Seminary Presents Tithe to IEIRA

13–14 March 2017 • Guatemala

(from left) Christopher, Armando, Jorge, and Carlos—young men raised and educated under the care of Mother Ines, and “stars” of St. Vladimir’s #GivingTuesday campaign—wearing their #GivingTuesday T-shirts.(from left) Christopher, Armando, Jorge, and Carlos—young men raised and educated under the care of Mother Ines, and “stars” of St. Vladimir’s #GivingTuesday campaign—wearing their #GivingTuesday T-shirts.

On November 29, 2016, St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary received $126,580 in donations for its annual #GivingTuesday campaign, and on March 13, 2107, the Seminary gave one-tenth of it away. In keeping with its annual custom of giving away a tithe of whatever donations it receives on #GivingTuesday, the Seminary presented a a check for more than $12K to a select partner with a special need, in thanksgiving to God for the bounty it had received.

The Seminary's #GivingTuesday partner this time around is IEIRA, an online university in Guatemala that is educating 300 students from Central and South America, including Orthodox Christian young men and women who once resided at Hogar Rafael Ayau and San Miguel del Lago orphanages. During a visit to IEIRA headquarters, Archpriest Chad Hatfield, president of St. Vladimir’s, personally presented a check for $12,658 to Dr. Igumeni Inés Ayau García (aka Mother Inés), who is both Abbess of the Orthodox Monastery of the Holy Trinity and overseer of the Rafael and San Miguel orphanages, as well as Vice-Chancellor of the Senate governing IEIRA.

“This check for $12,658,” said Fr. Chad, during the presentation ceremony, “comes with the love and respect of your sister Orthodox institution in New York.

(from left) Mother Inés and Mother Ivonne, among the crowd commemorating the loss of 40 teenage girls at a state-run orphanage in Guatemala and petitioning the government for an overhaul of laws governing orphanages and adoption.(from left) Mother Inés and Mother Ivonne, among the crowd commemorating the loss of 40 teenage girls at a state-run orphanage in Guatemala and petitioning the government for an overhaul of laws governing orphanages and adoption.

“I followed what you were doing with IEIRA,” continued Fr. Chad, “and I thought: ‘What’s the best way that we can assist you?’ ... and so, we decided, on #GivingTuesday, to use our own large internet communications capabilities from St. Vladimir’s, which literally go around the world—currently, we have students on campus from 12 countries!”

The presentation happened just two days following a horrific tragedy at a state-run orphanage in Guatemala, the Virgen de la Asunción. A fire within that institution killed (by latest count) 40 teenage girls, and a subsequent investigation uncovered issues of abuse and neglect in the institution’s management.

During Fr. Chad’s visit, Mother Inés not only expressed her gratitude for the funds for the university, but also asked that Orthodox Christians globally begin praying for a change in the laws that govern orphanages in Guatemala, in light of the recent tragedy. Additionally, Fr. Chad, Mother Inés, and another monastic from her monastery, Mother Ivonne, were able to attend a public commemoration on March 14 for the 40 young women. At that commemoration the two monastics presented a formal petition to their government, which included a call to their Congress to enact changes in their country’s present laws, in order to help protect the abandoned children of Guatemala.

Archpriest Chad Hatfield, holding one of the black balloons representing a lost life, at the public commemoration.Archpriest Chad Hatfield, holding one of the black balloons representing a lost life, at the public commemoration.

“This loss of young life,” Mother Inés stated in an open letter accompanying her petition, “has shone a bright light on the darkness that exists regarding the situation faced by orphans and underprivileged youth in Guatemala, where the laws are completely against them and anyone who desires to help them…Pray for our country. Pray for us.”