Seminarians Speak

The Way of a Pilgrim

Author: 
Abraam Mikhail

Abraam with Fr. John Behr, Dean (left), and Bishop SurielAbraam with Fr. John Behr, Dean (left), and Bishop SurielIf you asked me about seminary two years ago, I would have replied that it wasn't even on my mind. I was tucked away on the other side of the world, 16,500 kilometers away (yes, we use the metric system in Australia!). I had just finished my physical therapy degree and accepted employment in a private practice. I was set in a comfortable workplace, reporting to honest bosses, and enjoying a supportive environment such as any new graduate would dream of. I was ready to begin my career.

Then everything changed. His Grace Bishop Suriel, dean of St. Athanasius Coptic Orthodox Theological College (SACOTC) and bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Diocese of Melbourne, commissioned me to come to St. Vladimir’s to study towards a Master of Arts degree. Eight months later, I landed in New York and began the process of making St. Vladimir’s my second home, and the adventure began. I’m hoping to complete a Master of Theology here at St. Vladimir’s before pursuing doctoral studies. God willing, when I return home, I will work as a lecturer at SACOTC.

I certainly stand out at St. Vladimir's, with my Australian accent and vocabulary, and my need of spellcheck for words like “colour” and “centre.” (Sometimes I deliberately spell them this way, on my papers!) What I've found, however, is that I’m not the only one with an unusual background. I've discovered that almost everybody here has a story, a unique experience to share, something inspiring to say. I’ve kept a careful record of it all, and my journal is full of what I'm learning and experiencing. So many comments and observations have slipped off the tips of people’s tongues here, and have triggered days of subsequent reflection for me. Little do they know how their words have echoed in my mind, and stayed with me.

While the whole experience of moving to New York has been an adventure, and living away from home has taught me many things, it is truly the people at St. Vladimir's who have made the experience most memorable. Living in this like-minded community, I've been amongst people who have committed their lives to the message of the Gospel. My professors and fellow seminarians alike have given me a new perspective on life, and even the everyday happenings on campus are shaping and sharpening me.

In the classroom, the pressures of academic work have stretched me and the required reading has left me wanting more. Perhaps the most valuable skills I’ve learnt have been methodological. We’ve been taught how to read the Fathers, how to prepare a spiritual reflection on a Biblical text, and how to analyse primary historical documents. I also took a course in Hebrew, which has opened up possibilities of tasting the beauty of the Old Testament in a new way I never knew was possible. This is the real value in formal theological study. It’s not so much the material I’ve learnt; rather, it’s the tools I’ve been given, and will use for the rest of life, to grow in my faith, as I walk the pilgrim’s road to the kingdom of heaven.

Since I left home in August last year, I have seen God’s hand at work in my life in a far clearer way than ever before. He’s arranged everything, from the simplest of things as my circle of friends, to the numerous travel arrangements. He's provided academic and spiritual nourishment, and even finances, and He’s taken care of my every need. It’s been the journey of a lifetime. I am like the sojourning pilgrim of Russia, travelling where the Lord leads, not knowing the way but holding a steady Hand, trusting in His wisdom and growing in His love.

I’ve been blessed with an opportunity I would not have thought to choose for myself, and I am deeply thankful. Glory to be God in all things! 

Read about St. Vladimir's relationship with Bishop Suriel and the St. Athanasius Coptic Orthodox Theological College. 

Abraam Mikhail is a first year Coptic student in the Master of Arts Program. He hails from Melbourne, Australia. This summer he was invited by Bishop Suriel to attend a conference in Egypt with His Holiness Pope Tawadros II, 118th Pope of the Coptic Orthodox Church and Patriarch of the See of St. Mark. He visited the Monasteries of St. Antony the Great and St. Paul of Thebes in the Red Sea, as well as that of St. Pakhomius, near Luxor (Thebes). St. Pakhomius was the father of cenobitic monasticism. Abraam was amazed to see the remains of Ancient Egyptian temples — the Karnak Temple and Temple of Luxor — that have been standing tall for thousands of years.

In his leisure time, Abraam enjoys making phone calls back home to Australia, and maintains a patristics blog. He hasn't posted anything all semester because he was busy doing the required reading for the Patristics survey course and the Origen class; hopefully things will change over the next few weeks!

Previous Seminarians Speak articles:

Title Authorsort icon Date
A Unique Orthodox Community Experience Dn. Shiryl Mathai March 10, 2014
The Way of a Pilgrim Abraam Mikhail June 22, 2015
"I was in prison, and you visited me." (Matt 25:37) Adam Horstman March 14, 2011
"It's Worth It": Reflection on "Ed Day" Andrew Boyd October 29, 2010
Oregon and New York, Farm and Seminary Ashli Moore October 23, 2013
The Road to Hospital Chaplaincy Beryl Knudsen February 4, 2014
How Many are Your Works, O Lord! Bogdan Neacsiu December 5, 2013
Bless These Waters: Theophany at SVOTS David Wooten January 14, 2011
What I Did This Summer Dn. Theodor Svane September 23, 2014
The Festival of Young Preachers, 2014 Fr. Gabreil Alemayehu February 14, 2014
St. Vladimir’s Seminary and the Upward Call Fr. Lucas Rice July 19, 2010
To Lead, We Must Learn How to Serve Fr. Mark Vair February 10, 2015
Our Common Love Gabrielle Kushlan March 19, 2013
A Life in Christ Under Guard Harrison Basil Russin September 25, 2012
Restoring the Western Rite Ian Abodeely August 14, 2014
We Are Being Formed Daily Jabra Tannous November 26, 2012
"I (used to) Play in a Rock Band" Jamey Bozeman September 16, 2010
The Saints John Mikitish December 16, 2014
The Vocation of Fatherhood Joshua Trant April 2, 2014
"Delicately Perched": An Armenian Student's End-of-year Insights Kathryn Ashbahian May 7, 2014
Mirror, Mirror on the Wall... Lijin Raju November 19, 2014
For a Monastic, Seminary Life Seems "Ideal" Monk James March 13, 2012
In Pursuit of a Focusing of the Faith Nikita Andrejev March 16, 2015
"Glory be to Thee who hast shown us the light..." Rami Dahdal May 14, 2015
Serving with His Beatitude Ignatius IV, Patriarch of Antioch Richard Ajalat October 29, 2012
Reflections on a New Academic Year Sandro Margheritino September 24, 2013
Feasting before the Fast, Thanksgiving at SVOTS Sarah Bracey-Johnson November 22, 2010
Marching Peaceably, Praying Mightily Seminarian Dn. David Wooten January 26, 2012
Embracing All Who Suffer Loss: Seminarians Train for Post-Abortion Counseling Seminarian Dn. David Wooten March 8, 2012
Transfiguration Seraphim Long October 16, 2014
Sowing Seeds, Reaping Blessings: A Mission Trip to Kenya Shawn Thomas May 21, 2015
At the National Festival of Young Preachers Tristan Gall January 9, 2015
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