As earlier reported, the Orthodox Church in Guatemala is growing, and not just growing but also needing a lot of help to become established. I recently discovered a new blog and website by two of the principle missionaries to Guatemala, Fr. John and Pres. Sandy Chakos. That can be found here and is well-worth checking out. I will re-post one of their blogs below.
Also, OCMC recently announced that Fr. David and Mat. Rozanne Rucker are transitioning into being missionary specialists in Guatemala, starting September. Fr. David was previously the Associate Director for OCMC. The official announcement can be found here.
PORTRAIT OF A CATECHIST: FOOT SOLDIERS OF CHRIST
Father John Chakos
The newly emergent Guatemalan Orthodox Church under the omophorion of Metropolitan Athenagoras faces many challenges, not the least of which is the low number of canonically ordained priests–eight to be exact–who serve the spiritual needs of its nearly 300 communities.
They travel over great distances into remote mountainous areas, often along dangerous and at times impassible muddy roads, going from village to village in an attempt to reach people that the world has seemingly forgotten. Because of this glaring shortage, one of the top priorities of Father Andres Giron, Vicar of the Guatemalan Orthodox Church, is the recruitment and training of qualified candidates for the holy priesthood. In the meantime, and certainly well into the future, the pressing spiritual needs of such a vibrant, dynamic and growing church movement require an empowered laity, not only willing to fill the pastoral void, but to promote the church’s greater mission to expand its outreach. Among those who stand in the forefront of this great challenge are the church’s catechists. It is about these men and women of faith that I wish to speak.
Who are the catechists and what role do they play? They are most certainly teachers as the name implies, but also the respected leaders of the church communities. They possess a moral authority that goes well beyond the mere teaching of the faith. They are the voice of Christ to the people and organizers of the spiritual, educational and worship life of the community. They are indeed the backbone of the Orthodox Church in Guatemala and in every sense the foot soldiers of Christ. Without them the church would not have been able to advance as it has over the past twenty-five years.
I have gained a greater appreciation of their unique role in the church by attending the bi-monthly seminars that are held at the Centro Apostólico in Huehuetenango. They often travel from great distances at great expense to themselves to attend the two day seminars. They carry their own bedding and even children with them and sleep on the cement floor of the large lecture hall where the classes are held. They love and live by the Holy Scriptures and speak of Christ and the Church with great conviction. Likewise they lead late night vigils of prayer in their villages and call upon the faithful to fast for specific intentions. In short, they fulfill the calling of the royal priesthood of the believers through prophetic teaching and preaching, self-donating service and virtuous leadership. I greatly admire their commitment and am inspired by their faith. It is amazing what an empowered laity can do to set the church on fire. If Orthodoxy is to grow in Latin America it will need catechists like these to lead the way.
One day, on the second biggest Fiji island, Vanua Levu, the person in charge of the Mission for the island , Father Barnaby, along with the hieromonk Savvas visited the hospital at the city of Labasa in order to comfort a patient. As they were talking with the patient, they heard unnatural loud screams coming from the other side of the corridor, and being alarmed by those grisly screams, they moved towards there in order to help.
In an adjoining room there was a girl lying in bed, who was blocking her ears with her hands, was twisting her head left and right and was screaming in a hair-raising way. The nurses were just standing aside, unable to understand what had happened and too scared to do anything.
Father Savvas approached a nurse and told her: “We are from the Greek Orthodox Church. Could we just make the sign of the cross over her?” Then he takes out the cross which had the True Cross inside and started making the sign of the cross on her face. The more he did so, the more she screamed. In the end, the priest put the cross into her mouth and immediately she calmed down. It was obvious she was possessed, and with the power of the True Cross the evil spirit finally left.
This incident reminds us of the words of the hymn of Octoechos “Great is the power of your Cross, o Lord”. Christ came to the world and was crucified for the salvation of all people. That is why the power of the Holy Cross is not only restricted to Christians, but also to any person under the power of Satan.
