Bishop Suriel, was born in Port Said, Egypt on 9 May 1963. He migrated with his parents in May of 1967 to Sydney, Australia. It was there that he spent the next twenty-four years of his life. When Bishop Suriel's family migrated to Australia there were no Coptic Orthodox Churches there and very quickly his family realised the great need for a Coptic Orthodox Church to be established on this continent. Thanks be to God that it was not long afterwards that the small Coptic community in Sydney welcomed with great joy their first priest, Fr. Mina Nemetalla in 1969. Fr. Mina established St. Mary and St. Mina Church, and it was there where Bishop Suriel and his family worshipped. Bishop Suriel grew up in the suburb of Marrickville.
Education & Employment background
At Marrickville West Public School, N.S.W, Bishop Suriel completed his primary education in 1974. He completed his Secondary education at Tempe High School in 1980. He was successful in his studies and preferred the scientific subjects, especially Mathematics. He represented his school in many competitions especially in Tennis and Table Tennis. During his Secondary education he enjoyed the sport of Tennis and participated in many competitions at Marrickville Tennis club. At church, he was also involved in many activities; he attended Sunday School regularly and in his early teenage years was ordained as a Reader by the late Bishop Samuel. He later became interested in learning the Coptic language and attended classes regularly on Sundays after the liturgy. This was very beneficial for him of course in his religious vocation, which he took on later. In his final two years in High School at the age of 16, he became more involved in his local church and took on a two-year part time course to study his faith more closely. This course equipped him to be a Sunday School teacher. He began teaching in Sunday School at the age of 17, during his first year in University.
Actually teaching became his life. After graduating from Tempe High School in 1980, he entered The University of Sydney in 1981 and completed a Bachelor of Science Degree majoring in Pure Mathematics and with a sub-major in Applied Mathematics and Statistics. In his final year at Sydney University in 1984 he also completed a Diploma of Education at Sydney Institute of Education. These two degrees qualified him to be a High School teacher. In January of 1985 he was appointed by the NSW Department of Education to teach Mathematics to Years 7 to 12 students at Fairvale High School in the West of Sydney. He taught at this school for one and a half years and then soon afterwards was appointed to Dulwich High School in Dulwich Hill. He worked there for four and a half enjoyable and fruitful years.
Bishop Suriel had dreamed for so many years of going to visit Egypt, his Mother land, after hearing so much about Egypt from his parents. He longed to see the land of his forefathers, the great heroes of the Christian faith, the land that brought forth St. Anthony the Great, St. Athanasius the Apostolic and Saint Cyril of Alexandria. He longed to visit the monasteries and ancient churches. He had heard so much about monasticism, and longed to see this ascetic life in practise in the Egyptian deserts. Monasticism was established in Egypt in the 3rd and 4th centuries. During the summer break of 1985/1986, he joined approximately forty other youth from Sydney and Melbourne for the first ever organised Coptic Youth tour to the Holy Land of Egypt.
Bishop Suriel had also heard so much about His Holiness Pope Shenouda Ill, Pope of Alexandria and Patriarch of the See of Saint Mark. He was very impressed by him, by his teaching and wisdom and by his great knowledge and love of the Bible. Bishop Suriel was so eagerly waiting to meet His Holiness on his planned visit to Australia in 1980, but unfortunately that visit was cancelled due to the difficult situation in Egypt at the time. He would await eagerly any news of His Holiness' visit. When this Coptic Youth tour met His Holiness Pope Shenouda III in the Monastery of Saint Bishoy, it was the first time for most of them to see His Holiness face to face and to kiss his holy hand and to hear his words that are full of wisdom. This meeting left a great impact on the life of all the youth present and especially left a deep impact on the life and future of Bishop Suriel.
Church Involvement & Service
After returning from this trip, the priest and elders at St. Mary and St. Mina church saw the positive impact of this trip on the lives of those who participated. They saw the potential in the youth and had a vision for the future, and they knew that a Church without youth is a Church without a future. They decided to allow four of the youth that were on this trip and were all Sunday School teachers to lead the youth meeting. Bishop Suriel was one of those four. This was a turning point in the life of this church and in the life of those four young men. The opportunity given to these four youth was a stepping stone that was a foundation for what was to come. Of these four youth, three of them including Bishop Suriel became monks at St. Bishoy Monastery in Wadi-El-Natroun (Scetis), Egypt and the fourth was married and he and his wife are very successful Christians who serve the Church and the community with all of their hearts.
