History of The Orthodox Church and
Monastery in Guatemala
By the end of the nineteenth century, Orthodox Christian immigrants from the Holy Land and Lebanon arrived in Guatemala. And at the beginning of the twentieth century, a minor wave of Russian and Greek immigrants came to Guatemala. These Orthodox Christians established themselves as families in their new country and retained their orthodox faith and traditions.
In April 30, 1986, Mother Ines and Mother Maria left their Roman Catholic congregation in search of monastic life according to the ancient monastic tradition.
In May 1987, while attending an international conference at the Orthodox Ecumenical Center in Chambesy, Switzerland, they received the blessing of His Eminence, Metropolitan Damaskinos Papandreou, Exarch of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Western Europe, to found an Orthodox Monastery in Guatemala and look for an Orthodox bishop of the local jurisdiction.
In 1989, the nuns received a donation of 34.8 acres of land for the Monastery and a hill side deforested property ajacent to an old forest all the way to the lakeshore of Amatitlan Lake. Work on the property immediately began with moving 70 tons of soil into terraces as well as reforestation.
In November 1, 1992, the future site of the Monastery Church was blessed and the construction of six hermitages for the nuns began.
In 1993, through the generous help of a Palestinian Orthodox friend of the Monastery, the nuns asked to be received into the Antiochian Patriarchate. On the same year, His Eminence, Archbishop Antonio Chedraoui received the Monastery into his omophorion.
In January 30, 1994, the monastic community transferred to the newly finished hermitges.
In May 14, 1994, His Eminence, conferred the legal power to Mother Ines with the corresponding instructions on inscribing the Catholic Apostolic Orthodox Antiochian Church in Guatemala and appointed Mother Ines as the superior voted by the nuns.
In August 10, 1994, His Eminence, tonsured Mother Ines and Mother Maria.
In August 11, 1994, during the first Divine Liturgy, His Eminence installed Mother Ines as the Igoumeni of the Orthodox Monastery of the Holy Trinity –LavraMambre. His Eminence tonsured Mother Ivonne on the same occasion.
In December 2, 1995, after the Divine Liturgy at the Monastery’s multipurpose A-frame building, the Act of the Foundation of “The Catholic Apostolic Orthodox Antiochian Church in Guatemala” was signed by His Eminence and twenty-five Guatemalan foundation members required by law.
In January 1996, the newly elected government began negotiations with the Orthodox Church to privatize and entrust the country´s official orphanage "Hogar Rafael Ayau" founded in 1857, for renovation and reopening.
For Holy Week and Bright Week 1996, the nuns went to the Orthdox Monastery of the Transfiguration in Ellwood City, Pennsylvania, USA where the Abbess, Mother Christophora cordially received the Guatemalan Monastery as their “daughter monastery”.
In August 1996, the "Hogar Rafael Ayau" orphanage was received by the Antiochian Church and the existing chapel in the property became the first Orthodox parish church.
In February 2, 1997, His Eminence, Metropolitan Antonio consecrated the first Altar and dedicated the temple into the Orthodox Church of the Holy Transfiguration.
Before Holy Week 1997, the nuns visited the Orthodox Christian Mission Center (OCMC) in San Augustine, FL to present the orphanage project and ask for missionaries. After this visit, a fruitful relationship was established.
In October 13, 1997, after the basic reconstruction and renovation of the orphanage, "Hogar Rafael Ayau" reopened its doors and received 115 boys and girls who were transferred from another delipidated government institution.
In September 2, 2002, the construction of the Monastery Church began.
In August 2007, the Monastery Church was finished.
In November 8, 2007, His Eminence, Metropolitan Antonio consecrated the Altar of the Monastery Church with fifteen other priests and archimandrites of different jurisdictions from the United States of America and Russia, Mother Abbess Christophora from the Orthodox Monastery of Transfiguration in Pennsylvania, the nuns, the children of the Hogar Rafael Ayau and the Monastery families and friends from different countries.
In year 2004, Mother Ines visited Russia for the first time and had the opportunity to converse with His Beatitude, Patriach Alexey of memory eternal. The visit initiated a relationship of collaboration for a future Monastery for men. This relationship eventually benefitted the children of the orphanage who were invited by the Russian government in the year 2010 for a ten-day visit together with the nuns which was a marvellous experience of the Orthodox Church, alive with a multitude of people who survived the persecution of the communist regime.
Throughout these years, many persons and groups have approached the Orthodox Church searching for the ancient true faith and many have encountered an answer in the Antiochian Church. Some organized groups wanted to be part of the Antiochian Church in Guatemala from the beginning but were not received for different reasons. Some were recently contacted and received by another Orthodox Churches (one of them was specifically contacted by Metropolitan Athenagoras of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in January 2010 who were chrismated and received. In March 2010, two leaders of the group were made Archimandrite Andres and Archimandrite Mikhail, confirmed in the mission that they have already established for many years with the indigenous towns of their region). Another of this group is presently in dialogue with another Patriarchate searching for an entry into the grand family of the Orthodox Church.
The growth of the Orthodox Church in Guatemala is at its beginning stage, it will continue according to the will of God and for His glory.
Link to the Orthodox Church Mexico Web Site