The Coptic Canadian History Project (CCHP) is the first ever repository to prioritize the history and collective memory of ‘ordinary’ Coptic immigrants, serving to bridge the gap between public archives, immigrant communities, and academic scholars. We assist in transferring and processing archival donations; a core tenant of our aim to identify, archive, digitize, preserve, and provide free access to source materials that reflect the knowledge, collective memory, and experiences of Egypt’s Coptic population, Coptic immigrants in Canada, and their descendants.
Why do people emigrate? What do they leave behind? Where do they go and why? How do they make sense of their new surroundings? What does it mean to be Coptic in Canada, and in North America? It is such questions that animate the CCHP and our continued efforts to support both researchers and community members in preserving the history and heritage of diverse Coptic communities, and in maintaining it for future generations.
The CCHP facilitates archival donations of personal and institutional records to the Clara Thomas Archives and Special Collections, York University Libraries. We welcome new donors and encourage you to read this Fact sheet to learn more about the Clara Tomas Archives’ donation policies. Please contact us at theCCHP@gmail.com with any questions.
Now Available in Special Collections:
Sami Boulos arrived first in the United States as a visiting student in 1955, and then returned as a doctoral candidate in 1957. After completing his degree in New York, he secured a teaching position at the State University of New York. One of the earliest Egyptian immigrants to the United States, Dr. Sami Boulos was one of the founders of the Coptic American Association (1963 – 1971) and is today a prolific author and generous mentor.
In 2006, a dozen Coptic immigrants who had initially settled in the New York/New Jersey area (but now scattered across the United States) met in Dr. Boulos’ home in New Jersey to record their memories and to supply documents regarding the formation of the Coptic American Association. This book is the result of that project. It documents the oral, textual, and biographic history of those initial immigrants; who gathered in New York, formed the Association, and met in search of social and spiritual community in a new environment. Dr. Boulos’ book also includes a wealth of scanned primary documents, which make up approximately the last third of the volume.
Shawky Karas arrived with his family as a graduate student in New Jersey in the late 1950s. Dr. Karas is remembered as the “father” of Coptic activism in the diaspora. He founded the American Coptic Association (1974 – ), remained its president after he later became professor and director of research in behavioral sciences at Southern Connecticut State College, New Haven, and has inspired and encouraged like-minded organizations in Canada and Australia. Dr. Karas passed away in 2003.
His book is a seminal text on Coptic activism, that is regularly cited. It is vital to our understanding of escalating discrimination and marginalization of Coptic populations in Egypt since the 1970s, and serves as a collection of biographical and primary materials documenting the activism of Coptic émigrés (Aqbat al-Mahjar).
Coptologia Volumes I-XX (link under review!)
Fayek M. Ishak was an Egyptian Canadian Coptologist and scholar (1922-2006). Professor Ishak arrived in Canada to teach English Literature at Notre Dame University in Nelson, British Columbia (1966-1967) and then took a permanent position at Lakehead University in Thunder Bay, Ontario (1971-1987). He authored and published the first English translation of the Liturgy of St. Basil (4th century); a copy of which is accessible at Library and Archives Canada, Ottawa.
Professor Ishak was the founder and editor-in-chief of Coptologia, a journal of Coptic thought and spirituality. Coptologia contains numerous articles on Coptic theology, heritage, monastic life, immigration, and includes contributions from renowned Coptologists such as Aziz Atiya, Otto Meinardus and Iris el-Masri. His family has generously donated the entire collection of Coptologia (1981-2006) and select publications on Coptic life and spirituality.
Processing in the Archives:
Father Marcos A. Marcos was born in Sohag, Upper Egypt as Wagdi Elias Abdel Massieh. After studying in the United States from 1958 – 1962, he returned to Cairo to teach at the Clerical College. He was ordained as Father Marcos on August 9th, 1964 as the first priest for Coptic émigrés in North America. Father Marcos and his wife Susan arrived in Toronto in November 1964 and for Toronto’s Coptic immigrants, Father Marcos remains their “flying priest.”
With the support of Father Marcos, his family, and friends, the Coptic Canadian History Project has facilitated the donation of a collection of photographs, letters, and publications which are currently being processed at the Clara Thomas Archives. This material documents the history of the first Coptic Orthodox priest to serve in North America and will soon be available for consultation.
Cataloguing in Progress
Helene Moussa currently serves as the Volunteer Curator at St. Mark’s Coptic Museum, Scarborough, ON. A sociologist, Helene Moussa taught at the American University in Cairo (1955-1957), was the Dean of the School of Social Work in Haile Selassie I University, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (1958-1967), and lectured at York University, the University of Toronto, and the Centre for Christian Studies (1971-1988). She also served as the Executive Secretary for Uprooted People in the Middle East, Asia and the Pacific Islands for the World Council of Churches in Geneva, Switzerland (1994–1998).
Helene Moussa has generously donated a single storage file box (15x12x10″) containing her collection of various magazines and newsletters that document the parish history of St. Mark’s Coptic Orthodox Church, Scarborough, ON. This is the first Coptic church built (not rented or bought) in North America. Textual and photographic materials are currently being processed at the Clara Thomas Archives and will soon be available for consultation.
Cataloguing in Progress