Milestones in the History of the Orthodox Church and the Orthodox Monastery of the Holy Trinity - Lavra Mambré
in Guatemala, Central America
At the end of the nineteenth century, Orthodox Christians immigrating from the Holy Land and Lebanon came to settle in Guatemala. At the beginning of the twentieth century, another wave of Russian and Greek Orthodox immigrants arrived in Guatemala. These Orthodox Christians established themselves as families in their new country and maintained their Orthodox faith and traditions.
On April 30, 1986, Mother Inés (Ayau) and Mother Maria (Amistoso) left their Roman Catholic religious congregation in search of a monastic life according to the ancient monastic tradition.
In May 1987, while attending an international conference at the Orthodox Ecumenical Centre 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 lavra monastery and look for an Orthodox bishop with the nearest jurisdiction to Guatemala.
In 1989, the nuns of the newly-founded monastery received from a friend the donation of 35 acres of hillside land adjacent to an old forest down to the shores of Amatitlán Lake for the monastery. Work on the property immediately began by moving 70 tons of land, terracing and reforestation.
On March 25, 1992, Mother Ivonne (Sommerkamp) joined as a novice the small monastic community.
On November 1, 1992, the future site of the monastery church was blessed and the construction of six hermitages began.
In 1993, His Eminence, Archbishop Antonio (Chedraoui) of Mexico, Venezuela, Central America and the Caribbean of the Antiochian Patriarchate, received the monastery under his omophorion.
On January 30, 1994, the monastic community moved to the completed hermitages.
On May 14, 1994, Mother Inés was appointed by Archbishop Antonio as the Superior of the Monastery elected by the nuns and was given the legal power to register the Catholic Apostolic Church of Antioch in Guatemala (ICAOAG, the acronym in Spanish).
On August 10, 1994, Mother Inés and Mother María were tonsured as Orthodox monastics by Archbishop Antonio at the monastery chapel.
On August 11, 1994, Mother Ines was installed as the Igumeni of the Orthodox Monastery of the Holy Trinity-Lavra Mambré at the first Divine Liturgy in Guatemala presided by Archbishop Antonio and Mother Ivonne was tonsured on this same occasion.
On December 2, 1995, after the Divine Liturgy at the unfinished multi-purpose building of the monastery, the Foundation Act of the "Iglesia Católica Apostólica Antioqueña de Guatemala" (ICAOAG) was signed by Archbishop Antonio, Priest Artemio (Blanco), the Monastics and other 25 Guatemalan founding members as required by law.
Early in January 1996, the new government administration began negotiations with the Orthodox Church to privatize and entrust the vandalized “Hogar Rafael Ayau”, the official orphanage of Guatemala founded in 1857 by Don Rafael Ayau.
In April 1996, the nuns presented the orphanage project to the Orthodox Christian Mission Center (OCMC) in St. Augustine, FL and to solicit for missionaries upon the advice of Mother Christophora, Igumeni of the Orthodox Monastery of the Transfiguration in Ellwood City, PA.
For Easter and Bright Week 1996, Igumeni Mother Christophora adopted the Guatemalan monastery as "daughter monastery". The Guatemalan nuns regularly visited their “mother monastery” for many years.
In August 1996, the abandoned and deteriorated "Hogar Rafael Ayau" orphanage was received by the Antiochian Church for reconstruction.
On February 2, 1997, Metropolitan Antonio consecrated the Holy Altar of the Church and dedicated it to the Holy Transfiguration transforming the existing church on the property as the first Orthodox parish in Guatemala City.
On October 13, 1997, after basic reconstruction and renovation, the "Hogar Rafael Ayau" orphanage reopened its doors and welcomed 115 children transferred from another dilapidated government institution.
On September 2, 2002, the construction of the monastery church began at the monastery property located at 20 kilometers from Guatemala City..
In 2004, Igumeni Mother Inés visited Russia for the first time and had the privilege to speak with His Beatitude, Patriarch Alexei of blessed memory, to initiate favourable relations for the orphanage.
In August 2007, the monastery church was completed.
On November 8, 2007, Metropolitan Antonio consecrated the Holy Altar of the monastery church together with 15 Archimandrites and priests from the different jurisdictions of the United States of America and Russia. Also
present were Igumeni Mother Christophora with some of her nuns, the children of “Hogar Rafael Ayau”, families and friends of the monastery from the different countries.
In 2008, the construction of the San Miguel Residence began for the purpose of eventually moving the children to a more healthy environment.
In April 2013, the nuns founded IEIRA, a low cost and online university for the graduates of the orphanage and the Hispanic people around the world in need of a higher education. (www.ieira.edu.gt)
On July 25, 2013, the children were transferred to their new residence.
On November 17, 2013, Metropolitan Antonio blessed the facilities of San Miguel Residence attended by local and foreign Orthodox friends.
In June 2017, Metropolitan Antonio reposed in the Lord after a lingering illness.
On December 5-9, 2017, His Eminence, Metropolitan Amphilohije (Radovic) of Montenegro and the Littoral (Coastlands) visited and received the Orthodox Monastery of the Holy Trinity-Lavra Mambre to the Serbian Patriarchate.
In September 2018, Bishop Kirilo (Bojovic) was installed as the Bishop of Buenos Aires, South and Central America of the Serbian Patriarchate.
The monastery is a lavra and a place of prayer and solitude with monastic services. The monastery is also home to university young ladies, a retreat and renewal place, a venue offering Icon Writing Workshops by Russian Master Iconographers, a center conducting academic activities, and the virtual site of an online university for higher education.
The Monastery is open to receive women with monastic vocations, willing to grow as persons and in their Christian faith.
The nuns have received a little more than 1,000 children since 1996 and have received 1,500 missionaries through the years from all over the world especially from the United States of America. Every month they welcomed missionaries and volunteers to help the children and the mission that God has entrusted to them.
“Hogar Rafael Ayau” is back to its original name as “Casa de la Misericordia Rafael Ayau” (House of Mercy Rafael Ayau) offering numerous charitable services. (www.casarafaelayau.com)
On the other hand, relations with the Church of Russia were enhanced by the opening of a Russian Embassy in Guatemala. This relationship benefited the children of “Hogar Rafael Ayau” who received scholarship grants in Russia. In 2010, the HRA Chorale got invited to a ten-day visit to Russia by the Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov when he visited the orphanage.
The girls and the nuns experienced both the vibrant Church life and rich culture of the Russian people.
There has been an exponential growth of Orthodoxy in Guatemala.
The Antiochian Church under the leadership of Metropolitan Antonio (Chedraoui) of blessed memory. (www.iglesiaortodoxa.org.mx)
The Syriac Antiochian Church under the leadership of Archbishop Mor Eduardo (Aguirre). (www.icergua.org)
The “Mayan Orthodox” Church under the leadership of Archimandrite Andres (Giron) of blessed memory (www.mayanorthodoxy.com).
The Serbian Church under the leadership of then Metropolitan Amphilohije (Radovic) of blessed memory and now Bishop Kirilo (Bojovic). (www.iglesiaortodoxaserbiasca.org)
Thank you for the generosity and joy you
bring helping us help those in need,
President of the Board
Friends of the Hogar Rafael Ayau