San German, Puerto Rico, March 1, 2021
Despite the year-long pandemic, on top of devasting hurricanes and earthquakes in recent years, the mission parish of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia in Puerto Rico has experienced inspiring growth lately.
Archpriest Gregorio Justiniano of the Mission of San Juan Clímaco (St. John Climacus) in San German managed to serve Vespers and Liturgy every week throughout the pandemic, with varying attendance. Then, several young people began to attend the mission as inquirers, reports the ROCOR Eastern American Diocese.
Fr. Gregorio began to hold catechetical lessons on Sundays, and on Saturday, January 16, Samuel Velez and Irving Gonzales (named Gregorio in Baptism) were baptized into Christ in the holy Orthodox Church. The next day, Leonel Arenas was also baptized, with the name Gabriel.
“This may seem small in quantity. But for the community in Puerto Rico, it is a miracle. For the mission, bringing two Protestants and one practicing Catholic to Orthodoxy on the island during the pandemic is proof of God’s care and mercy,” writes Fr. Gregorio.
According to a 2014 Pew Research Center survey, 56% of Puerto Ricans living on the island identify as Catholic, and 33% Protestant. Thus, there is much work to be done by the Orthodox there, who currently have just a handful of parishes. According to a comment left two months ago on the site of St. George Antiochian Orthodox Church in Carolina, Puerto Rico, there are currently three operating parishes: the ROCOR mission, the Antiochian parish, and San Miguel Arcangel (St. Michael) Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Patriarchate of Constantinople in Guayanilla.
In December 2019, the Orthodox mission in Jamaica voted to leave Constantinople and join ROCOR. In March 2019, OrthoChristian reported on several people being baptized on the Caribbean island of Grenada, and in November, an interview was published with Hieromonk Ambrose (Sitalo), who now serves as a mission priest in Grenada. In December, the ROCOR Church of St. Seraphim in the Dominican Republic was consecrated by His Grace Bishop Isaac of Vorzel of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.