With the blessing of Metropolitan Hilarion of Eastern America & New York, diocesan secretary Archpriest Serge Lukianov visited Our Lady of Vladimir Parish in Costa Rica. Fr. Serge was rector of the mission from 2012 to 2014.
Our Lady of Vladimir is the only mission of the Russian Orthodox Church in Central America where the services are performed in Church Slavonic and Spanish. The community itself was founded and the first divine services began to be performed – at the time, in private homes – in 1994.
In April 2006, the community purchased a 27,000 square foot plot of land to build a church. The property is located to the northeast of San Jose, roughly six miles from the city center, in the village of Coronado. In January 2008, Bishop Gabriel of Manhattan (then secretary of the ROCOR Synod of Bishops), Archpriest Daniel McKenzie, and Archpriest Alexander Gorbunov (then rector of Holy Protection MP Church in Panama) laid the cornerstone of the church’s foundation. The Synod of Bishops had resolved to dedicate the church to the Vladimir Icon of the Mother of God, and a capsule was placed within the foundation containing a piece of the relics of the Holy Prince Andrew Bogolubsky, whose name is inextricably linked with the Vladimir Icon. That same year, 2008, Metropolitan Hilarion, First Hierarch of the Russian Church Abroad, visited Costa Rica.
Construction of the church began in July 2009, and was completed in time for the parish’s 20th anniversary in November 2014. Just over a year ago, Priest George Kaplanov (graduate of Holy Trinity Seminary in Jordanville, NY) was assigned rector there. Alongside the rector, Fr. Serge served the All-Night Vigil and Divine Liturgy on February 11-12, in honor of the Sunday and the feast of the Three Great Hierarchs. During his visit, Fr. Serge led a parish meeting, and spoke with the rector and parishioners about the needs of the ROCOR mission in Costa Rica.
"When I arrived, I found the church to be in good condition: the full cycle of services is being performed, and the rector often serves on weekdays," said Fr. Serge. "The church itself is beautifully appointed. Last year, prior to the arrival of the new priest, the community built an addition to the church building, where the rector and his family now live."
Fifty parishioners gathered for Liturgy on Sunday, of whom many communed of Christ’s Holy Mysteries. The choir sang beautifully. Parishioners asked to relay their thanks to Metropolitan Hilarion for assigning such a worthy priest to Costa Rica.
Meanwhile, Fr. George is learning Spanish, and conducting active missionary work: he recently traveled to jails where Russians are being held, whom he confessed and communed. Every Thursday, edifying and thought-provoking talks are held at a local café, to which the rector also invites staffers from the Russian Embassy, who themselves deliver expository talks and answer questions.
"I was surprised when I heard that Fr. George pays for his own insurance, since the community does not have sufficient funds to cover all of the church’s expenses," continues Fr. Serge. "I would hope that the parishioners of our Diocese will not remain indifferent, and will help the community, the priest, and his family as much as they are able."
"With the blessing of Metropolitan Hilarion, we hope that Eastern American Diocesan vicar Bishop Nicholas of Manhattan will visit Our Lady of Vladimir Church this autumn, accompanying the Kursk Root Icon of the Mother of God for the spiritual fortification of the clergy and faithful. This will be the first visit of the wonderworking image to Costa Rica."