Tears spill from the eyes of Dr Moheb Ghaly OAM as he stands in the St Mary and St Pope Kirolos the 6th Church in Cundletown. They are tears of joy and as they fall, he speaks of love – his love for God, his love for St Pope Kirolos the 6th and his love for Fay Abdo, the woman he will soon wed in the beautiful church that he gifted to the Mid North Coast.
Congratulations, Dr Ghaly. It is serendipitous that you will be the first to wed in the church that you helped to build for the Christian Coptic Orthodox community. How do you feel?
I am so happy. It will be a happy celebration in a place that I love. I never thought it would be this beautiful, and I cry tears of happiness. It will also be the first time the church bell will sound for a happy occasion, and we will ring it twice or maybe even three times! As Fay walks in, it will happen, at the end, and when the ceremony is completed I think I will ask them to do it again – three times – why not! It will be a happy occasion!
Please share a little about your bride-to-be.
Fay is lovely, with a wonderful sense of humour. She teaches Year 11 and 12 students at a Catholic school in Sydney and will move here with her daughter, Emily. Once we are married I will reduce my very long working hours to allow me to spend time at home. I will slow down a bit, but not too much. I love to run, swim, cycle and row, and it will be lovely to add the activities of Fay and Emily to my life. It has been three years since the death of my wife, Mona, and it will be wonderful to come home to a house that is not silent.
The choice to build a church is unusual. Why did you act to do so?
I was lucky to be born into a Christian Orthodox family and have a strong faith. I was the first Coptic to come to Taree and during the last 28 years about once or twice a month, Mona and my daughters, Martha and Meeray, would travel with me to Sydney to attend church. About 20 years later Dr Eid Anderawes came, and then there were another four or five families from Taree, Port Macquarie and Forster, and so we began to come together once a fortnight in a hall. During that time Dr Anderawes’ father-in-law became a priest, and he is now Father Karas, and so there we were – we had a priest but no church, so I said fine, leave it to me, and we all began to look for a church.
Now some may call me obsessed, but I love St Pope Kirolos the 6th immensely. I saw him from a distance, but never met him face-to-face. The miracles that he has done in his life and made in his name afterwards are so many, so that is why the church is named for him and St Mary.
The church is opulent in its decoration and features beautiful wood carvings and paintings. Where did they come from?
There is a deep connection to St Pope Kirolos the 6th and it was all made and assembled by the Baramos Monks in the Eygptian desert, the monastery where St Pope Kirolos was ordained. The wood carvings, the paintings of The Last Supper and disciples were shipped from Eygpt in a container and I had the honour, along with Dr Anderawes, to go to pick it all up and put it in a trailer that we hired from Bunnings.
There was a little bit of drama, as it was too heavy; we thought we had secured it and it tilted at the first roundabout! It was too heavy for the two of us, so we struggled until we found somebody to help us, thank God!
You are respected by thousands of people in the Manning Valley for your work as a general surgeon, and in 2012 you were honoured with an Order of Australia Medal for your service to medicine. How has your faith helped you as you help others?
My faith helps me to do as much good as I can, but I know that it is all in God’s hands.
I do not push my faith on patients. The only time I may mention faith to a patient is if they are told news that is so bad that it is overwhelming, or they are facing death. Hopefully people will seek to know about my faith by seeing what I do and who I am.
Faith is very much part of my daily life. I pray as soon as I wake, and before I sleep, I try to make the sign of the cross before I operate, and I pray and read the Bible sometimes during the day if I have the time.
Do you see God’s blessings in your life?
God has beautiful ways of communication and we are lucky that we have eyes that we can open to see, and ears that can hear. I look at my time here and if I had given God a list and said, “I want, I want, I want”, I would not have thought to ask Him for what I have received in my lifetime, as I have been given so much more than I could have ever imagined work wise, satisfaction wise, income wise. I have been blessed, and it continues with Fay.
Thanks Dr Ghaly.