budgetary issues, or workshops when he was in charge.”
Why Reps Make Good Priests
His Grace Anba Estefanos of Beba and ElFashn Dioceses in Middle Egypt says that the ongoing training that Coptic Orphans provides their Reps gives them skills that transfer easily to priestly ministry. He cites several reasons he says he looks to the servants in his diocese who are Coptic Orphans Reps when he needs pastors. He says that they gain important interpersonal skill sets, like the creative problem-solving skills that help Reps strategically assess needs and impact an entire family system through one of its members. He also says that Coptic Orphans Reps become organized and know how to set and meet goals and benchmarks; that they develop the useful habit of documenting their interactions; that they must be consistent and committed; and that Reps already understand the importance of confidentiality and must exercise integrity and discipline in maintaining it. Finally, Anba Estefanos believes that if a Rep proves successful, it shows that Rep has another foundational gift: a genuine and deep compassion for people.
Coptic Orphans works in 44 Egyptian dioceses. Representatives from Coptic Orphans keep in close touch with bishops to inform them of latest developments, to seek their advice on current challenges and new areas of need. Coptic Orphans works as a lay-led organization to support the clergy in their mission to lead and strengthen the Body of Christ after the pattern of Acts 6:1-6.