On the Feast of St. Herman of Alaska, December 13, 2008, His Beatitude, Metropolitan Jonah visited St. Vladimir’s Seminary to celebrate the Divine Liturgy and to preside at a Panikhida (memorial) service in honor of the twenty-fifth anniversary of the falling asleep of Protopresbyter Alexander Schmemann, who served as the dean of St. Vladimir’s Seminary (SVS) from 1962 until his death in 1983. His Beatitude, who was elected Metropolitan of All America and Canada of the Orthodox Church in America (OCA) this past November and who is an alumnus of SVS, recalled in his homily at the memorial service the influential words and works of Fr. Alexander.
Calling Fr. Alexander “the most significant person in Orthodoxy in the twentieth century,” His Beatitude first remembered the impact that his former teacher had on his own life. “Father Alexander used to say to incoming students: ‘You will not save the Church. The Church will save you.’ He desired only that we understand the reality of union in Jesus Christ by the Holy Spirit, through an authentic ascetical struggle.
“We are heirs of Father Alexander’s vision, ministry, and mission,” His Beatitude continued. “His prophetic vision of what the Church can be, in all of its fullness, can come to pass in and through us. If we strive with love and compassion to cast out the works of darkness, then we can let his vision of faith—which transcends mere ‘religion’—enter into us.”
Concelebrating the divine services with Metropolitan Jonah were seminary chapel clergy, among them Dean Archpriest John Behr; Chancellor Archpriest Chad Hatfield; Associate Dean for Student Affairs Archpriest Steven Belonick; Priest Alexander Rentel, Assistant Professor of Canon Law and Byzantine Studies; and Protodeacon Kirill Sokolov, Associate Chancellor for Systems. SVS seminarians serving included Priest Aaron Warwick and Deacons John Vitko, Peter Robichau, and Gregory Wassen.
Visiting priests who served included Archpriest Alexander Garklavs, Chancellor of the OCA, and Archpriest John Hopko, grandson of Fr. Schmemann and rector of Ss. Cyril and Methodius Church, Terryville, CT. His Grace Bishop Seraphim (Sigrist), formerly of Sendai, also attended the services.