The cure of this Fijian girl through the touch of the True Cross as well as the faith of the fathers who thought of making the sign of the cross over her, was the best sermon for herself, her own family and everyone else who witnessed this miracle.
When Christ said to his Disciples that he would be with them all along their proclaiming His Gospel, this is exactly what he meant: His living presence witnessed by the signs and wonders that would follow.
Therefore, the Missionary work is done by Christ Himself, who uses as means ordinary people, like the Fijian father Barnaby and the simple monk Savvas. Mission is not a matter of wordly wisdom but a matter of faith “acting through love”.
Source: Orthodox Missionary Fraternity
Hat Tip: Mystagogy
Concepcion is Chile’s second-largest city with a population of 1.5 million. Among the Orthodox Christians living there are Russian emigres of the post-World War II period and their descendants, Russian and Ukrainian immigrants after the fall of the USSR, Palestinians, as well as Chilean converts.
Orthodox services have become a regular occurrence since March, 2006, in a building in the Arab section known as Estadio Arabe. They are conducted mostly in Spanish, some prayers are read in Church Slavonic and Arabic. Concepcion’s Protopriest Alexei Aedo Vilugron of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia conducts the services. The parish belongs to ROCOR’s South American Diocese under His Grace Bishop John of Caracas and South America.
Fr Alexei is Chilean by birth, having accepted Orthodox Christianity with his heart and soul. By his efforts and persistence, his focus and a great deal of labor, with reliance on God’s help, work on building the first-ever Orthodox Church in the south of Chile commenced in August 2011.
The consecration of the cornerstone and erection of a cross on the site of the future church was performed by Vladyka John on December 5, 2010, in the presence of representatives of the local authorities and of the Russian Embassy.
The Palestinian community of Concepcion donated the parcel of land for the church (costing approximately US $144,000 and measuring 758 sq. m.).
Donations by the parishioners covered all the expenses of the preliminary construction stages (planning and documentation). In July 2011, the community received aid from the Chilean government in the amount of 30M pesos (about $63,000). The funds covered closing the perimeter of the property, excavations, foundation (1.5 m deep and 1.1 m wide), and the metal framework for the walls. Concepcion is in within Chile’s earthquake zone: the last earthquake, which struck in February 2010, measured 8.8 on the Richter Scale. For this reason, construction standards here are stringent and costly. Construction has been temporarily halted due to a lack of funds. The second stage of construction will cost $135,000. We would be grateful for any help in building our church to the glory of God. Donations can be made by visiting www.misionortodoxa.org.
At a gathering of the clergy of the Archdiocese of Johannesburg and Pretoria we presented Archbishop Damaskinos with a copy of a new service book in English and Zulu, and copies were offered to all the clergy present.
The book has the Third and the Sixth Hours and the Reader’s Service, based on the Typika used in monasteries on days when the Divine Liturgy is not celebrated. In its present form it is designed for use in mission congregations for Sunday services when there is no priest, and it may be led by a deacon or reader. Some parishes use it if, for any reason, there is no priest available.
The Readers Service (Obednitsa, Typika) consists mainly of the parts of the Divine Liturgy that are not reserved to the priest or deacon.
It took rather a long time to get printed in its present form.
In 1997 the African Orthodox Episcopal Church wrote to His Eminence Metropolitan Paul Lyngris, the then Archbishop, asking to be received into the Orthodox Church. The Archbishop asked me to teach them to prepare them for their reception into the Church, and gave his blessing for their clergy to be taught to use the Readers Service, which we then had partly translated into North Sotho. Later His Eminence Metropolitan Seraphim gave his blessing for it to be translated into Zulu, and we printed a few copies for use at courses and conferences, but we did not have money to print a large number.
