Jun. 25—Father Sam Abuid is approaching his 50th year as an Episcopal priest on July 8, and is looking back at his life and how he got to where he is.
"I'm not really smart, I just have common sense." Abuid joked when he sat down with the Lockport Journal.
Originally baptized in the Syrian Orthodox Church when he was a baby, Abuid later converted to Episcopalianism while living in Dunkirk, as there were no Syrian Orthodox Churches in that region, roughly 80 years ago. His family was still able to receive the sacrament from Episcopal churches without worrying about conversion attempts due to an agreement between both denominations at the time. Eventually he did convert, but it wasn't too much of an issue for him, as he felt that both denominations were theologically similar.
"My parents never became Episcopalian, but for me all my life it was what I knew." said Abuid. "Both churches believe in the real presence of Christ in communion, they have married clergy, and are family oriented. There's not a lot of differences theologically."
At a young age, his five sisters often joked about how he should be a preacher because he talked so much. He recalled a priest asking him and other children what they wanted to do when they grew up, and he said that he wanted two things; to be a priest, and to have a big family. Now on top of being a priest, he also has 25 grandchildren and 27 great grandchildren as well.
He referenced how his sense of empathy was cultivated while he was interning at Gowanda State Hospital, back when it was still a sanitarium.
"I loved it," Abuid said. "It taught me that I don't need to judge anyone, I just have to accept them where they're at."
After working at his family's produce business, and later spending three years running a bookstore in Fredonia, he went to Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School, where he studied to become a priest. Father Sam would go on to preach at multiple churches throughout the area including, St. Patrick's in Cheektowaga, St. Mark's in North Tonawanda, Grace Church in Lockport, and St. Johns in Wilson. Abuid particularly remembers how he became the priest for St. John's in the '90s.
"One day, a bishop called me and said St. John's needed a priest, and I said that I'll go out for a few days to help them out," Abuid said. "I stayed eight years."
Abuid even spent a short period of time at Christ Episcopal Church where he would eventually return to, and is a tenured associate there currently with Father Thomas Mitchell. Moving around between many churches like this is a part of what Father Sam calls "supply work," which is where he is sent around to different churches to act as a substitute priest, if the regular priest has been indisposed.
Of the things he does as a priest, Abuid enjoys counseling people the most, as he feels it can have the biggest impact on people's lives.
"We have three kinds of lives; our public life, our private life, and our secret life," said Abuid. "and only God, and a priest, if trusted, can know that secret life."
On top of being a priest, Abuid also runs a bakery business with his family in Buffalo, which also has a location in North Carolina. It started in 1977, when he wanted to use Syrian bread for communion instead of wafers.
"I went to our bishop and said, 'Our lord did not eat this awful stuff we give for communion.' " Abuid said. " 'He ate Syrian bread like what my grandparents ate. Can I use it for communion?' he said, 'Well, it's risen,' and I said, 'Well, our Lord's risen too so that's okay.' "
Parishioners loved his bread so much, they started asking for more. It became so popular, Abuid went into the bread baking business in the form of Father Sam's Bakery, which bakes pita, flat bread, and tortillas. They are also the supplier of tortillas for Mighty Taco.
A reception is being held in honor of Father Sam Abuid's 50th year as a priest at Christ Episcopal Church on July 3 after the Sunday service. Bishop Sean Role from Erie Pennsylvania is expected to visit.