As a youth leader, Bishop Suriel coordinated and planned many conventions for youth and servants in Sydney on several occasions every year. He also participated in the publication of St. George Youth Magazine that was published on a monthly basis. In 1990 he was chosen to be the Youth representative on the NSW Board of Deacons where he served for one year. Bishop Suriel was always interested in gathering and reading English material about his faith, even though that not much material was accessible in English, he would always try to find such literature and to build his library. In 1989 he translated and published a major work by His Holiness Pope Shenouda III from Arabic to English. The book is titled "The Life of Repentance and Purity." Bishop Suriel began to learn Arabic at home then later at church and he also studied Arabic for one year at Sydney University. In 1991 he attended the 7th Assembly of the WCC in Canberra as a visitor and set-up a Coptic exhibition that was visited by thousands of delegates and guests. This exhibition was aimed at introducing the Coptic Church to those in attendance and included books and Coptic Art. He also attended the 8th assembly of the World Council of Churches in Harare as a delegate representing the Coptic Orthodox Church.
Monasticism & Priesthood
During the WCC meeting in 1991, Bishop Suriel was granted an audience with His Holiness Pope Shenouda III where he expressed to His Holiness his deep desire to lead a monastic life. His Holiness accepted him to the Monastery of St. Bishoy, where he was part of His Holiness' Secretariat at the monastery. On the 6th of July 1991 His Holiness Pope Shenouda III consecrated him as a monk by the name of Fr. Suriel El-Anba-Bishoy along with six others. In 1992 His Holiness gave the responsibility of establishing an English version of El- Keraza (Preaching Magazine), under his guidance, to Fr. Angelos (also from Australia) and Fr. Suriel. This magazine was distributed to all our congregations in the lands of immigration on almost a monthly basis. It was distributed in the United Kingdom, USA, Canada and Australia.
On the 8th of June 1993 Fr. Suriel was ordained a priest by His Holiness and continued to serve in the monastery. The time in the monastery was a time for prayer, solitude and contemplation. He also translated one other book by His Holiness named, "Tears in Spiritual Life" but it has not yet been published. The experience that Fr. Suriel received during his time in the monastery and especially in the Secretariat with His Holiness will always be treasured.
Parish Priest in Honolulu
In early January 1996, His Holiness appointed Fr. Suriel to pastor to the small Coptic community in Honolulu, Hawaii. There were only eleven families there, and the closest Coptic Church to them was in Los Angeles, five hours away by aeroplane. He worked to serve this small community diligently. He established regular services for them every week including Vespers and Bible study on Saturdays, the Divine Liturgy and youth meeting on Sundays. He also established a Sunday school class on Saturdays before Vespers. All of these meetings he conducted himself as there was no one else experienced enough to teach. During his time in Honolulu he lived with the Marianist Catholic Community of Hawaii and he studied Theology at Chaminade University for one and a half years receiving Grade A's for all courses. He completed 21 credits during this time. He also assisted in preparing for the visit of His Holiness Pope Shenouda III to Hawaii during his Silver Jubilee in December, 1996 and on this occasion conducted a photo exhibition of Coptic life and art at the State Library as well as a banquet in honor of His Holiness.
Consecration & Service in North America
On the 15th of June 1997 he was selected and ordained by His Holiness Pope Shenouda III and the Holy Synod as a General Bishop in the Coptic Orthodox Church and given the name Bishop Suriel. After spending some time in Egypt, he participated with His Grace Bishop Moussa in the Annual Youth Conventions in North America and Europe. In October 1997 he was appointed by His Holiness Pope Shenouda III to oversee on behalf of His Holiness the administration of the Coptic Archdiocese in Cedar Grove in New Jersey. He was also to head the monthly clergy meetings and to revive and work diligently in youth ministry on the East Coast and Mid-West of America.
He travelled extensively throughout this region during a period of two years beginning on October 15, 1997. He visited more than 40 churches in this area covering 17 states and many more cities. Many of these churches were visited several times. These visits included Divine liturgies, youth meetings for High School and College youth, meetings for families and parents, as well as meeting with the Sunday school teachers for spiritual building. On Easter 1998 he launched a major web site for the Archdiocese whose address is www.NACopticChurch.org, it was on this occasion also that he published the first monthly Newsletter for youth named "Contemporary Copt." He was able to involve many young people in youth ministry in different fields.
