The past year has witnessed the development of a closer relationship between St. Vladimir’s Seminary and the clergy and faithful of the Diocese of Alaska—the mother diocese of the Orthodox Church in America. The latest expression of this relationship took place March 12 to 15, 2009 in the Yukon-Kuskokwim [Y-K] where SVS Chancellor, Archpriest Chad Hatfield, accompanied by senior seminarian, Priest Aaron Warwick, led clergy, laity, and youth retreats during the Lenten season.
The well-below-zero weather did not hamper 16 priests and many people from gathering in the village of Napaskiak for the retreats, with the host priest Fr. Vasily Fisher, rector of St. James Church. “Traditional Yup’ik foods were served with great generosity, despite the tremendous struggle to keep food on the table in these hard economic times,” marveled Fr. Chad. “Subsistence staples of dried fish and berries are an absolute necessity, since non-traditional foods are hard to find in the village stores. Prices are exorbitant: 22 dollars for a dozen eggs, 10 dollars a gallon milk, and apples at 15 dollars a bag.”
Archpriest Philip Alexie, speaking for the clergy brotherhood, asked that Fr. Chad convey their message of thanks for the way SVS stood with them in their “hour of need.” He also expressed hope that a nascent proposal to form a “sister seminary” relationship between St. Herman Seminary [SHS] in Kodiak, AK, and SVS would make quick progress.
The history of the two seminaries dates from the very founding of SHS in 1973. Over the years many SVS graduates have taught at SHS. The current SHS dean, Archpriest John Dunlop and his wife, Bea, are both SVS graduates. Hieromonk Juvenaly and Seraphima Carl, both new to the SHS faculty, each hold degrees from the St. Vladimir’s.
As well, archival records at both seminaries clearly show that Protopresbyter Alexander Schmemann, SVS dean from 1962-1983, was deeply committed to the success of the Alaskan Seminary, and that he worked closely with Protopresbyter Joseph Kreta, now-retired dean of SHS, and Archbishop Gregory (Afonsky), now deceased (+2008), to find ways that St. Vladimir’s could serve the needs of the Alaskan seminary.
Reflecting upon the joy of the village retreat experience, Fr. Chad said, “The Alaskan clergy taught all of American Orthodoxy a lesson in love last year by their example.” SVS is honored to be have been able to serve in a diocese that gave American Orthodoxy our very existence.”
Note travels of other SVS faculty in the “Faculty Footprints” and “SVS in your area” sections of the seminary Web site: www.svots.edu.