He's There for You

Ralph Toss

Ralph with Bishop Suriel on the occasion of his wife Ann Marie’s graduation from Yale UniversityRalph with Bishop Suriel on the occasion of his wife Ann Marie’s graduation from Yale UniversityThe following is a tribute to alumnus Bishop Suriel, Ph.D., of the Holy Diocese of Melbourne, Victoria, Tasmania, ACT, South Australia, Western Australia, New Zealand and All Oceania. It was first published in the 2014 Annual Report, The Far Reach of St. Vladimir's Seminary, which featured those who have benefitted from the Seminary's ministries and people. The article is by Ralph Toss, Former General Counsel to His Grace, and Reader in the Coptic Orthodox Diocese of New York and New England.

Just a few words sum up His Grace Bishop Suriel: He’s there for you.

The focus, sacrifice, and love His Grace demonstrates in making these words come true are beyond comprehension, because he’s there for you while performing his duties as diocesan bishop, while working on his Masters and Ph.D. degrees, while doing ecumenical work, while fighting for Egypt’s Coptic minority, and while doing missionary work in Fiji, Pakistan, and Tonga. Despite his heavy commitments, and in all circumstances, he’s there for each sheep of his flock.

I first met Bishop Suriel at a youth retreat in 1998. This towering young bishop had nary a grey hair in his beard and spoke with an Aussie accent. Bishop Suriel reminded us Western youth that the Church was a relevant organism that could feed us spiritually. He had an obvious love for Christ and us, and needless to say—we fell in love with him.

When Bishop Suriel was appointed as day-to-day administrator of the Archdiocese of North America, how lucky I was to live just a few miles away! At that time, my father was sick, and His Grace visited numerous times, as if my father were his own. During the last few months of my dad’s life, and in the midst of His Grace’s studies, he was still there for us: pacing hospital hallways at all hours, and praying with us, crying with us, and interceding on our behalf up to the moment of my father’s death.

He’s been there for countless others. He’s flown back from dozens of international meetings to be with his children, hurt in heart-wrenching accidents or approaching the end of their earthly journeys. He’s been there at weddings, baptisms, engagements, graduations, barbeques, and festivals. He’s been there—in long black robes and black dress shoes, after neatly folding his panagia and putting it aside—to grab a tennis racket and beat us, dressed in shorts and sneakers, at a game. He’s been there to guide meetings and strategy sessions seeking to make the Church relevant to God’s people.

Following St. Paul’s command, His Grace “rejoices with those who rejoice, and mourns with those who mourn” (Rom 12:15). Because he’s been there for me, I am where I am. And the Church is where it is. We, collectively, couldn’t have gotten here without his being there: obeying God’s voice and loving God’s flock.

Watch a YouTube video of Bishop Suriel’s homily, “The Power of Prayer,” as he speaks of persecuted Coptic Orthodox Christians in Egypt.
Read about the ties between St. Vladimir's and St. Athanasius Theological Coptic Orthodox College in Australia.
Read about Coptic seminarian Abraam Mikhail.