Another important and vital part of Bishop Suriel's ministry at the Archdiocese was to lay important foundations for BLESS USA (Bishopric of Ecumenical and Social Services). This organisation raises funds and develops methods of helping the poor and needy Christians of Egypt. Again a group of dedicated people mainly youth, worked diligently under the leadership of Bishop Suriel and hold regular meetings, distribute and mail out thousands of letters monthly to contributors to inform them of the work of BLESS USA, besides many other important duties and tasks. This is a professional team that has come a long way in a very short time and has almost doubled its fundraising efforts in the past year and a half. They also have an excellent web site at www.blessusa.org.
In September of 1998 despite his heavy schedule, he began to study towards a Masters degree in Christian Education at Saint Vladimir's Seminary. He completed one year of study, and his credits from Chaminade University were accepted towards the degree. Due to his appointment as bishop of Melbourne, he was not able to pursue further this degree, but he hopes to be able to continue his studies in Melbourne, Australia. Bishop Suriel was also invited to give two lectures on consecutive years at Saint Vladimir's Seminary during their annual Eastern/Oriental Orthodox Symposium, which were both well received. He was also invited in 1998 and 1999 to give two lectures at Eastern Orthodox Churches on the subjects of "Orthodox Understanding of Holy Angels" and on "Making Christ Real in the Home."
During his work in America, Bishop Suriel was also responsible for organising and planning the six pastoral visits of Hs Holiness Pope Shenouda III during 1998 and 1999, and he also accompanied His Holiness throughout all of his travels to North America during this two year period. In his words he says, "truly these were golden moments in my life, in which I had this opportunity to learn and experience firsthand our amazing and blessed Pope and Patriarch at work tirelessly for the sake of his flock in North America."
During his time on the East Coast he participated in many ecumenical activities including:
1. The annual Standing Conference of Oriental Orthodox Churches.
2. Welcoming His All Holiness the late Catholicos of good memory Karekin I of the Armenian Apostolic Church.
3. Welcoming Patriarch Elia of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church.
4. Meeting with SCOBA (Standing Conference of Orthodox Bishops of America).
5. The enthronement of Archbishop Demetrios of the Greek Orthodox Church in America.
6. The standing conference between Catholic and Oriental Orthodox Churches as well as meeting with the new Anglican bishop of New York.
He also participated in the first concelebrated liturgy of Oriental Orthodox Churches in 1998 and hosted the second concelebrated liturgy in October 1999.
Bishop Suriel also attended and spoke at the inauguration of the current Mayor of Bayonne in New Jersey, he also welcomed H. E. Mr. Hosni Mubarak, the President of Egypt and had a private meeting along with a delegation of Coptic clergy and laymen at Blair House in Washington DC, he also attended the meeting arranged by the General Secretary of the NCC (National Council of Churches) to welcome Mr. Yasser Arafat the Chairman of Palestinian Organisation, to New York. In January 1999 he established the first annual Winter retreat for graduates and college students that was attended by 250 youth on the East Coast. During this retreat he established ECCOYA (East Coast Coptic orthodox Youth Association). This team of about forty youth workers met approximately every two weeks at the Archdiocese for training in how to be effective youth workers and leaders. This team was subdivided into smaller groups each having a specific duty, such as fundraising, establishing a database of youth in the area, research and statistics, translation, publication and interact as well as an advertising team just to name a few. He also held spiritual days on a regular basis for High School and College youth at the Archdiocese beginning with a liturgy about six times a year on Saturdays. These meetings were attended by youth from many churches. In September of 1999 he also established the first combined picnic for college students that was attended by 150 youth from churches on the East Coast. It was a social as well as a spiritual activity that was received well by all those in attendance.
By God's grace, Bishop Suriel concluded his ministry in America on the 9th of November, 1999. On that occasion he published a book titled "Christ: Our Life and Hope - Spiritual Talks For Youth, Parents and Leaders." Then traveled to Cairo where he was appointed on the Sunday 10 of November, 1999 (also the 28th anniversary of the Enthronement date of His Holiness Pope Shenouda III) as Bishop of Melbourne, Canberra, Tasmania, South Australia, Western Australia and New Zealand. He then was enthroned in his Diocese in Melbourne on the Saturday 4th of December 1999.