“Out of Egypt I called my son,” said the prophet (Hosea 11: 1). Egyptian friar, Br. Emad Kamel Wahba Rofael professed his solemn vows on Sunday, January 31, in Bethlehem, committing himself definitively to the Order of St. Francis.
Fr. Emad, whose name translates to “baptism” in Arabic, is from a village in Upper Egypt. “I grew up in a Catholic Coptic Rite family. My parents were an example of love and they helped me grow up peacefully. I always liked the figure of the priest and what struck me was the fact that he is a “man of God.” I always felt this desire to be a “man of God.” He entered the Franciscan Province of the Holy Family in Egypt before requesting to be part of the Custody of the Holy Land. He now has been in Bethlehem for a year and a half. “I welcome the pilgrims who visit the Shepherds’ Field and it is a beautiful mission. Welcoming [them] with an open heart, a smile, giving the pilgrims what they need, whether it is an explanation, a prayer or a blessing … It is a great responsibility in the sense that I represent St. Francis, the Order and the Custody to these people. They will not remember my name, only that they have met a Franciscan.”
For political reasons, visas are hard to get from Egypt, and it was only in the presence of his sister that Br. Emad was able to make his solemn vows. But he was surrounded by the parishioners of St. Catherine’s parish, as well as friends and Franciscan friars.
Answering “Here I am” to the Custos’ call, Br. Emad has committed himself to a life of prayer, chastity, poverty and obedience. Ready to bear witness to Christ, to serve the Church in the footsteps of St. Francis, he has made the total and definitive gift of his life for God. Lying face down before the altar as the congregation sang the Litany of the Saints, he then stood back up. He held the Custos’ hands during his vows, promising to live by the rules of the Franciscan Order. He then received the Custos’ solemn blessing. Applause and “ululation” broke out in the church while the friars gave warm hugs to the new solemnly professed friar.
“I feel a great amount of joy just thinking about the greatness of this mutual gift,” he said. “For my consecration is a gift from God, and I feel so small. I know my limits and my sins, and wanting to devote myself to God is only possible by His grace He chose me and called as I am. I have no merit.”
Br. Emad’s next steps are still unknown to him, but he is ready. “Lord, teach me to always be attentive to your grace, and make me a window capable of transmitting the rays of your love and your mercy, which you send to me.”