Graduation Ceremony of H.G. Bishop Suriel

On 17th May 2014, a beautiful spring day in New York, I was blessed and privileged to accompany our beloved father, His Grace Bishop Suriel

in His Grace's graduation ceremony from Fordham University with a doctorate of religion from the Graduate School of Religion and Religious Education. Sayedna's doctoral dissertation focused on St. Archdeacon Habib Girgis, Dean of the Coptic Theological College in Cairo, an educator who brought reform and access to religious education for Copts through his Sunday School services in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

{youtube}PqZ6R0_zscU{/youtube} Before I travelled to the U.S., I'll be completely honest, I did not know what to expect. I pictured the graduation ceremony to be similar to university ceremonies that I have previously attended in Australia. The reality was far from what I expected. In the morning of the graduation, we entered into the splendid quarters of the university. Fordham University’s Rose Hill campus is, without question, one of the most beautiful places that I have seen in New York City. The triumvirate of the Botanical Gardens, the Bronx Zoo and the Fordham campus are oases of green in an otherwise desert of brick and concrete that makes up this congressional district in the United States.

I was blown away from the moment we drove down the main entrance with His Grace. With a variety of landscapes, an undulating topography and an appealing mix of collegiate gothic buildings, a walk through Fordham’s campus prior to the graduation ceremony constantly offered eye-catching points of interest.  I was amazed that such a beautiful area exists in the Bronx.

As we arrived early at Edwards Place, the garden area where all the family and friends of the graduates were to be seated in front of the national landmark of Keating Hall, I was surprised to see such a large area. How many loved ones will attend this graduation? This area holds at least 15 to 20,000 people! We managed to secure a very good position towards the front of Keating Hall where His Grace would receive the doctorate. Upon arrival, we were handed the Graduation Program and the official Fordham University News publication 'Inside Fordham' by current university students.

 I was pleasantly surprised on how many students recognised and warmly greeted His Grace, and I wondered how all these people knew him. Soon after, we opened to page 4 of this publication and found that Sayedna featured in a brilliant article titled "Addressing the Coptic Crisis through Education". People continued to stream through and before the ceremony, there was in fact around 20,000 people witnessing this memorable celebration. The 169th Commencement Ceremony began with the traditional ringing of the Victory Bell, first rung by President Harry S. Truman in 1946. 

Fordham University Provost Stephen Freedman resided as Master of Ceremonies, which saw honorary degrees conferred upon Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor and former New York Yankees player Constantino “Tino” Martinez, who was the keynote speaker.

Witnessed by our beloved fathers, His Grace Bishop David and His Grace Bishop Armeya and a vocal crowd of 20,000 people; It was with great pride that the name "His Grace Bishop Anba Suriel" was called out and was conferred the Doctorate of Philosophy by the Dean of the Graduate School of Religion and Religious Education, C. Colt Anderson. Sayedna was awarded with one of the highest honours in the ceremony! The achievement was truly recognised in this internationally renowned and esteemed university and we can never understand the magnitude of this achievement. The only word that comes to mind is historical.

We as a Diocese should be thankful to God for this blessing as this is the first ever Coptic Orthodox Bishop that has graduated with a doctorate on studies that relate directly to our beloved church. Sayedna's achievement is our achievement. We all witnessed His Grace's passion, devotion and hard work throughout the time of completion of the dissertation. 

This day was truly the fruits of His Grace's labour. However, these fruits will continue to be ripe for many years to come and we along with our children will be the beneficiaries. Sayedna's great work will certainly stream into Christian Education via St. Athanasius Theological College for our generation and generations to come through the blessings of our great pioneer in the Christian movement, St. Archdeacon Habib Girgis.

Congratulations Your Grace, may God Bless you, may you continue to inspire us and our youth in focusing on their education and may you continue to be a beacon of light to our community.

Jimmy Morcos