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May 22 to June 1, 2017 • Off-Campus

Seminarians in Tajumulco, Guatemala, with all the lay leaders of the community and Fr. Alexios, the parish priest (photo: Jesse Brandow)Seminarians in Tajumulco, Guatemala, with all the lay leaders of the community and Fr. Alexios, the parish priest (photo: Jesse Brandow)Five of our seminarians—among them a recent graduate—ministered in Guatemala the last two weeks in May, as part of an OCMC mission teaching team. Deacon Christopher Moore, Anthony Davis, Simon Menya, Hans Vomend, and Christopher Stoops (M.Div. Class of 2017) offered religious education, catechism, and encouragement to church leaders, seminarians, and young adults, as they wound their way through the provinces of Huehuetenango and Escuintla, culminating at Lake Amatitlán.

After landing in Tuxtla Gutierrez, Mexico, they were met by seminary alumnus Jesse Brandow—an already established missionary working in the Mayan Orthodox Christian communities under the Ecumenical Patriarch. Together they traveled down into Guatemala and first stopped in Aguacate, at the Cathedral of the Annunciation, where a customary explosion of confetti greeted them! Deacon Christopher had the privilege of serving with the parish rector, Fr. Evangelios, during a Divine Liturgy, as the others seminarians helped to sing the service.

The team’s next stop was a two-day catechetical retreat for all lay leaders from across the Guatemalan parishes. Around 80 people came, and the seminarians taught all the lessons during the two-day retreat, using Mr. Brandow as their translator. Anticipating the coming of the Feast of Pentecost, their teaching centered around the gifts of the Holy Spirit and the guidance of the Holy Spirit in the Ecumenical Councils of the Orthodox Church. Additionally Seminarian Hans Vomend recounted the story of St. Moses the Black, which captured people’s imagination and inspired them. The seminarians also presented parish leaders with beautiful icons of the Feast of Pentecost, for them to take back to their parishes. (And, Dn. Christopher, during retreat breaks, enhanced the friendly atmosphere by playing his saxophone, to the delight of the participants!) They also met Fr. Daniel, another one of the priests under the Ecumenical Patriarch, and visited his parish in Pebilpam.

After teaching the catechetical retreat, the team then visited an Orthodox parish community in the mountainous area of Tajumulco, Guatemala, sharing in fellowship with the lay parish leaders and the rector, Fr. Alexios Sosa. Following this visit, the seminarians wound their way down narrow mountain roads to reach the low-lying coastal province of Escuintla. They met Fr. Blas and Fr. Mihail, the vicar of the Greek Orthodox parishes in Guatemala, and spoke with the students at the Centro Pedagógico, an Orthodox-run school that was founded by Fr. Andrés Girón of blessed memory who brought thousands of Mayan Christians into the Orthodox Church.

Finally, the team culminated their travels with a visit to the location where Orthodoxy first blossomed in Guatemala: the Monastery of the Holy Trinity on Lake Amatitlán. They spent time with Igumeni Madre Inés, abbess of the monastery and spiritual mother of the Hogar Rafael Ayau orphanage. Mother Inés prepared and presented a formal class to increase the team’s knowledge about the history of her country, and she also introduced them to her monastery’s work with orphans as well as the online university IEIRA that she founded.

“This team’s journey through Guatemala,” said Mr. Jesse Brandow, “was a fantastic success. We are so thankful to the seminarians, to St. Vladimir’s Seminary, and to OCMC, for making this team possible.“It was such a joy to see the seminarians both learn from and teach the faithful in Guatemala,” he went on, “I simply loved having this team!”