Mayan Orthodox Church – February 2015
As commemorations of the one year memorial of Fr. Andres Giron continued throughout the villages, the question arises- what made the priestly ministry of this man so compelling to thousands of Mayan people? In an interview, Fr. Andres explained: “I became involved with them twenty-five years ago through land reform, and because many of them live in remote places where the Catholic Church rarely reached – a large group of these Mayans who had obtained land during the reforms asked me to be their spiritual leader” (ROAD TO EMMAUS,Spring, 2013). Fr. Andres’ evangelical mission, then, began and flourished as a by-product of the agrarian land reform movement, of which he was a prominent leader, both as priest and senator. Lest there be any confusion or doubt about his motives, it needs to be pointed out that Fr. Andres’ mission was not a mere humanitarian concern for abstract justice and the anonymous Mayan campesinos, but concrete and personal love for human persons. While political, economic and social concerns were part of this movement, and had a bearing on class and race, it was Fr. Andres’ unique ability to connect with people in a most personal way.
The Church for him was not just another social agency, but a place to transcend physical appearance, social rank, ethnic origin, and intellectual capacity in order to see Christ in the other. And oh how deeply these spiritual encounters with his Mayan flock affected his soul. In the same interview with ROAD TO EMMAUS he explained, “The Mayan people are the most religious people I’ve ever met. They have a tremendous need and love for God. Even though we are unworthy,when we visit these villages,they are so happy to see a priest that they receive us on their knees with incense…I am so proud to serve them. As a priest you have to be holy because they are calling you to be holy.” During the memorial commemorations for Fr. Andres,many were the testimonies of villagers that told of specific and concrete ways that he had personally helped them, whether it was legal help to reclaim property, prayers for healing, financial help for a needy family, medical assistance for those who needed treatment or medicine, scholarships for indigent students, counseling for troubled souls, or priestly formation for the many seminarians that he mentored. More than just a mere sacramental officiant or social worker, he was a father to his people. They were in his heart and he in theirs. Indeed, in each village commemoration, whether expressed in poems, processions, personal testimonies, tears or songs, the legacy of Fr. Andres’ devoted priestly service and love for his beloved flock is fondly remembered and continues to be a source of inspiration. Of him it could be said,that he led by serving others and won their hearts by becoming one of them.