On July 7, 2017, Metropolitan Demetrius sent two priests to Cuba to start the mission of our church on the island. Hieromonk Maximus (Marretta), the dean of Latin America, accompanied the recently ordained Fr. Evaggelos Garcia Luaces, a Cuban native who had formerly been a deacon in the Ecumenical Patriarchate to Havana, the capital of the Carribean country of 11.5 million. The next day they met a group of pilgrims (Jamie Goodman and Paul and Juliana Volkman) from the United States who had come to be godparents for the new Cuban converts. On Saturday, July 9, Fr. Evaggelos assisted by Fr. Maximus baptized 5 people and chrismated another 5 people who had formerly belonged to the New Calendar church. The service occurred in the home of one of the faithful, followed by the Liturgy, and was attended by other people who are interested in the faith. The next day, Sunday, Fr. Evaggelos served the Liturgy and Fr. Maximus gave a talk about the Orthodox Church and fidelity to tradition. The next day they went to see Old Havana, a beautiful Spanish colonial city. On Wednesday July 12, they celebrated the Liturgy for the feast of St. Peter and Paul and went to see an apartment that the congregation will use for services, since they are only able to meet every other week in the current house.
On Saturday, July 15, Fr. Maximus, Fr. Evaggelos, and Presbytera Xenia (Fr. Evaggelos’ wife) went to Santa Clara (a large city in the middle of the country, about 4 hours drive from Havana) to start another mission with a group that had formerly been in a non-canonical jurisdiction. There they chrismated 11 people and served the Liturgy on Sunday. On Tuesday, July 18, Fr. Maximus returned to the United States, while Fr. Evaggelos remained in his home country in order to serve the two missions there.
The mission in Havana is dedicated to St. Andrew the First-called, while the mission in Santa Clara is dedicated to the Holy Spirit. Missionary work in Cuba, an impoverished communist country where the average salary is $25 a month, presents special challenges. One problem, for example, is the massive lack of transport. Cars are very rare and mostly date to the 1950’s, while to travel to another province you need to buy a bus ticket 3 months in advance. While religion was suppressed for many years during the Cold War period, there is now relative religious freedom. The most pressing issues for our new missions are to get permanent facilities to worship in, to get registered with the state, and to get a vehicle so Fr. Evaggelos can travel to the various missionary communities.
We ask prayers from all for the successful establishment and growth of the missions in Cuba.
Those interested in helping financially may send a check to:
Holy Ascension Monastery
521 Cold Brood Rd.
Bearsville, NY, 12409
Checks should be made out to Holy Ascension Monastery and earmarked “Cuba Missions.”
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