Annual Missions Day: Hear about the 200,000-member Orthodox Church in Guatemala!

November 1, 2012

Fr. John ChakosFr. John Chakos

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Did you know that there are 338 Orthodox churches in Guatemala, with 200,000 faithful and catechumens? Did you know that a former UN Ambassador is now a priest in that community? Did you know that hundreds of Latin Americans continue to leave the Roman Catholic Church on a daily basis, seeking other religious experiences, including worship within the liturgical services of the Orthodox Church?

If this is news to you, please come to hear a presentation by two dynamic priests who are at the center of this phenomenon on Wednesday, November 7, at 7:30 p.m.: "Mission to Guatemala: Receiving the Mayan People into the Orthodox Church." The Very Rev. Archimandrite Dr. Andres Girón de Leon and The Very Rev. John Chakos will be our guest lecturers, sharing first hand their missionary activities among the indigenous people of Guatemala. The presentation will be in the Metropolitan Philip Auditorium of the John G. Rangos Family Building on campus.

Father Andres, a native of Guatemala who grew up in a family of privilege, has crammed several lifetimes into one. A former Roman Catholic priest, he also holds a Ph.D. from his studies in the U.S. and is a trained counselor. Further, he sought public office as President of Guatemala in 1988 ( a race he lost), and as Senator in 1991 (a race he won); he also served as an Ambassador to the United Nations. His service in the Guatemalan Congress (until 1996), led to a land reform movement among the rural poor. Today, there are some 44 villages founded by him and many more that seek his leadership and counsel. His tireless and vociferous efforts to improve the life of his disadvantaged countrymen eventually brought him into conflict with his superiors in the church, and with a government supported by a strong and at times brutal military. Eventually, Fr. Andres began to serve among disaffected Mayan people who were searching for a spiritual home outside of the Roman Catholic Church; he and his flock were received into canonical Orthodoxy by Metropolitan Athenagoras, hierarch of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in the Orthodox Metropolis of Mexico.

Father John is a missionary priest serving in Guatemala under the Orthodox Christian Mission Center (OCMC). Father John had led several mission teams to Galilee and Guatemala, and served for six months in Tanzania, where his son Nicholas was a missionary. When he retired from parish ministry in the spring of 2012, after serving for many years at Holy Cross Greek Orthodox Church in Mount Lebanon, PA, Fr. John and his wife, Presbytera Alexandra, moved to Guatemala to serve as missionaries for six months out of the year. (During their tenure at Holy Cross, the couple had visited Guatemala several times on mission trips. Their parishFr. John and Pres. AlexandraFr. John and Pres. Alexandra had often collected food, clothes, and toys for the Hogar Rafael Ayau Orphanage in Guatemala City, and in 1999, the Chakoses adopted their daughter, Jenny, now 23, from the orphanage.) Now, Fr. John serves the vast spiritual needs of the new Orthodox faithful, while Presbytera "Sandy" sets up shop as a seamstress and teaches the Mayan women sewing skills that will bring them fresh purpose and needed income.

Join us for this evening, rich with fascinating, heart-rending and heart-warming stories.

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Read the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's March 30, 2012 story about Fr. John and Pres. Alexandra

Read about the SVOTS 2012 Guatemala mission team

Read about the explosion of Orthodox Christianity in Guatemala, through the eyes of Seminarian Jesse Brandow

Read articles by Fr. John Chakos about the Guatemalan communities on the blog of Pres. Alexandra Chakos