Three years ago Father Daniel Sysoev, a priest who was doing missionary work among Muslims in Moscow, was shot dead, and a group of Serbian Orthodox Christians, inspired by his example, formed a missionary society in his memory. They wrote to Father Pantelejmon, a Serbian priest in Johannesburg, asking if they could help us to print liturgical books in local languages. Father Pantelejmon asked me if we had anything ready for publication, and I remembered the Zulu translation of the Reader’s Book. With the blessing of His Eminence Metropolitan Damaskinos 500 copies were printed by the missionary society in Belgrade, in memory of Fr Daniel Sysoev.
On the night of 6 to 7 January 2013 Orthodox Christians in Thailand celebrated Christmas. This year holiday services were performed at the St. Nicholas Chapel in Bangkok, All Saints Church in Pattaya (Chonburi province), Holy Trinity Church on Phuket, Holy Ascension Church on Samui, as well as at the church of Saint Great Martyr George in Phnom Penh and St. Panteleimon in Sihanoukville of the Kingdom of Cambodia.
In the Holy Dormition Monastery brethren held a reader’s service due to lack of a priest, who will visit the monastery January 9.
Pattaya and Phuket were especially crowded where numerous tourists and vacationers joined the residing parishioners of All Saints and Trinity Churches.
In Pattaya the evening festive service began at 6 January from 10:00 pm. Vigil and Divine Liturgy were served by the Representative of the Russian Orthodox Church in Thailand archimandrite Oleg (Cherepanin). On the occasion of Christmas, many pilgrims confessed and received Holy Communion. Throughout the feast day the church was filled with worshipers.
|In the photo: Christmas services at All Saints Church in Pattaya.|
In the afternoon, All Saints’ Sunday school held a Christmas pictures competition and festive play. Archimandrite Oleg, who attended the children’s party, congratulated the children for Christmas and thanked them for the program.
The same evening, the Russian Orthodox Church in Thailand held a festive evening service. Members of the Catholic community in Pattaya came to give congratulations on the Orthodox Nativity of Christ. In response, archimandrite Oleg gave the guests an icon of St. Nicholas, a saint of the undivided Church of Christ and patron saint of the Orthodox believers in Thailand.
|In the photo: Representatives of the Catholic community in Pattaya congratulate Orthodox Christmas.|
French broadcaster «Sable Rouge» filmed the Orthodox community celebrating Christmas in Pattaya.
On Phuket vigil was served by priest Alexey Golovin. Holy Trinity Church was festively decorated inside and illuminated by electric garlands outside by parishioners.
|In the photo: Christmas service at the Holy Trinity Church in Phuket.|
The Church in Phuket is the largest Orthodox church in Thailand. More than 200 people came this year during the Christmas service in Phuket. As noted by archimandrite Oleg (Cherepanin), Representative of the Russian Orthodox Church in Thailand, summing up the celebration of Christmas in Thailand: «It is gratifying that a year ago, the temple opened, consecrated in February 2012 by archbishop Mark of Egorievsk, head of the Moscow Patriarchate foreign institutions of the Russian Orthodox Church, and has taken a worthy and important place in the life of the Russian community of the island. The obvious merit goes to the recently appointed priest from Tomsk Fr. Alexey Golovin».
Orthodox believers of Bangkok also had Holiday service on Christmas. At St. Nicholas Church the evening service (Vigil and Divine Liturgy) was performed by priest Daniel Wanna. In the evening of Christmas Day after festive Vespers there was a Christmas tree for the children of parishioners. The parish council of St. Nicholas Chapel in Bangkok offered a traditional holiday dinner.
|In the photo: Fr. Daniel Wanna offers the cross at the end of the holiday service in Bangkok.|
At Holy Ascension parish on Samui there was a festive service, despite the fact that the temple has not yet been finished. Arranged by the Orthodox Missionary Department (Moscow) and the Kolomenskaya Seminary, a student Roman Pashin, specially arrived for the holidays from Moscow to assist in the organization of services in Samui. Archimandrite Oleg (Cherepanin) blessed an evening reader’s service. Mr. Pashin also prepared those present for the Confession and Holy Communion at the Divine Liturgy, which would be available on January 8th on Samui, served by priest Alexei Golovin, on the second day of Christmas.
|In the photo: Space for the Christmas service on Samui is located right beneath the walls of the temple under construction.|
It is expected that for the feast of the Holy Dormition in 2013 the construction of a temple on Koh Samui will be completed, which will allow, upon consecration of the temple, the full liturgical life.
