Thursday, October 4, 2012



Catechist heading home
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.

Catechist speaking to clergy

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.

The Mission Center in Huehuetenango

Home Again!

I apologize, Dear Readers, for having neglected you for so many weeks.  We returned to our Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania home at the beginning of September.  The time flew by as we re-aquainted ourselves with family and friends and rejoiced in the birth of our 11th grandchild.  While our life in the U.S. is certainly comfortable and pleasant, we have not succumbed to retiree La-La-Land.  We are still devoted to our Guatemalan mission and are actively working on it here, raising funds and amassing supplies to take back.

I have been purchasing supplies for the vestment sewing project that are difficult to access in Guatemala, such as, galloon trim, cross appliqués, buttons, and emblems.  Fr. John has been collecting ecclesiastical supplies for the Guatemalan churches, such as, communion sets (which include a chalice, paten, asterisk, spoon, and lance), censors, portable Holy Communion kits, and hand-held blessing crosses.  If you know of a church that has these items to spare, please send them to:
Guatemalan Mission
c/o Holy Cross Church
123 Gilkeson Road
Pittsburgh, PA 15228

Upcoming Events:
  • WALK FOR MISSIONS -- October 14, 2012 -- a 7K hike in Pittsburgh's South Park where participants collect pledges to earn money for each mile walked.  All proceeds benefit the Guatemalan mission.  It begins at 2:00 pm.  For more information, call Holy Cross Church, 412-833-3355 or email
  • RECEPTION & LECTURE -- October 25 -- Holy Cross Church Community Center, 7:00 pm.  An evening of hearty appetizers and desserts by Chef Domenica Merante and a talk by Fr. John Chakos, Mission to Guatemala: Receiving the Mayan People Into the Orthodox Church.  Donation, $35; proceeds to benefit Three Hierarchs Eastern Orthodox School and the Guatemalan mission.
  •  MISSION WEEK at HOLY CROSS SEMINARY -- BOSTON, MA -- November 5 - 10 -- Fr. Andres Giron, leader of the Guatemalan Orthodox Church, and Fr. John Chakos will be lecturing and teaching classes on Orthodox missions, especially in Guatemala.  
  •  FEAST DAY OF ST. NICHOLAS -- HAVANA, CUBA -- December 5 - 10 -- The Order of St. Andrew Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate will be making a pilgrimage to celebrate the Feast Day of St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church in Havana, Cuba.  Fr. Andres Giron and Fr. John Chakos will be presenting a talk about the rapid growth of Orthodoxy in Guatemala.
If you would like to make a monetary donation in support of the mission, checks can be made out to Holy Cross Mission Fund, designated for Guatemala, and mailed to the address above.  Fr. John and I plan to resume our work in Guatemala in January, 2013.  Keep logging on to our blog for a new and inspirational article by Fr. John, coming soon!