About St. Moses & St. Katherine Coptic Orthodox Church
Established in 2011, the Church of St. Moses & St. Katherine is a ministry dedicated to the glorification of the Holy Trinity: God the Father, His only begotten Son Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit the Comforter. This community was founded on three deep-seated values that we embrace every single day —culturally, spiritually, emotionally, rationally. They are:
1. A faithful community to the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, hungry for spiritual growth and desiring to be a healing presence in the neighbourhood.
2. A worshipping community which offers praise, glory, honour, and reverence to God in all things, as is due to Him.
3. A multicultural community ministering to diverse members of the body of Christ holding a myriad of ethnicities, languages, and lived experiences.
Missionary in nature, our mission is to spread the Good News throughout Downtown Toronto. We do this by nurturing SMSK into a home for the 'unchurched' and by channeling the love of God in service to our neighbours through humanitarian work.
Our Patron Saints
St. Moses the Strong
332 - 407 AD, Commemorated on July 1st
Born in 332 AD, St. Moses the Strong was a slave of a government official in Egypt who dismissed him for theft and suspected murder. He became the leader of a gang of bandits who roamed the Nile Valley spreading terror and violence. He was a large, imposing figure. Attempting to hide from local authorities, he took shelter with some monks in a monastery in the desert of Scete, near Alexandria. After witnessing their godliness, especially that of St. Isidore who would become his spiritual guide, and experiencing the forgiveness of the Lord Jesus, St. Moses embraced the Living God and soon after gave up his old way of life to join this monastic community.
His baptism marked the beginning of a struggle against his former fleshly passions and he had a rather difficult time adjusting to regular monastic discipline. Attacked by a group of robbers in his desert cell, Moses fought back, overpowered the intruders, and dragged them to the chapel where the other monks were at prayer. He told the brothers that he didn't think it Christian to hurt the robbers and asked what he should do with them. The overwhelmed robbers repented, were converted, and themselves joined the community.
St. Katherine was the daughter of Constus, the governor of Alexandrian Egypt during the reign of Emperor Maximian. Living in the capital and possessing a rare beauty and intellect, Katherine received an excellent education, studying the works of the greatest philosophers and teachers of antiquity. Young men from across the empire sought her hand, but she was not interested in any of them, vowing she would only enter into marriage with someone who surpassed her in nobility, wealth, and wisdom.
Katherine’s mother, who was secretly a Christian, sent her daughter to her own spiritual Father, a saintly monk living in a cave outside the city. After listening to Katherine, the monk said that he knew of a suitor who surpassed her in everything. “His countenance is more radiant than the shining of the sun, and all of creation is governed by His wisdom. His riches are given to all the nations of the world, yet they never diminish. His compassion is unequaled.” This description of Jesus Christ, the Heavenly Bridegroom, produced in Katherine’s soul an ardent desire to see Him. “If you do as I tell you,” said the monk, “you will gaze upon the countenance of this illustrious man.”
Moses was zealous in all he did, but became discouraged when he concluded he was not perfect enough. Early one morning, St. Isidore, abbot of the community, took Brother Moses to the roof and together they watched the first rays of dawn come over the horizon. Isidore told Moses, "Only slowly do the rays of the sun drive away the night and usher in a new day, and thus, only slowly does one become a perfect contemplative." They could see below them devils on one side, but innumerable angels on the other side. Understanding that the power of God was triumphant over all other powers, St Moses took courage and returned to his cell.
Moses proved to be a compassionate elder. When a brother committed a fault and Moses was invited to a meeting to discuss an appropriate penance, Moses refused to attend. When he was again called to the meeting, Moses took a perforated sack of sand that left a trail as he carried it on his shoulder. When he arrived at the meeting place, the others asked why he was carrying the sack. He replied, "My sins run out behind me and I do not see them, but today I am coming to judge the errors of another." On hearing this, the assembled brothers forgave the erring monk.
Moses became the spiritual leader of over 70+ hermits in the desert. At about age 75, word came that a group of renegades planned to attack the colony. The brothers wanted to defend themselves, but Moses forbade it. He told them to retreat, rather than take up weapons. He and seven others remained behind and greeted the invaders with open arms, but all eight were martyred by the bandits. We pray to Abba Moses for his intercession.
In parting, the monk handed Katherine an icon of the Theotokos with the divine Child Jesus on Her arm and told her to pray with faith to the Queen of Heaven to be granted her heart’s desire.
Katherine prayed all night and was permitted to see the Most Holy Virgin, who said to Her Divine Son, “Behold Thy handmaiden Katherine, how fair and virtuous she is.” But the Child turned His face away from her saying, “No, she is ugly and unbelieving. She is a foolish pauper, and I cannot bear to look at her until she forsakes her impiety.”
Katherine returned again to the monk deeply saddened, and told him what she had seen in the dream. He lovingly received her, instructed her in the faith of Christ, admonished her to preserve her purity and integrity and to pray unceasingly. She then received holy Baptism from him. Again, Katherine had a vision of the Most Holy Theotokos with Her Child. Now the Lord looked tenderly at her and gave her a beautiful ring, a wondrous token of her betrothal to the Heavenly Bridegroom.
About this same time, Emperor Maximian was visiting Alexandria for a pagan festival. Human victims who refused to deny Christ were brought before him and were condemned to death in the fire. Katherine’s love for the Christian martyrs and her fervent desire to ease their sufferings compelled her to speak to the pagan priest and to the emperor. Introducing herself, she confessed her faith in the One True God.
Katherine’s beauty captivated the emperor. In order to show the superiority of pagan wisdom, the emperor ordered fifty of the most learned philosophers in the empire to dispute her claims, but the saint got the better of the wise men, so that they came to believe in Christ themselves. St. Katherine made the Sign of the Cross over the martyrs, and they bravely accepted death for Christ, being burned alive by order of the emperor.
