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Eastern Christianity in Guatemala and Southern Mexico

 

Eastern Orthodoxy in Guatemala began with the foundation of the Monastery of the Holy and Life-Giving Trinity, (also known as the 'Lavra of Mambre'), in 1986 by Abbess Doctor Inés (Ayau Garcia) under the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of Mexico, Central America, Colombia, Venezuela, and the Caribbean. Mother Inés' faithful service and dedication prepared the way for the explosion of interest and rapid expansion of Eastern Christianity in Guatemala. In the words of HE The Right Reverend Doctor Andrew Vujisić: "Without Mother Inés, there would be no Eastern Christian presence in Guatemala".

 

In 2009, Dr. Vujisić initiated contact with Messrs. Andrés Girón and Mihail (Fernando) Castellanos, leaders of the independent Iglesia Ortodoxa de Guatemala, [i.e., Orthodox Church of Guatemala], henceforth, IOG. After several months of catechetical and pastoral groundwork, he traveled to Guatemala on 1 January 2010, and secured a 27-point agreement with the IOG leadership, (which sanctioned by His Eminence, Metropolitan ATHENAGORAS). On 4 January 2010, he received the said leadership into the Orthodox Church, thereby initiating the process of reception of the clergy, seminarians, lay ministers, catechists, and affiliated membership of the IOG into the canonical family of the Holy Metropolis of Mexico, Central America, Colombia, Venezuela, and the Islands of the Caribbean. For media coverage see 527,00 New Orthodox Christians in Guatemala and The Greek Orthodox Church in Latin America is NOT very Greek, (cf. the enthusiastic, but nevertheless approximative report Desetine hiljada ljudi preveli u pravoslavlje in Novosti).

 

The following day, on 5 January 2010, the official report submitted to Metropolitan ATHENAGORAS stated:

 

The IOG, an offshoot of the Roman Catholic Church, was established some 18 years ago, [i.e., in 1992], under the very capable and dedicated leadership of Msgr. Andrés de Jesús Girón. Its membership primarily consists of indigenous people of Maya descent, who as a first language speak Achi, Akatek, Chuj, Ixil, Jakaltek, Kaqchikel, K'iche', Mam, Poqomam, Poqomchi', Q'anjob'al, Q'eqchi', Tz'utujil, or Uspantek, with Spanish as a second language. Currently, the IOG has 334 churches, chapels, and centers throughout Guatemala and southern Mexico. There are 12 clergymen, 14 seminarians, 250 Ministros de la Fe, [i.e., Lay Ministers], 380 catechists, and a number of nuns, professors, teachers, and ancillary staff. The IOG operates two elementary schools and a university on a 14,000 sq. meter property in Escuintla, Nueva Concepción. There is also an administrative center on 280 acres nearby. The monastery is located on 400 acres in Huehuetenango. Additionally, 3 gas stations are owned and operated. The profits sustain the IOG's many ministries. The official membership is 127,000, and adherents number another 400,000, for a grand total of 527,000. The associated Movimiento Campesino, [Peasant Movement], alone has approximately 250,000 members. The Youth Movement boasts some 8,000 members. This is undoubtedly one of the largest mass-conversions to Orthodoxy since the Baptism of Russia in 988, (see Image Gallery).

In September 2010, through the determined efforts of Abbess Doctor Inés (Ayau Garcia), HE The Right Reverend Doctor Andrew Vujisić met with Msgr. Doctor Santiago Eduardo Cristián Aguirre Oestmann of the independent Iglesia Católica Ecuménica Renovada en Guatemala, [i.e., the Renewed Ecumenical Catholic Church of Guatemala], henceforth, ICERGUA. Discussions on the reception of ICERGUA into the Orthodox Church failed when Dr. Vujisić was unable to secure recognition of Msgr. Eduardo Aguirre's role as leader of ICERGUA from the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Mexico, Central America, Colombia, Venezuela, and the Islands of the Caribbean. Subsequently, ICERGUA was received into the Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch, and Dr. Aguirre was consecrated to the Episcopacy on 6 March 2013. Today, Mor Yaqub, (formerly, Dr. Aguirre), leads the thriving Syriac Orthodox Archdiocese of Central America.

In 2011, the Very Reverend John Chakos, (who retired after 31 years of service at Holy Cross Greek Orthodox Church in Mount Lebanon, PA), relocated to Guatemala in order to assist in the arduous task of preparing men and women for leadership roles in the newly established canonical Orthodox Church in Guatemala. His work is based upon the primary goal-intention of the Archdiocese, which includes the creation of an environment that fosters respect for indigenous Maya culture and the pursuit of the ontological dynamic of the acquisition of the Holy Spirit through the advancement of knowledge in the Orthodox faith, and through the development of Orthodox phronema and orthopraxia. In 2013, the Very Reverend Doctor Peter Jackson, (on loan from the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia), joined the team in Guatemala and became the first full-time instructor at the Pastoral School, overseeing the translation of Orthodox liturgical and instructional material into the languages of the Maya. His wife, Matushka Styliana, assists in teaching seminarians' wives and laywomen. For additional information, see Missionary Jesse Brandow's blog Mayan Orthodoxy in Guatemala and Southern Mexico. Other websites of interest include Mayan Orthodoxy (YouTube) and Mayan Artisan Studios. On 17 February 2014, Archimandrite Andrés Girón, the 'Father of Orthodoxy' in Guatemala, after years of struggles on behalf of the poor, reposed in the Lord following a lengthy battle with diabetes and heart disease.

Abbess Doctor Inés (Ayau Garcia)
Abbess Doctor Inés (Ayau Garcia)



It is necessary most of all for one who is fasting to curb anger, to accustom himself to meekness and condescension, to have a contrite heart, to repulse impure thoughts and desires, to examine his conscience, to put his mind to the test and to verify what good has been done by us in this or any other week, and which deficiency we have corrected in ourselves in the present week. This is true fasting.

St. John Chrysostom


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