Bishop Maximus of Pelagonia Visits Cuba

On Tuesday, December 10 Bishop Maximus of Pelagonia, the dean of Latin America, made a pastoral visit to Cuba, accompanied by Paul and Juliana Volkman. He landed in the capital Havana, and on Thursday night served the all night Vigil for the feast of St. Andrew the First-called, the patron saint of the GOC parish in Havana. On Friday morning, he served a hierarchical Liturgy with Fr. Evaggelos, the parish priest, and tonsured Jorge Hernandez, the parish's chanter, as a reader. After the service, he performed the baptism of 3 adults and one child, and a festal meal was served. 
 
The next day, on Saturday evening, Vespers was served, and in the morning Bishop Maximus (despite being ill with a stomach virus and missing Matins) served the hierarchical Liturgy and ordained Gabriel Perez as deacon. Fr. Deacon Gabriel has been taking theology classes in the clergy training program for Latin America run by Fr. Evaggelos. Everyone present felt the grace of the Holy Spirit descend upon the newly ordained deacon. 
 
Over the next couple of days, Bishop Maximus met with various of the faithful and investigated an old mansion for sale at a very low price, which would represent a significant improvement in the parish's physical setting. On Wednesday (Dec. 18) Bishop Maximus, Fr. Evaggelos, and 3 others began a 2 day drive in a rented car (cars are almost impossibe to buy in Cuba, so none of the parishioners owns one; while public transportation is unreliable) to Holguin, a city at the other end of the island. There he visited a community which had come to our Church from the New Calendar. This mission meets in a very poor house and has been subject to much harassment and menace from the New Calendarists. On Saturday the Bishop baptized 3 people and chrismated 2 New Calendarists, On Sunday, he performed the Hierarchical Divine Liturgy and made one of the faithful, Gregorio Reyes (who has also been taking classes with Fr. Evaggelos), a subdeacon and appointed him head of the mission, in obedience to Fr. Evaggelos. The Bishop spoke extensively about the Orthodox faith and spiritual life, encouraging the faithful, who in spite of poverty and a lack of much exposure to Orthodoxy have been willing to endure the threats and false promises of the New Calendarists.
 
On Monday the group undertook the long drive back to Havana, stopping in Santa Clara in the middle of the island to visit a few faithful there. Finally, on Dec. 26, Bishop Maximus returned to New York, having labored much in the Lord's vineyard. May God grant strength to the newly ordained Deacon Gabriel, Subdeacon Gregory, and Reader Jorge, and preserve and multiply the faithful members of the GOC in Cuba! 
 
Anyone wishing to make a donation for the parishes in Cuba may send a check made out to
 
Holy Ascension Monastery
521 Cold Brook Rd. 
Bearsville, NY 12409
 
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