Maximian then tried to entice Katherine with the promise of riches and fame. Receiving an angry refusal, the emperor gave orders that she be tortured and then thrown in prison. On the following day, Katherine was again ordered before the judgment court where, under the threat of being broken on the wheel, she was urged to renounce the Christian Faith and offer sacrifice to the gods. She steadfastly confessed Christ and approached the wheel, but an angel smashed the instrument of execution, which shattered into pieces.
Having witnessed this event, Empress Augusta and Imperial Courtier Porphyrius with 200 soldiers confessed their faith in Christ in front of everyone. Upon her husband’s orders, Empress Augusta and the others were beheaded. Maximian again tried to entice Katherine, proposing marriage to her, but again she refused. St. Katherine firmly confessed her fidelity to the heavenly Bridegroom Christ, and with a prayer to Him, she herself lay her head on the block beneath the executioner's sword. She was martyred at the age of 25.
Meet Our Staff
Priest and Lead Pastor
Sandra has been passionately serving with and leading the Aroland Mission team for over a decade. She has as very gentle, loving heart for the disenfranchised, combined with creative flair.
Fr John Boutros is priest of a young downtown church in Toronto, Canada, St Moses & St Katherine Coptic Orthodox Church. Fr John met the girl of his dreams, Mary, and was married in 2011, and is now daddy to Anastasia, Zoë and Élise. Ordained in July 2012, he was previously a paediatric surgeon. Now, Fr John serves a wide-variety of urban dwellers, students, and young professionals. Fr John is equally passionate for the marginalized, the poor, and those who have no one. Being in a community of disciples of Jesus, steeped in ancient faith and Orthodoxy, rooted in Coptic heritage, we live to incarnate God’s love in a metropolitan setting.
Mira Vuletic has a passion for serving others; It's her love language. A mom of three and a wife of one, she feels beyond blessed that she landed at SMSK as her home church for over 6 years. She is thrilled to be working in an operations role reporting into the Big Man upstairs.
Marina Hanna is a Chartered Accountant and is blessed to be able to serve SMSK as the Finance Director. She lives with her husband and three kids in Mississauga where she attends the Church of the Resurrection.
Special Projects Manager
Matthew has been the custodian of SMSK for the past 7 years, and takes great pride in his work. A particularly skilled handyman who knows his way around a toolbox, Matthew has come to the rescue many times for the SMSK building. If he doesn't know how to fix it, he will eventually, because of his life-long learner attitude. Thank you, Matthew, for keeping the lights on!
Matthew has lived in Canada for 32 years, and loves using his spiritual gifts of discernment and compassion to help people. He enjoys making people laugh, and always has a joke up his sleeve. Feel free to strike up a conversation with Matthew, as he's an easy-going guy, who wants to make you feel welcome!
Marina is a health services manager and pharmacist by training, dedicated to leading teams of healthcare professionals in providing compassionate and meaningful patient care. Part of the SMSK family since 2013, she has always been driven by her passion for service, mission, and outreach. Her dream is to see SMSK become a beacon for Christ’s love in our community where everybody feels welcomed, loved, and accepted. Outside of work, Marina enjoys mission trips, organizing events and campaigns, learning about new saints, and orphaned baby elephants (in no particular order).
Eden Tesfamichael is the Staff Administrator at St. Moses & St. Katherine Coptic Orthodox Church. She is a member of Qudus Mikael Eritrean Orthodox Tewahdo Church. Only being called into Orthodoxy in her early adult life, she feels blessed to witness her two children grow up in the True Faith. Eden’s patron saint is St. John the Baptist and is strengthened by our Lord’s words spoken in Matthew 6:33.
Steward of Community Ministries
Hanan joined SMSK and became an active member on Jan 6, 2014. Her professional experience is in banking, insurance products and marketing. Hanan is a people person, with so much love to give because everyone has the image of God in him; everyone has something special to give. Her joy is in people and with people. When in her own, she enjoys books, financial discussions, biking, politics (knowing only), swimming, water and forests, and hiking.
A Short History on the Coptic Orthodox Church
The word “Copt” is derived from the Greek word “Aegyptus”, meaning "Egypt." The Copts are the direct descendants of the ancient Egyptians. St. Mark, a disciple of African origin and the writer of the earliest Gospel, came to Egypt preaching salvation in the dawn of the Christian faith. He arrived in Alexandria around the year 48 A.D. and was martyred in 68 A.D. In that short period. St. Mark was able to witness to the faith and founded the Church in Egypt. Since that time, Christianity spread like fire throughout the country. The main reason for this was the fact that the Egyptians have always been a religiously minded people, having certain tenets and beliefs, which later were identified with the teachings of the Christian religion. Throughout history, the Coptic Church played quite a significant role in shaping and defining Christian doctrines. The contribution of the Coptic Church to world Christianity can be briefly summarized in the following five epochs: Theological Scholarship; Ecumenism; Martyrdom; Monasticism; and Missions.
The Orthodox Creed
We believe in one God; God the Father the Pantocrator, Who created heaven and earth, and all things seen and unseen. We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the Only-Begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all ages. Light of Light; True God of True God, begotten, not created; of One Essence with the Father, by whom all things were made; who for us, men, and for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and of the Virgin Mary, and became Man. And He was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate; suffered, and was buried. And the third day He rose from the dead, according to the Scriptures. He ascended into the heavens; He sits at the right hand of His Father; and He is coming again in His glory to judge the living and the dead; Whose Kingdom shall have no end. Yes, we believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Giver of Life; who proceeds from the Father; who, with the Father and the Son, is worshipped and glorified; who spoke by the prophets And in one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church, we confess one baptism for the remission of sins. We look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the coming age. Amen.