Topics such as ‘a father or a husband?’; ‘priorities’; ‘supporter’ and ‘sacrifice’ have been among many others under discussion on a number of courses now being organised for the first time by the Orthodox Christian Counselling Institute (OCCI) for the wives of priests.
Founded in 2004, OCCI includes a professional group of psychologists, social workers and counsellors who offer counsel and advice in places all over Egypt.
The courses, held in the Church of St George in Cotsica, Maadi, were launched on 16 February and run till 12 April. They are conducted by a number of professors and psychologists including Victor Sami, Maher al-Dabea, Emil Joseph, Adel Halim, Amal William, Suzy Sobhy, and Nagwa Samir, as well as the priests Fr Daoud Lamie, Fr Makarius Maurice, and Fr Boutros Sami.
Heavy burden for priests’ wife
The courses aim at helping wives attain the spiritual and psychological maturity that will equip them to play the role expected of them by the congregation, and to support their husbands in their service.
Fr Makarius Maurice, the pastor of church of St Mark of Maadi and manager of OCCI, told Watani: “This is not the first time we have organised such courses. In May 2015 we held a number of courses for priests that tackled various topics on dealing with the congregation and how to solve other problems they might face in their service. Two hundred and ten priests from 17 parishes attended those courses.
“We saw a need for similar courses for the priests’ wives. They are not restricted to priests’ wives in Maadi; the OCCI is keen for wives from any governorate or parish to attend, especially when we consider what a heavy burden they carry. So it is very important to help them by discussing various topics on psychological health since, as St Augustine said, ‘We cannot worship the Lord with a sick mind.’ Only when the psyche is normal and healthy can we truly worship God.”
In his lecture, Dr Dabea focused on the importance of these courses to attain a ‘psychological maturity’ that makes wives more understanding of their husbands’ service as priests, so that their family life would not be negatively affected.
“We all know very well that any priest’s wife is always under the microscope,” Dr Dabea said. “Many of the congregation look up to her as a role model. To have her as a positive role model would be just perfect for any church. So it is our role through these courses to help the wives be happy, fulfilled role-models.”
“Many Christian families,” Dr Dabae said, “who face problems ask for the priest’s help, or his wife’s. So it is very important to help her be aware how she could help. This will accordingly create a joint work of service with her husband.”
Dr Sami agrees, believing that priests’ wives have an important role to play. “The wife must in the first place accept her husband’s ordination; if she does not, he can’t be ordained a priest. For any man to be ordained a priest thus depends on his wife’s approval. Given what is expected once a man becomes a priest, his wife must enjoy a high capacity for sacrifice and possess the spirit of service; she must be ready to make willing sacrifices with her husband.”
One priest’s wife who wept incessantly during her husband’s ordination ceremony was asked by her friends why she did so when she had already approved his ordination. Her answer was: “I approve and encourage the service, but his ordination means I have practically given him up. From today, he is no longer ‘mine’ or my family’s.”
“Through this course,” Dr Sami said, “the all-important issue of ‘priorities’ is discussed. This means that both the priest and his wife should be aware that their family comes first, then the congregation. They both should take responsible decisions.” In other words, serving the congregation is no excuse for ignoring the family, nor can someone with a failed family life be able to successfully serve a congregation.
The OCCI is also preparing for other courses on modern parenting, stressing on the children’s spiritual and psychological needs. Another course first launched last February under the title ‘Choosing life’ aims to help youngsters lead joyful, fulfilled lives through taking the right life-changing decisions including career and marriage.
30 March 2016