May 27, 2013

Memorial Day Weekend at Saint Tikhon’s Monastery and Seminary

Christ is risen! I’ve been at Saint Tikhon’s Monastery and Seminary since last Friday for the board meeting, commencement and pilgrimage (the 109th). The weekend started off wet and cold but became progressively warmer and brighter. Aside from the very full schedule of liturgical celebrations (including three deacon ordinations), here is my version of some highlights of the past few days:

STOTS Commencement
  • The confidential search for a new Dean is well underway, but gratitude was again expressed to Father Alexander Atty for his service to the school and love for the students. We continue to pray for his health. The Board was also very grateful to Abbot Sergius of the Monastery for stepping in and handling the job of Interim Dean so well.
  • Metropolitan Tikhon, as president of all three OCA Seminaries, emphasized that the seminaries need to continue to find ways to work together on common issues, while each has its own distinctive ethos and attractions. He applauded plans for representatives of the boards of Saint Tikhon’s and Saint Vladimir’s to have a joint meeting this summer in Cleveland (home to both Board chairs, Michael Herzak of STS and Alex Machaskee of SVS.) The seminaries will have a joint celebration of their anniversaries at the Chancery in Syosset on Saturday, September 28, 2013.
  • The OCA will organize a campaign this Fall for the support of seminaries by promoting the 1% plan passed at the 2011 All-American Council. The Deans of the three seminaries (SVS, STS and Saint Herman’s) have agreed to issue a joint letter asking parishes to include at least 1% of their regular annual budget toward educating the seminarians who will serve our parishes and plant new missions in the years and decades to come. Individuals are very generous already, and many parishes give more than 1% (for a parish with annual income of $100,000 that’s $1,000 per year). But the more parishes take this on, the less the seminaries will be burdened with having to constantly fund raise.
  • At commencement on Saturday, the 75th anniversary year of the founding of the seminary:
    • Bishop Michael (Rector), who just returned the day before from pilgrimage to the Holy Land, remarked on the poor weather as we sat under blowing tents but said this is a reminder we are not to be “fair weather Christians.” In difficult circumstances we are to be “the first to forgive, the first to sacrifice, the first to love.”
    • The Valedictorian was also the first woman MDiv student at Saint Tikhon’s, Simona Irime. In her address she quoted Saint Ignaty Brianchaninov, who said that to live as Christians we need to shape our thoughts, feeling and actions according to the example we have in Jesus.
    • Paul Chernay was given an honorary doctorate for his decades of service as a benefactor and trustee of Saint Tikhon’s.
    • Archpriest Daniel Donlick gave the commencement address, based on his more than fifty years of association with the seminary as student, teacher, dean and trustee. He spoke movingly of the OCA’s vision and the elation he experienced at when the Tomos of Autocephaly was given to the OCA in the monastery church in 1970. He noted that the graduates will face many uncertainties in their future lives as servants of Christ, “But have no fear. Remember the Lord’s words, ‘I will be with you even until the close of the age.’ What a privilege and joy it is to serve the Lord.”
    • Archbishop Justinian, representing Patriarch Kirill of Moscow, presented an icon of the Kazan Mother of God, to remind seminarians of Saint Raphael, one of the founders of Saint Tikhon’s Monastery in 1905 and who before coming to America was a teacher at the Kazan Academy that specialized in mission. “Mission must be at the heart of the seminary’s vocation,” he said, “And nothing is more important than that: mission among our own people, and mission among those in North America who have still to hear the message of Christ.”
    • At the graduation dinner held at Saint Michael’s hall in Jermyn each graduating student spoke briefly about their years at Saint Tikhon’s. Some of the themes that came up repeatedly included gratitude for the dean, faculty, staff and fellow students; the personal examples they saw in others made a huge difference to them, especially in times of difficulties; the importance of friendships and mutual support.
    • In closing, Metropolitan Tikhon remarked that we often ask in our prayers to do God’s will but, in reality, as an elder once told him, what we really need to do is ask God’s help to do our will. We have to make choices—and often the choice is between two good and godly alternatives. But in making choices and committing ourselves to a particular course of action, we ask God to help us accomplish what we have chosen to do for His sake, and to persevere with boldness, gratitude and joy.
  • The Saint Tikhon’s Century Association has been supporting the seminary for 42 years. On Sunday afternoon they sponsored “Hospitality a la Russe,” at the parish hall of Saint John’s Cathedral in Mayfield, with Russian food, singing and children’s folk-dancing. Metropolitan Tikhon, Archbishop Benjamin, Bishop Melchisedek, Bishop Michael and Bishop Mark were present for the festivities, MC’d by Father Joseph Martin.

A photo gallery can be viewed on the OCA web site and OCA Facebook page.