When His Beatitude, Metropolitan Tikhon, Primate of the Orthodox Church in America, made his inaugural visit to Saint Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary as its new President and ruling Bishop on November 29, 2012, he sampled the rich diversity of campus life.
First, His Beatitude attended Vespers, along with His Eminence, Timothy Cardinal Dolan, Archbishop of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York and a special guest of the seminary for the evening. Second, he sat down to a community fish dinner, prepared by the school’s chef and served by faculty and staff. And third, he blessed the school’s new exercise/gym facility. In four short hours, Metropolitan Tikhon experienced the mundane and the sublime, the ordinary and extraordinary, the earthy and the heavenly that characterizes daily life at the seminary.
His Beatitude assumed the offices of President of the Seminary and Chair of its Board of Trustees upon his election as Metropolitan of All America and Canada at the OCA’s 17th All-American Council November 13, 2012. Archpriest John Behr, Dean, welcomed Metropolitan Tikhon by saying, “This is the first chance we’ve had to welcome you to our school—I should say ‘your school’!—as our President, since your election to the office of Metropolitan. Truly, it is a joy to have you with us.”
In response, Metropolitan Tikhon said, “It is a blessing to make my first pastoral visit to join the community here for Vespers and a meal. It was truly a great honor to meet Cardinal Dolan and his delegation, and I am looking forward to returning to the seminary soon to visit and pray with you, as we work together in this sacred task of spiritual education and formation.” His Beatitude will return to campus January 17–18, 2013, for the annual meeting of the Board of Trustees.
In acknowledging Cardinal Dolan, Father John continued, “Truly, you also honor us with your presence this evening. The last time we had a Cardinal of the Roman Church here was Cardinal Ratzinger!” [Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, made a brief visit to the seminary in 1998, attending Vespers with the community].
“You’ve inspired us with all the work you done in leading the advance with the gospel message, especially in your work in education: in uniting three seminaries from different dioceses, in your new program for pastoral education, and in your continuing education for clergy and laity alike,” concluded Father John.
With his typical good humor, Cardinal Dolan responded, “The honor of being with you is all mine.” Then he quipped, “I am especially happy to be here on the Feast of Saint Andrew, as I’ve always identified with Saint Andrew, having an impetuous and irascible brother of my own!”
The Cardinal then enumerated the various cooperative projects over the recent years between the Seminary and the Roman Catholic Archdiocese, including concerts of sacred music hosted in some of the most famous Roman Catholic churches in Manhattan, and smaller scale projects with the Crestwood neighborhood’s Annunciation Church and nearby Saint Joseph’s Seminary in Yonkers.
Metropolitan Tikhon then presented Cardinal Dolan with a gift from the seminary: an ornately carved pectoral cross, gilded with gold on the edge. His Beatitude noted, “As you know, the yoke of a bishop can be heavy to bear; here is a gift from us to make it lighter.”
Cardinal Dolan, who came to campus for the occasion at the invitation of Father John Behr and Archpriest Chad Hatfield, seminary Chancellor/CEO, acknowledged the gift with joy, saying, “It’s beautiful; I will cherish this.”
Father Chad noted, “It’s highly symbolic that the Metropolitan of the OCA had his first meeting with Cardinal Dolan on the Feast of Saint Andrew the Apostle, as this feast has come to symbolize the desire of unity between East and West.
“The Cardinal’s visit represents the ever-strengthening ties between our seminary and the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York,” said Father Chad.
Other visiting dignitaries and guests included Rev. Monsignor Peter Vaccari, Rector of Saint Joseph’s Seminary, with seminary administrators and faculty, Rev. Matthew Ernest, Director of Liturgical Formation; Rev. Nicholas Zientarski, Dean of Students and Professor of Sacramental Theology; Rev. James Massa, Director of Accreditation and Professor of Dogmatic Theology; Rev. Monsignor Dennis Keane, Rector of the Church of the Annunciation, Crestwood; Rev. Richard Baker, Rector of Saint Malachy’s Church (“The Actors’ Chapel”), Manhattan; Archpriest Yaroslav Sudick, retired Rector of the OCA’s Holy Trinity Church, Yonkers; and Archpriest Eric Tosi, secretary, OCA.
The seminary’s new exercise/gym facility was funded by generous donations from members of the school’s Board of Trustees and was outfitted with state-of-the-art equipment by the family of Joseph Namee, cousin of trustee Attorney Eric Namee. The new facility is housed in a 1,600 square foot area of the Annex Building (formerly the women’s dormitory) and is open to all students, faculty, and staff and their spouses.