29 November 2012 • On–Campus • Deborah (Malacky) Belonick and Virginia H. Nieuwsma
When His Beatitude The Most Blessed Tikhon, primate of the Orthodox Church in America (OCA), made his inaugural visit to St. Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary (SVOTS) as its new President and ruling bishop on November 29th, 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 his wife, Nat and Teresa Fasciani, served up by faculty and staff. And third, His Beatitude 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 SVOTS.
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 17th All-American Council of the OCA, November 13, 2012. The Very Rev. 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 SVOTS 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, Fr. 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 Fr. 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 St. Andrew, as I’ve always identified with St. 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 St. Joseph’s Seminary in Yonkers.
Metropolitan Tikhon then presented His Eminence 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 The Very Rev. Dr. John Behr, dean, and The Very Rev. Dr. Chad Hatfield, 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 St. 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 Fr. Chad.
Other visiting dignitaries and guests included: The Rev. Monsignor Peter Vaccari, rector, St. Joseph's Seminary, with administrators and faculty from St. Joseph’s, The Rev. Matthew Ernest, director of Liturgical Formation, The Rev. Nicholas Zientarski, dean of Students and professor of Sacramental Theology; The Rev. James Massa, director of Accreditation and professor of Dogmatic Theology; The Rev. Monsignor Dennis Keane, rector, Church of the Annunciation, Crestwood; The Rev. Richard Baker, rector, St. Malachy's Church (“The Actors' Chapel”), Manhattan; The Very Rev. Yaroslav Sudick, retired rector, Holy Trinity Orthodox Church, Yonkers; and The Very Rev. Eric Tosi, secretary, OCA.
As a fitting conclusion to his first official visit to SVOTS as the OCA's metropolitan, His Beatitude served the Divine Liturgy on the following Sunday (Dec. 2). Before the celebration of the Liturgy, Metropolitan Tikhon elevated second–year seminarian Nicholas Roth to the orders of Reader and Subdeacon. After the Liturgy concluded, His Beatitude shared his eagerness to get to know and work with the seminary's leadership, faculty, staff, students and their families.