Due to the special care of the Hierarchy for the development of Orthodoxy in the South-East Asia for the first time this year, it became possible to send to Cambodia not only lay missionaries, but a clergyman.
In the Orthodox chapel of the Holy Great Martyr George, located at the Bulgarian Embassy, always kindly provided for the needs of the Russian community, Sunday services began, which coincided this year with Christmas Eve. Priest Roman Bychkov served All-Night Vigil on Saturday evening and Sunday Divine Liturgy. Fr. Roman was ordained for ministry in Thailand in December 2012. He was helped by Xenia Bychkova, and Ilya Molev, lecturer at the School of the Orthodox Missionary Department (Moscow), arriving especially for holidays from Moscow to assist in the organization of services in Cambodia. On Christmas eve night Fr. Roman Bychkov served festive Vigil.
During the services, according to the canons of the Church as the chapel belongs to the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, following the commemoration of the Patriarch of Russian Orthodox Church Kirill, Fr. Roman remembered His Eminence Kirill, Metropolitan of Varna and Veliki, the governor-chairman of the Holy Synod of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church. Fr. Roman Bychkov also gave a Christmas gift and heartfelt congratulations to the charge d’affaires of Bulgaria Mr. Svilen Popov on behalf of the Representative of Russian Orthodox Church in Thailand archimandrate Oleg (Cherepanin). In view of the special conditions of the religious situation in the Kingdom of Cambodia, at the vigil of the Orthodox Church of Phnom Penh also prayed Ethiopian citizens living in Cambodia.
Priest Roman Bychkov served Christmas Divine Liturgy the morning of January 7 at the parish of the Holy Great Martyr and Healer Panteleimon in Sihanoukville. Afterwards baby Samuel received the Holy Sacrament of Baptism.
|In the photo: Priest Roman Bychkov served a festive Divine Liturgy in the parish of the Great Martyr and Healer Panteleimon in Sihanoukville (Cambodia).|
Preparing parishioners to worship, confess and receive Holy Communion was Ilya Molev, a lecturer at the School of the Orthodox Missionary at Synodal Missionary Department (Moscow). Church staff and members of the parish council visited the Russians jailed in Sihanoukville, consoling them for Christmas.
The Representative of the Russian Orthodox Church in Thailand archimandrite Oleg (Cherepanin) praised the organization and conduct of the Christmas holidays in the parishes of the Orthodox Church in Thailand this year. He expressed his sincere gratitude to the Foundation Committee of the Orthodox Church in Thailand and the parish councils, as well as all those who labored for the holidays. Archimandrite Oleg asked clergy serving in Thailand to plan the organization of festive Christmas services in the next year in the People’s Democratic Republic of Laos.
By the Grace of God the Orthodox Metropolitanate of Hong Kong and South East Asia established a new Orthodox Community in Davao, Philippines. The Orthodox Community of Saint Isidore of Chios in San Guillermo,Davao.
On Monday, December 17,2012, Metropolitan Nektarios of Hong Kong visited San Guillermo and chrismated 71 catechumens. Among them were some catechumens from Lake Cebu and Kisulan. The Service of Chrismation was held at the new Church of Saint Isidore of Chios, which is being build by the members of the newly created Orthodox Community.
On Tuesday, December 18, Metropolitan Nektarios traveled to Manila where he visited the Annunciation Orthodox Cathedral and had several working meetings.
Source: Orthodox Metropolitanate of Hong Kong and South East Asia