|The Mother of Divine Mercy Coptic Catholic Community celebrated its first Mass in its newly renovated space at the Catholic Pastoral Center on Sunday, June 5. The community, led by Father Elia Francis Gawarge who arrived from Egypt 3 months ago, will celebrate Mass at the Catholic Pastoral Center at 9:30 a.m. every Sunday. Father Elia, above, prepares the altar for Mass. Photos by Andy Telli|
The Coptic Catholic community in Nashville has a new home at the Catholic Pastoral Center.
A room at the Pastoral Center has been renovated into a new chapel that is now being used by the Mother of the Divine Mercy Coptic Catholic Community.
“It’s amazing for us,” Father Elia Francis Gawarge, the Mother of Divine Mercy chaplain, said of his community’s new home. He is hopeful the move to the Pastoral Center from the community’s previous home at St. Patrick Church in Nashville will help the community grow.
The church has 30 families, all of whom are from Egypt, the home of the Coptic Catholic Church. The community is appreciative of Bishop David Choby for allowing them to move to the Pastoral Center, Father Elia said. “Bishop Choby supports us because he believes in our Coptic Rite and thinks it’s an important part of the Catholic Church.”
|Father Elia gives Communion to Filopater Hanna. In the Coptic Rite, young children, even infants, receive Communion.|
The Coptic Catholic Church is one of the more than 20 Eastern Rite churches in union with the Roman Catholic Church. Its roots stretch back to the earliest days of Christianity when the Church in the ancient Egyptian city of Alexandria was one of the most important centers of the Early Church.
The Mother of Divine Mercy celebrated its first Mass in the Pastoral Center chapel on Sunday, June 5. The community will have Mass there at 9:30 a.m. Sundays, followed by religious education classes for the children.
The Burmese Catholic Community is also expected to start using the chapel, which can seat about 80 people and includes a confessional and storage space.
Father Elia is the new chaplain of Mother of the Divine Mercy. He arrived from Egypt in March and is living at St. Joseph Church in Madison.
“I’m happy to be here in America,” said Father Elia, who was ordained in 2007 and was pastor of a church in Maadi, Egypt, before coming to Nashville. “It’s a good chance for me to gain a new experience,” he said. It’s also a good opportunity for him to improve his English. “The most important language is English.”
“Being a pastor for immigrants is a new experience for me,” added Father Elia, who spent time in the United States as a student about a decade ago.
Father Elia hopes to learn how to the celebrate the Latin Rite of the Mass so he can help in other parishes. “I’m looking to help the American Church.”