Bávaro, Dominican Republic, December 21, 2020
Holy Orthodoxy continues to grow and spread in the Dominican Republic. On Saturday, December 19, the feast of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker, the Church of St. Seraphim of Sarov of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia was solemnly consecrated.
The consecration was celebrated by His Grace Bishop Isaac of Vorzel, a vicar of the Kiev Diocese of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, with the blessing of His Eminence Metropolitan Hilarion of New York and Eastern America, the First Hierarch of ROCOR, reports the Orthodox Church in the Dominican Republic Facebook page.
The church is located in Bávaro on the eastern coast of the Dominican Republic.
Before they had their own church, the faithful gathered for services at a parishioner’s house for 10 years. The mission in Bávaro is pastored by Fr. Nenad Flora, a recently ordained priest from America with Serbian roots and a Dominican wife, Matushka Anastasia.
The consecration of the new church is a testimony to the growth and development of the Orthodox mission in the Dominican Republic that was started in 2008 by Fr. Raphael Martinez Gonzalez. Four years prior, in 2004, Metropolitan Kirill, the future patriarch of Russia, visited the Orthodox faithful there and expressed his hope for the appearance of a parish with regular services.
Four years later, ROCOR opened a church in honor of the Kazan Icon of the Mother of God in the city of Puerto Plata. Over the course of 12 years, communities were formed in six cities throughout the country. The community of St. Seraphim in Bávaro was formed two years after the opening of the Kazan Church, and then came the mission parishes in Jamao al Norte, Sosúa, Las Terrenas, and Santo Domingo.
As Fr. Raphael was the only priest in the country for many years, it was not uncommon for parishioners from different cities to gather in one place for the services. With the arrival of Fr. Nenad, it will be easier to serve at individual parishes and for each mission to grow. Moreover, Fr. Raphael has been sick with the coronavirus twice, and was only released from the hospital a few days ago.
The Kazan Church in Puerto Plata operates a Russian-Dominican Center of Science and Culture, where the locals can come learn about holy Orthodoxy and study the Russian language, which helps them find work as tour guides. Fr. Raphael and other representatives of the Center teach the Law of God and a course on human values at one of the city schools.
Currently, the majority of the parishioners are Russian-speakers from former Soviet republics, but there are also Serbs, Greeks, Romanians, Bulgarians, natives of Canada, and native Dominican converts.
Fr. Raphael is a Dominican who converted to Orthodoxy in Odessa, Ukraine, where he studied at the polytechnic institute in 1976. His Church life deepened while studying at the Electrotechnical University in St. Petersburg, from which he graduated in 1984.
In an interview in 2016, Fr. Raphael spoke about he and his wife periodically go on pilgrimages. After once such trip to St. Petersburg, the couple prayed at the relics of St. Xenia of St. Petersburg, after which their long-awaited child was born.