I always thought that studying theology abroad would be a good way to understand faith from a different perspective than the one in which I was raised. Yet I had no way of knowing that God would fulfill this desire by leading me to St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary, a place thousands of miles from Romania.
Growing up in a predominantly Orthodox country like Romania, you are surrounded by tradition and likely to have the blessing of growing up as an Orthodox Christian, but it can be difficult not to take the Faith for granted. I thought that studying Orthodoxy in a place where it is not as common as it is in Romania could strengthen me and make me appreciate even more the Faith with which God has blessed me. Looking back on my journey from Romania to St. Vladimir’s, I can see how God has been working in my life to make all of this possible.
My American journey started with a phone call from a music professor whom I knew from my seminary in Bucharest. He called me hoping I could help him find theological students who were willing to be part of a choir to participate in the World Choir Games in Cincinnati, Ohio. He invited me to join the choir, and in July 2012, after six months of hard work, our choir arrived in the United States. For most of us, this was our first trip here. With the help of Fr. Daniel Ene, the secretary of the Romanian Archdiocese in the Americas, we were able to visit the Romanian parishes on the East Coast. After visiting the parishes in Philadelphia, Rochester, and Chicago, we finally stopped at St. Nicholas Romanian Orthodox Church in New York.
Father Ene told me how he had come to the United States, and how he had been accepted into the Masters program at St. Vladimir’s. I was fascinated to hear about this renowned Orthodox theological institute. To be accepted here seemed something very hard for me to accomplish, but I put everything in the hands of God.
About two months after returning to Romania, my path to St. Vladimir’s began to unfold. Father Ene informed me that there was a possibility of my being accepted as a student, since a new partnership was forming between St. Vladimir’s and the Orthodox Theological Faculty in Bucharest, where I was a student. In the spring of 2013, Fr. John Behr would visit Bucharest to sign this partnership, enabling Romanian seminarians to be accepted at St. Vladimir’s. What wonderful news!
Another obstacle remained: how to fund my study? Whatever financial aid I might receive from St. Vladimir’s, the remaining amount would still be difficult to cover. Again, God provided. While I was still dreaming of how I might study in the United States, I received a phone call from one of the parishioners at St. Nicholas Church, where I had visited the previous year. Without even knowing about my desire to study at St. Vladimir’s, he asked me to come to the United States to be the singer for his parish. The parish in New York, St. Nicholas Romanian Orthodox Church, agreed to sponsor my tuition in exchange for my service as a singer. Thus, God solved my financial problem.
Looking back, I realize that everything has happened according to God’s plan. As the Psalmist says: “How many are your works, O LORD! In wisdom you made them all” (Psalms 14:24).
Now, I find myself halfway through the first year of the Masters program at St. Vladimir’s, and I praise God for guiding me onto this path in His goodness and wisdom. As Fr. John Behr often reminds us, it is only retrospectively that we can see how God has been working in our lives. I give glory to God as I reflect on how He has cared for me all this time.
I am a first year M.A. student from Bucharest, Romania. I have studied Theology for the past 11 years, beginning with the Orthodox Theological Seminary in Bucharest and continuing with the Faculty of Orthodox Theology of the Bucharest University. I also have a Masters Degree in Systematics. Before coming to the U.S. I was President of the Cantus Domini Choir, a Romanian choral group, which participated at the World Choir Games in Cincinnati, Ohio in 2012 and at the European Choir Games in Gratz, Austria in 2013. I am passionate about music and traveling, and am interested in meeting new people and making new friends. Also, being European, I like soccer!