When God Came Calling

Mina Kaddis, D06, was content in his private dental practice—then his bishop had a request
Mina Kaddis
Since he’s been a priest, Mina Kaddis has noticed that he has more empathy for his patients. “I can hold a person’s hand,” he said. “I can say it is going to be OK. I can comfort them.” Photo: Shawn G. Henry
June 14, 2017

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Mina Kaddis is a husband, a father, a dentist—and for the past two years, a priest in the Coptic Orthodox Church.

Yes, being a dentist and a priest is unusual, and it wasn’t what he set out to do. But religion has always been important to Kaddis. His parents, who emigrated from Egypt in the late 1960s, helped bring the Coptic faith, a branch of Christianity founded in Egypt in the first century, to the United States. In their hometown of Natick, they helped establish the first Coptic church in Massachusetts, St. Mark’s Coptic Orthodox Church, which now has 2,000 families as members.

At Boston College, he completed the pre-dental program, but also found he enjoyed the Jesuit school’s required theology classes, enough to add Christian theology as a major. “I didn’t want to just be Christian because my family was Christian,” Kaddis said. “I really wanted to understand it as well. I thought it would be the one opportunity I would have to study doctrine. I guess God had other plans.”

Kaddis, 36, entered Tufts School of Dental Medicine with the Class of 2006. During his senior year, his father, a dentist, passed away. As he grieved, he also worried about the future of his father’s 33-year-old practice. He hired another dentist to see patients for six months until he graduated. Jumping into running a practice was “baptism by fire,” Kaddis said, and he was surprised by how well Tufts had prepared him for the task. Paul Trombly, D85, an associate clinical professor, was especially supportive, making himself available for any questions Kaddis had.

Trombly described Kaddis as a thoughtful, caring person with good temperament and judgment. “Sometimes students become very protective of their knowledge, but he was always helpful to his fellow students,” Trombly said.

As Kaddis’ practice grew, so did his family. In 2010, he married Nancy, a physician. Their son, Max, was born in 2011, and Felix followed in 2014. As he balanced family life, a dental practice, staying active in the church and paying off students loans, he thought that his life was pretty filled.

Then his bishop came knocking. In the Coptic Church, men do not apply to be priests—they are approached by the church. When the bishop asked if he would serve, Kaddis said he was honored, but stunned. He expected his wife would say no. (Coptic priests must be married and have the full support of their wives.) To his surprise, though, she agreed that it was his calling. He was ordained in July 2014.

As a rule, Coptic priests leave their jobs when they take orders, and Kaddis was prepared to do that. But after finishing his 40 days of seclusion in a monastery, where he learned the rites of priesthood, he worried that his patients would feel abandoned.

The bishop decided to make an exception, looking to Jesus’ apostles as a guide. He told Kaddis: “What did the fishermen do after the Resurrection? They continued fishing, as long as it wasn’t an obstacle to their apostleship or priesthood.” Kaddis now sees patients 20 hours a week, trading his long black cassock for black scrubs and black sneakers. (Coptic priests traditionally dress in black. They also grow beards.)

Being a priest has changed his dental practice in small ways. He’s noticed, for example, that he has more empathy for his patients, even ones he once considered difficult. “I can have a little bit more compassion,” he said. “I can hold a person’s hand. I can say it is going to be OK. I can comfort them.”

At the same time, working with patients continues to enrich his faith. “Being entrenched in service,” he said, “is really where you see God.”

Contact Julie Flaherty at julie.flaherty@tufts.edu.

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