28–29 September 2012 • Off–Campus Event • Dn. James Parnell
Editor's Note: On Friday, September 28, 2012, a van load of third–year students from St. Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary (SVOTS) traveled to the campus of Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology in Brookline, MA, to participate in the annual Orthodox Interseminary Retreat. This year's speaker, The Very Rev. Dr. Irenaeus (Matthew C.) Steenberg , is the founder of Saints Cyril & Athanasius of Alexandria Institute for Orthodox Studies  in San Francisco, CA.
The motivation behind the retreat, which is planned by Holy Cross Dean of Students Dn. Nicholas V. Belcher (SVOTS '05), is to bring seniors from the region's Orthodox seminaries together, including St. Vladimir’s and Holy Cross, as well as St. Tikhon's Orthodox Theological Seminary in South Canaan, PA, and Holy Trinity Orthodox Seminary in Jordanville, NY.
"It's a chance to begin to build relationships," explained SVOTS Director of Field Education, The Rev. Dr. David Mezynski. Deacon James Parnell, president of the SVOTS Student Council, reflected upon his participation in the retreat and its significance.
"Formation" is a big part of our life at seminary. We're bombarded with this idea from day one at St. Vladimir's, but that's often seen as "growing, and changing, becoming, or being molded," and those sorts of transitional ideas. It obviously assumes a certain degree of growing self-knowledge and honesty as part of a serious self–reflection. Yet, at the same time, the stresses of seminary life can mean that there is very little time for reflection, that is, time set aside for reflection on what we've done, who we are, and where we'll be going. To be honest, I was not initially excited about spending a weekend at a "retreat." It sounded like just "one more thing," when I had a ton of assignments due and a deep desire to spend some time with my family after a busy couple of weeks.
Yet having participated in it, I am so grateful that I attended the retreat at Holy Cross. Far from congratulating us and giving us applause, Fr. Irinei (Steenberg) gave us, through his talks, a real honest look at how our life would change next year. It gave us a lot to reflect on, and the best part: we were given the chance—the time—to reflect on our journeys at seminary and our future lives as pastors outside of seminary, which will come in just a few short months.
We also had the opportunity share our stories, fears, joys and tears with other seminarians from Holy Cross, St. Tikhon's, and Holy Trinity, and begin to develop some real friendships that will hopefully continue throughout our pastoral ministry all over the United States. I sincerely hope that events like these will continue, and I can't thank the seminary enough for making it mandatory!