January 12, 2016
Livia Anghel is in the middle of a three-week stay in Rochester for a surgical procedure at Mayo Clinic. Instead of a lengthy hotel stay, she followed a connection through her church that led her to the Philoxenia House Mission.
The Philoxenia House Mission offers a place for families and individuals to stay, free of cost, while they seek medical treatment in Rochester. The Saints Kosmas and Damianos Greek Orthodox Church of Rochester owns the Philoxenia House and another home, both near the church on West Center Street.
The homes have multiple units and together they can house up to 18 people at a time. Most importantly, the units offer a sense of home — kitchens are in each unit, bedrooms, bathrooms and living areas.
For Rochester visitors seeking medical treatment that can be stressful and last weeks or months, even the small consolations of a home can make a difference.
"It's perfect. … It's everything I need," Anghel said.
Anghel is passionate Orthodox Catholic and found comfort in being able to stay in a homelike environment with her family at her side, while also being close to a church to which she felt kinship. Anghel and family traveled to Rochester from Sante Fe, N.M., where her local ministry made the housing arrangements with the Rochester church.
The two homes opened in 2004 and 2007. The church had relied on its network, the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Chicago, to spread the word about the Philoxenia House in Rochester.
Early last year, a church committee voted to open the house to all people, members of any faith, said Johnny Mangouras, church spokesman.
"We came to the realization that, you know, there are a lot of people right now that need support and need help. We said, 'We've got these homes, let's open them up to anyone who needs them,'" Mangouras said. "We made the decision as a committee and it was the right decision; we realized it."
For Father Mark Munoz, Rochester parish priest, the change to welcome guests of all faiths was in following the church's mission and ideals.
"Notwithstanding the much good God has allowed us to realize over the years, we recognized the fact that we were limiting our focus to assisting those who share the same faith, tradition, and many times cultural background," Munoz said in a statement released by the church.
Philoxenia translates from Greek as "hospitality," a combination of "friend" and "stranger."
The church has plans to expand the housing it offers to Rochester visitors. Plans are in place to construct another 100 units of housing on more church property in the area, Mangouras said.
No matter how the Philoxenia House Mission grows, its heart will be in the personal touches of its ministry and its parish.
As Anghel said, having the Philoxenia House was more than having a roof over her and her family's heads. It was the people — people who brought flowers to her in the hospital, who helped watch her children and invited the family into their own homes for social calls.
"It's not only the house, it's the help that I got from everybody here," Anghel said. "The people from the church were great and we're grateful for them."
The homes are totally donor-funded. For more information on the homes, see philoxeniahouse.org.