28 July 2015
The Rev. Sharbel Bcheiry stands outside the gate of the factory where he works as a machinist.
(photo: Karen Callaway)
The Summer 2015 edition of ONE features a look at a day in the life of a Chicago man who is a husband, father, factory worker — and priest:
As the city of Chicago prepares for bed, the Rev. Sharbel Iskandar Bcheiry prepares to head to work, not the work of a priest &mash; visiting the sick or administering the sacraments — but that of a laborer in a factory, earning money to feed and shelter his family.
A priest of the Syriac Orthodox Church, Father Bcheiry, says some North American parishes can support their priest and his family. But, the 42-year-old priest says, “We have a small parish. We don’t have enough financial support.”
Having earned a doctorate in church history, he had originally hoped to find work at a local university.
“It’s not a choice to go to work in a factory. I have to do it. If not, there is no survival — not for the community, and not for us,” he adds, gesturing to his family.
So this husband and father of two travels an hour each day to work the 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. shift at one of the world’s largest suppliers of forging die steels, plastic mold steels, die casting tool steels and custom open-die forgings.
He started out as a welder-fabricator working the day shift and is now a machinist. But he has not abandoned his academic pursuits; he continues to study and publish books and articles. Indeed, factory work even provides him with a distinctive view of theology.
“It’s the practical theology,” Father Bcheiry says. “How to deal with the daily life. Punch in. Punch out. You have bosses, this one or the other yell at you. There is no privilege.”
To spend a day with Father Bcheiry is to witness a life that might surprise those who imagine priests divide all their time between praying and preaching.
For Father Bcheiry, that is just the beginning.
Read the rest of the story here.