FROM GUATEMALA WITH LOVE : MAYAN ORTHODOXY COMES TO THE U.S.A.

The legacy of Fr. Andres lives on in America.

Led by their charismatic leader in Guatemala- the late Father Andres Giron (2014), the Mayan people found a champion to vigorously address their spiritual and material needs. The social movement began with his advocacy for land reform and their repatriation to lands forcibly taken from them. No longer having a spiritual home because of many dislocations brought about by a brutal civil war and the absence of pastoral care, these same people also asked Father Andres to assume responsibility for their spiritual lives. Village after village sought him out for sacraments — baptisms, weddings, confessions, the Holy Eucharist, health care and healing. Having been expelled from his mother church for his political activities, he was additionally threatened with death and nearly assassinated four times, even while accompanied by body guards. Fr. Andres, nonetheless, bravely traveled to remote places where the faithful yearned to hear the Gospel preached from a man who dearly loved them, even unto death. This true apostle of Christ, accompanied by a small cadre of dedicated priests that he had inspired and trained, led his long-suffering flock into the embrace of the Orthodox Christian Church in 2010. It was Archbishop Athenagoras of Mexico who wisely opened the door of Orthodoxy to the tens of thousands of Mayans who now call the Orthodox Church their true mother.

Since this time, the church has grown and can now be found in more than 150 villages throughout Guatemala and Chiapas, Mexico. The seeds of this movement have now been planted in the United States in places like Oakland, California and the state of Washington, where pockets of Guatemalans are seeking to establish their own distinctively Mayan Orthodox churches. On July 13 and 14, I joined Father Evangelos Pata, the Vicar for Guatemala, in Oakland to celebrate the Divine Liturgy for 300 people, as well as the rites of Baptism and Chrismation for 16 candidates. Fr. Tom Zafferes, priest of the nearby Ascension Church, with the blessing of his hierarch, Archbishop Gerasimos, desirous of meeting the pious members of the community, participated as well. Most of the Guatemalan faithful hailed from the region of Todos Los Santos in the state of Huehuetenango. Arrayed in their typical indigenous vesture, they honored the revered traditional dress of their Mayan ancestors.

The Liturgy is solemnly celebrated, bringing much joy to all.
New members of the church are presented to the congregation

A bright future is envisioned for these fledgling communities of Guatemalans. Following the example of their beloved founder, Father Andres, they hope one day to reach out to the greater Latino community in the United States. Evangelistic efforts like this one are happening throughout Guatemala every day. Our team of five OCMC missionaries serving in the field, led by the five indigenous clergy, are spreading the Good News with support from so many people of good will throughout the world. To date, we have established the Father Andres Giron Medical Clinic, fully operational since 2015, the St. Andres Seminary, housing and training 12 students, a sewing center for Orthodox vestments, a catechetical training center for the many catechists of the church, a medical scholarship fund to train doctors and nurses, a center to publish liturgical texts and the “Calendario Ortodoxo” of daily saints and Scripture readings. Besides this, there is an active program of church construction and renovation taking place, allowing us to bear witness to the unique character of the Orthodox church in icons, architecture and ritual. All of this is made possible with the help and encouragement of Archbishop Athenagoras, as well as visiting OCMC teams of medical professionals, construction workers, translators, teachers, and many generous foundations and donors. Working together, we can make the great mission legacy of Fr. Andres and his priests and people, a great witness that redounds to the glory of God.

Comments

  1. May the presence of God-loving Orthodox from among the Maya in Oakland and elsewhere bless our cities and show Christian love to all the people who live there. As a longtime past resident of Oakland I lament the inability of Ascension Cathedral to effect its mission beyond a very narrow category of upper middle-class, Greek-American people. The presence of large numbers of Orthodox who are anything but rich and Greek presents a challenge to Ascension and all the churches in Alameda County to respond to their pastoral needs. Success in such an effort will save Ascension, et.al. from irrelevance, and show Christ to all who are seeking Him. May this be so.

    • Father John Chakos says

      Thank you for your insightful and challenging response, highlighting the need for the church to reach out in love to the world. Fr. John

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