New Era in Guatemala: Reflections on Seminary – Mission Center Opening


Thousands of Orthodox faithful gathered for the opening of the Ss. Peter and Paul Mission Center and St. Andrew Seminary in Huehuetenango, Guatemala. 

Where we are a Church of 50,000 now, with this seminary providing priests and lay leaders, I see Orthodoxy growing to two to three million faithful!” exclaimed His Eminence ATHENAGORAS, Metropolitan of Vize (formerly of Mexico). 

His Eminence and Fr. Evangelos spending time together over the course of an eventful weekend. 

His Eminence gave an emotional address in front of over 3,000 faithful as he officially opened the new Ss. Peter and Paul Mission Center and St. Andrew Seminary in Huehuetenango, Guatemala this past Sunday. Also in attendance was His Grace TIMOTEO, an auxiliary bishop in the Metropolis. The project, which began over two years ago under the auspices of His Eminence and the direction of the Vicar General of Guatemala, Archimandrite Evangelos Patá (who also participated in the weekend’s activities), was built with financial support from the Orthodox Christian Mission Center (OCMC) and hundreds of volunteers from the parishes throughout Guatemala.

OCMC Executive Director, Fr. Martin Ritsi, who led a delegation from OCMC to the events, added, “The seminary and mission center, situated high in the hills above Huehuetenango at over 7,000 feet, stands as a beacon of light for all Guatemalans and a symbol of collaboration between the Orthodox faithful in Guatemala and the United States and will act as a spiritual center where new clergy and lay leaders will be trained to serve the rapidly growing and vibrant Orthodox community in Guatemala.

Guatemala Seminary Ceremony - Fr. Martin Giving Communion

Fr. Martin giving communion to Guatemalan faithful. 

Guatemalan Orthodox faithful came from throughout the country to be part of this historic occasion led by their local Guatemalan clergy, Fr. Mijail, Fr. Blais, Fr. Alexis, and Fr. Daniel. Also attending was Mother Inés Ayau of the Orthodox Monastery of the Holy Trinidad-Lavra Mambré in Guatemala. The Center fulfills the dream of Fr. Andres Giron, who ushered thousands into Orthodoxy and to whom the seminary is dedicated. It also inaugurates a new era in Guatemala which will now be headed by the newly-elected Metropolitan IAKOVOS of Mexico.

Hierarchical Liturgy Guatemala Seminary Opening

Representatives from all over Guatemala and Chiapas, Mexico attending the Hierarchical Liturgy. 

The delegation from OCMC also included OCMC Board Member and Mission Specialist, Fr. John Chakos, Mission Specialist, Jesse Brandow, former Missionary in Guatemala, Fr. Thomas Manuel, Assistant Development Director, Fr. Christopher Rowe, and OCMC donors.

Fr. John Chakos, who has been shepherding the project in close collaboration with Fr. Patá and the local faithful, reflected on the day, “The moment was made all the more poignant with the announcement of the retirement of their beloved archpastor – His Eminence ATHENAGORAS, who tearfully bade farewell to the faithful. With great nostalgia, His Eminence also invoked the memory of Father Andres Giron, a fierce advocate for the rights of the indigenous people and charismatic spiritual leader to his beloved flock, shepherding it into the embrace of the Orthodox Church.” The opening coincided with the 10-year anniversary of Fr. Giron’s falling asleep commemorated with a memorial service offered by His Eminence.

Former OCMC Missionary Fr. Thomas Manuel, now pastor at Holy Apostles Greek Orthodox Church in Dulles, Virginia, remarked, “It was a great joy to be reunited with clergy and seminarians whom I had taught and see their progress and growth in the faith. God bless all who labored for this great work which will be a blessing for the Orthodox mission in Guatemala for years to come.” Fr. Thomas and Pres. Elizabeth Manuel served as missionaries in Guatemala for four years before returning to the US.

Picture of Fr. Thomas reuniting with some of the seminarians he taught during his missionary service in Guatemala. 

OCMC Assistant Development Director, Fr. Christopher Rowe remarked: “'This seminary is so important to the mission Church in Guatemala. It will become the spiritual center and provide lay leaders and clergy to this growing Church. There are currently 137 parishes being served by only 5 priests. The completion of this project will allow growth to accelerate exponentially.”

An OCMC donor who participated on the trip, Anthony Del Nuovo from St. George OCA parish in Buffalo, NY added, “You could see how much the Mayan faithful love their Church. We saw over 3,000 faithful who came from all parts of Guatemala - whole families making the difficult trip - to be together to witness this tremendous day in the life of their Church.”


Scenes from the eventful weekend.


Thank you to our partners of the Orthodox Church in Guatemala for their incredible work to capture this historic event. Visit Catedral Ortodoxa la Anunciación a la Santísima Madre de Dios on Facebook to see the full post and other moments captured from the weekend.


May Gifts, One Body, For the Glory of God!