Getting to Know Dn Peter Jared Ries


In this student spotlight interview, we get to know Dn Peter Jared Ries (M.Div. ‘24). Before arriving at St Vladimir’s Seminary, Dn Peter Ries spent several years working in mental health case management. Here at Seminary, he has become an integral part of the community, serving as Student Sacristan and organizing periodic “Porch Nights” for fellow seminarians to gather on the Germack porch to talk, laugh, and sing songs together. We sat down with him in October 2023 for this candid conversation on his experience as an M.Div. student at St Vladimir’s Seminary.

Dn Peter, please tell us a bit about your background.

I’m from Cleveland, OH, and for over fifteen years I have been a member of St Innocent Orthodox Church (OCA, Diocese of the Midwest). I attained a degree in psychology from Cleveland State University in 2015, and then I spent several years working in mental health case management. In this field, I assisted and treated individuals with severe mental health diagnoses, primarily those with schizoaffective and bipolar disorders. I ultimately found myself on the path to seminary, and this Midwestern boy came to the Big Apple in the Summer of 2021. My wife, Sophie, and I met very early in my seminary journey, as she is from the area, and we were married in October of 2022. We are happily living here on campus, in our cozy apartment surrounded by friends and faith. Sophie is a professionally trained artist specializing in illustration and design.

How do you feel your educational/professional background prepared you for  seminary? 

When you work in the field of mental health, you encounter Christ very quickly and very  bluntly. I witnessed incredibly raw and incredibly human moments during my time, and  crisis was a large element of my daily workload. But most importantly, I learned in that  field that service to those around you was paramount to sharing the Gospel. If you go out and preach to a community, but you do not serve them, it will be a hollow message falling on rightfully deaf ears. In something as secular as the social work field, I was still so poignantly aware of God’s operation in my clients’ lives, not through proselytizing them but rather through serving their needs in love.  


Why did you choose St Vladimir's Seminary? 

I knew early on that St Vladimir’s was my choice for seminary. Archbishop Paul, of blessed memory, was very involved in my discernment process, and he was helpful in pointing me to the place where I would benefit the most on my personal journey of spiritual and professional formation. Fr Alessandro Margheritino, an alumnus of this seminary and the current Secretary of the OCA, was my parish priest for much of my childhood, and he taught me about the resources St Vladimir’s Seminary has to offer: their CPE program, the caliber of their faculty, and the advantage that all us students are learning and struggling in a very tight, very intentional community, together. Campus life was a big draw for me, and I am grateful that Sophie and I were able to start our marriage here.

What is your year of study and degree program, and what have been some particularly impactful experiences during your time at the Seminary? 

I am a 3rd-year M.Div. candidate, so I am nearing the end of my seminary adventure. An  easy top answer to this question is my marriage to Sophie. We were able to have it at her home parish in New Jersey, attended by many seminarians, faculty, and staff.  Sophie and I have always felt very cared for by the married faculty and students, and it has been so useful to be able to model their behavior as Sophie and I learn and grow together. Another memorable event was my recent ordination to the Holy Diaconate. It is a humbling obedience, and it was such a blessing to take on this responsibility while standing alongside my colleagues, mentors, and friends. 


What are some ways you hope to grow during your last year at seminary? 

An exciting aspect of the last year’s curriculum here is a tightened focus on pastoral  formation. I am taking homiletics, pastoral theology, and am fulfilling an internship at one of the local parishes. Combined with the spiritual formation that is baked into the liturgical schedule and community life here on campus, I want to take this education and have it further develop my appreciation and desire for service. We are formed into servants here, to become shepherds of souls, and I want to grow into that role more fully.

When you contemplate the phrase "You are the light of the world," how do you hope  to fulfill this directive in your own life and ministry? 

Calling back to my pastoral theology course, I am reminded of a recent point made by the professor of that class, Fr Eric Tosi. He made mention of the Greek translation of the word apostolos. It means, quite literally, one who is sent forth, and I think that this is an important distinction to make when we talk about the Church as being Apostolic. Though this term very well calls to mind the fact that our tradition is handed down from Christ to the Apostles and carried through to today, we cannot forget that this tradition is, by design, meant to be taken out into the world. We are formed here so that we may go out there. There is not meant to be a separation between the Kingdom of God and creation, and so just as light permeates, we too must permeate the world by bearing witness to the light of Christ. 


How can St Vladimir's Seminary community members pray for you and your family? 

With this sending forth comes a level of uncertainty. Sophie and I do not quite yet know  exactly where God will be sending us to do this work. It is a career path that demands  one’s time and one’s patience, and obedience to the will of God. But that does not make it unique from the work God asks of all of us. So please, pray for me to develop my patience, and my love for the Church, and please pray that Sophie and I continue to grow in our marriage as we take these next steps. Please pray that I garner humility and a further appreciation of service so that I might be a good and faithful servant to the community and to Christ.

What would you like to say to supporters of the Seminary?

My time here is made possible by those who support this seminary, full stop. Without them, I would have never been able to come out here, I would have never had the opportunity to be formed by God through this institution. If you want to look at it in a  schmaltzy way, without them I would have never found myself anywhere near New  Jersey, a place where I found a beautiful and faithful woman to go on this journey with me. To those who support this seminary: thank you. Thank you for prioritizing the mission of the Church, and for helping educate the future of Orthodoxy in America and abroad. Thank you for taking the Lord’s directive seriously, and truly being a light to the world.