San Rocco Oratory

of the Archdiocese of Chicago

Bishop Makarios celebrating Vespers at San Rocco
Here, Bishop Makarios blesses the people with a candle, during Vespers (evening prayer). This liturgy is being celebrated at San Rocco, in the hall just to the east of the parking lot adjacent to the church.

Bishop Makarios proclaiming the Gospel during the Divine Liturgy
Here is Bishop Makarios proclaiming the Gospel, during the Divine Liturgy, celebrated in the hall at San Rocco, on Sunday morning. Note that there is a lot of incense in the air, from the beginning of the celebration. The smoke alarm was quiet the entire time.

For the Mass, the bishop wears a gold overlay, over the white alb. Note that, instead of a deacon, the bishop himself proclaims the Gospel, as is traditional in Eastern Churches, as opposed to the Western practice of having a deacon proclaim the Gospel.

Charles Nardoni following the Coptic liturgy in English
On the left is Charles Nardoni of San Rocco, following the English language text, in a missal. The Divine Liturgy itself is celebrated largely in Coptic and in Arabic. It is Sunday, August 1, 2004.

Pope Shenouda visiting St. George's Church
In the center, above, holding a cross, is Pope Shenouda, visiting St. George church in Monee. On the left are his priests and bishops. On the right are the deacons. In the foreground is the assembly of the people.

Coptic Vespers and Divine Liturgy

On the first Sunday of August, 2004, Tolentine Center was not available for St. George's parish to celebrate its  Sunday liturgies.  Their new church building in Monee could not yet be used, because an occupancy permit had not been issued.  So, on Saturday evening, July 31, the Copts celebrated Vespers (evening prayer)  in the St. Anthony hall to the east of the parking lot.  The next morning, they celebrated their usual services, including Lauds (morning prayer) and the Divine Liturgy itself, the Mass.

The Coptic liturgy concluded about 11 a.m., the same time as our own liturgy in San Rocco church was over.  At that time, the members of San Rocco were invited over to the hall for brunch, served by the Coptic Orthodox.  They were gracious hosts and had even prepared some Egyptian food, in addition to American sandwiches.

The Copts speak English with a closer connection to British/Irish idiom than our own.  They address their bishop, for example, as "Your Grace."  They call Lauds or morning prayer "Matins."  This difference has nothing to do with the many ancient differences between the rites of Rome and Alexandria.  It is much the same as calling an elevator a "lift,"  a wrench a "spanner,"  a truck a "lorry, " or a period a "full stop."

(The other day, I heard on "Ballykissangel" an Irish priest more than once address his bishop as "Your Lordship."  Wow.  At any rate, their English is just as good as ours, to be sure, maybe even better.)

Bishop Makarios, acting as administrator for their parish, was ordained directly by Patriarch Shenouda, Pope at the time.  He travels from region to region, setting up parishes and taking care of necessary, administrative tasks.  When he visited the new church August 15, 2004, for its dedication, the Pope consulted the people, with regard to the choice of their own pastor.  With their consent, then, the new pastor of the parish is Father Samuel Azmy, ordained in late 2004; he was formerly a deacon for some time.

Pope Shenouda Arrives!

The new, local Coptic Orthodox parish, St. George, has an unfinished church building.  However, it is complete enough to be granted an occupancy permit by Will County, so that the Divine Liturgy can be celebrated there.  Although the congregation at St. George is smaller than that of San Rocco (only 35 families), the church itself is larger.

On August 15, 2004, the church was filled to overflowing.  The head of the Coptic Orthodox Church, Pope Shenouda, flew in to O'Hare and drove down to Monee to visit the new parish.  He said a few prayers, listened to children's choirs, spoke to the people, in both Arabic and English, and gave his blessing.  This was a major occasion. (What the Bishop of Rome is to much of  Western Europe, the Bishop of Alexandria is to much of Africa.  Both bishops in their respective regions are patriarchs, as the Council of Nicea [325 A.D.] acknowledged. One of the songs used in today's brief liturgy reflected the teaching of this council.)

As you would expect, the people were very happy to welcome Pope Shenouda.  There was much singing and jubilation.  Although Christians in Egypt continue to face discrimination and even persecution, here they can thrive and prosper, building whatever churches they need and fostering the growth of their community.

San Rocco Oratory

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