Mission Impossible

Situated within blocks of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, Holy Anargyroi Greek Orthodox Church has always had a special ministry to the clinic’s patients. Annually over 1,000 Orthodox visitors from throughout the U.S. and the world find a spiritual “home away from home” during what can be intensely difficult times. Parishioners have always reached out to their visitors proactively: cooking meals, driving to appointments, and hosting in their homes. Christ’s call to show love to the stranger, philoxenia, is a way of life at Holy Anargyroi.

Contact with patients over the years made it clear that long-term lodging was one of the greatest challenges for patients and their families. Costs associated with an extended stay during treatment—sometimes spanning many months—can be financially devastating. While some free or low-cost guest housing does exist, such as the Ronald McDonald House, demand for it far exceeds availability.

Holy Anargyroi recognized a unique opportunity: a guest house would further enable their spirit of hospitality. They set their eyes on a neighboring, multi-unit apartment building, and in 2004, the owner was finally willing to sell on reasonable terms. However, one seemingly insurmountable challenge remained: the church was in the middle of a large, multi-million dollar campaign to build a much-needed larger church and community center. In fact, some parishioners had already pledged to donate before the project stalled due to higher-than-expected construction bids.

Holy Anargyroi was at a crossroads. The logical course of action? To pass on the sale of the neighboring property and postpone guest house plans until after a newly-built church was paid off. However, what seems impossible for us is possible for God. The priest approached parish leadership with this new turn of events and, within a week, half the purchase price was pledged! They took the dilemma to the Metropolis for guidance, and the answer was unequivocal: put the church building project on hold and minister to the people. Finally, the project was presented to the parish General Assembly. Leadership humbly explained that practically speaking, it was foolish to pursue the guest house at this point in the life of the parish. But the answer was a resounding, nearly unanimous “yes” to the project.

In 2014, the Philoxenia House celebrated ten years of offering guest house services to patients of the Mayo Clinic and their families. The house (now including the three properties adjacent to the parish) has welcomed 2,500 guests during that time. Whatever initial doubts the parish may have had, the ministry’s blessing to the community became apparent early. Financial support poured in from parishes throughout the Metropolis, the Philoptochos, and donors around the country. Volunteers continue to come to help with upkeep and renovations. God has always provided for the needs of the house.

The story of the Philoxenia House and Holy Anargyroi would not be complete without mentioning the outcome of the church building project. Today, they have a new “jewel of an Orthodox church” and a hall. Without much delay, bids were attained within their original budget, and a new million-dollar donation was received. The lessons of this story are not lost on the dedicated parishioners who call Holy Anargyroi home and run the all-volunteer Philoxenia House. When they focused on living the Gospel, the money took care of itself. In giving, they received even more in return. “…But for God all things are possible,” Matthew 19:26.

For more information about the Philoxenia House, visit www.philoxeniahouse.org.

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