On Thursday, July 22, 2021, the presbyterate of the Diocese of California met at the offices of Mar Zaia Cathedral, in Modesto. The meeting was presided by His Grace Mar Awa Royel, the Bishop of the Diocese of California. The clergy in attendance were: 1) Very Rev. Cor-bishop Auchana Kanoun, priest of Mar Gewargis Parish, Ceres; Rev. Qashisha Yoshia Oraha, priest of Mar Zaia Cathedral, Modesto; Rev. Qashisha Genard Lazar, priest of Mar Addai Parish, Turlock; Rev. Qashisha Lawrance Namato, priest of Mar Yosip Parish, San Jose; and Rev. Qashisha Ephraim Alkhas, priest of Mar Narsai Parish, San Francisco. Rev. Qashisha John Piro, administrator of Mart Maryam Mission in Sacramento was not able to attend.
After the opening prayer, His Grace read from the Epistle of St. Paul to the Galatians (6:1-10). The bishop further thanked the priests for attending to their flocks in their respective parishes during the past 18 months, which was a difficult period for all due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and its effects on the Church and the faithful as a whole. Notwithstanding the pandemic, yet the Church made every attempt to always make available liturgical services and to meet the various spiritual needs of the faithful during these difficult days.
Many issues concerning the life of the Church were discussed and were a part of the meeting agenda. These included liturgical matters, the deacons of the diocese, the work of the Church for the youth and their events, pastoral concerns, the manifold spiritual needs of the faithful, and upcoming momentous future occasions and successes in various parishes. The upcoming meeting of all of the priests of the dioceses of our Church in America was also discussed, which is schedule to take place in the month of October. The next meeting of the presbyterate will take place on Wednesday, November 3, 2021.
His Grace Mar Awa Royel was born and raised in Chicago. He was ordained a deacon at the Mar Gewargis Cathedral, Chicago, on January 19, 1992, by the late Catholicos-Patriarch His Holiness Mar Dinkha IV. He attended Loyola University, Chicago, from 1993 to 1997, receiving his B.A. in 1997 from Loyola University of Chicago, Illinois, with a major in Theology and minor in Philosophy. In 1999, he graduated with a Bachelor of Sacred Theology from the University of St. Mary of the Lake, Mundelein, Illinois. He was then ordained a priest on May 23, 1999 by His Holiness Mar Dinkha IV, Catholicos-Patriarch, at the patriarchal cathedral of Mar Gewargis in Chicago. His Grace was then sent to Rome for his graduate studies in Theology, and in 2001 he graduated with a Licentiate of Sacred Theology from the Pontifical Oriental Institute, Rome, specializing in Oriental Liturgy.
In 2005 he was assigned as assistant pastor of the Mart Maryam parish in Los Angeles, California. Then, in May of 2006 he was assigned as the parish pastor of Mar Yosip Parish, in San Jose, California. In 2007, he received his Doctorate of Sacred Theology from the same Oriental Institute in Rome, specializing in Eastern Liturgy. His Grace Mar Awa was promoted to the rank of Cor-bishop on July 15, 2007 by His Holiness Mar Dinkha IV at the patriarchal cathedral in Chicago, and elected to episcopacy by the Holy Synod of the Assyrian Church of the East held in Dohuk, Iraq, in October of 2008. His Grace was promoted as Archdeacon on November 23, 2008 by His Holiness Mar Dinkha IV, at Mar Yosip church, San Jose, California. The following Sunday, Archdeacon David was consecrated to the episcopacy by His Holiness Mar Dinkha IV, Catholicos-Patriarch (at Mar Zaia Cathedral, Modesto, California on November 30, 2008, and given the ecclesiastical name ‘Mar Awa’.
Bishop Mar Awa represents the Assyrian Church of the East as a member of the Forum Syriacum (Pro Oriente Foundation, Vienna). In 2009, he was awarded a lifetime membership in Cambridge Who’s Who, and was named ‘Professional of the Year’ by the same organization. Since 2014, His Grace is a member of the Joint Commission for Theological Dialogue Between Catholic Church and the Assyrian Church of the East. He is also co-chair of the Bilateral Dialogue Between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Assyrian Church of the East. Bishop Mar Awa has also served as Secretary of the Holy Synod since December 2008, and was also appointed President of the Assyrian Church’s Commission on Inter-Church Relations and Education Development (CIRED).