Monday brings hierarch, abbess, chaplains to campus

On a wintry Monday, St. Vladimir’s Seminary welcomed dozens of guests to campus: His Grace Bishop Ignatije of Branichevo, the dean of the Orthodox theological seminary in Belgrade, Serbia; Mother Christophora, the abbess of The Orthodox Monastery of the Transfiguration in Ellwood City, PA; and more than 40 others visiting for the Association of Professional Chaplains (APC) board certifications.

Hierarch visit

Bishop Ignatije met with faculty and Serbian Orthodox seminarians, and was joined by Seminary board member His Grace Bishop Irinej of the Diocese of Eastern America. Seven seminarians and a Doctor of Ministry student from the Serbian church are currently enrolled at St. Vladimir’s Seminary. The Faculty of Orthodox Theology in Belgrade has shared much in common with St. Vladimir’s Seminary over their long histories, including dozens of mutual alumni and professors.

Chaplain certifications

For the second year in a row, St. Vladimir’s Seminary campus hosted certification meetings for the Board of Chaplaincy Certification Inc. (BCCI), the national certifying body affiliated with the Association of Professional Chaplains. More than twenty-five certified chaplains of different faiths convened March 4 and 5 to assess fifteen candidates seeking to be certified as clinical health care chaplains.

Sarah Byrne-Martelli, a Board Certified Chaplain endorsed by the Antiochian Archdiocese and a Doctor of Ministry (D.Min.) student at St. Vladimir’s, chaired the event. Sarah serves as the Palliative Care Chaplain at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, MA.

“This event was an excellent way for chaplains of various denominations to visit the Seminary and to learn about the Orthodox faith," said Sarah. "The attendees remarked on the beauty of the campus and the hospitality of the SVOTS community."

Sarah added that several attendees came to Vespers at Three Hierarchs Chapel—the first time many of them had been to an Orthodox service.

Since 2012, all Master of Divinity (M.Div.) students at St Vladimir’s have been required to complete one unit of ACPE-accredited Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE). Under the directorship of Priest Adrian Budica, the Seminary’s program was expanded to offer introductory CPE sessions to all students as part of first-year prison ministry. Additionally, in becoming a satellite CPE center accredited through ACPE—the gold standard for CPE in the U.S.—the Seminary has begun offering (and will eventually require) parish-based CPE.

St. Juliana Society

On Monday evening, the Seminary’s St. Juliana Society (SJS) welcomed Mother Christophora, who spoke to women of the Seminary community about Great Lent.

“Mother Christophora shared with us that humility is knowing yourself and knowing God, and she encouraged us as women and mothers to be ourselves,” said Kh. Anna Fields, whose husband, Fr. Herman Fields, is in his third year at Seminary. “She gave us a lot of practical advice about navigating fasting and long church services for those of us with young children.”

“Her talk was refreshing…” added Seminarian Asha Mathai, who said Mother Christophora reminded priest wives and mothers not to feel guilty if they can’t follow the practices of a fast as strictly as others. “She reminded us that these practices were created by single young monastics in the desert. She told us of her mother who couldn't prostrate after injury. She reminded her mother that her pain is her prostration.”

Mother Christophora also shared with the group that wives of clergy are the priests of their family while the husband attends to needs of his parish. While the father is away, the mother teaches a child how to cross oneself and pray. Additionally, the wife of a priest cares for her husband, who will be giving so much of himself to his parish.

The Wives’ Program on campus was formalized in 2007 to help strengthen the formation of clergy families. In 2010, the fellowship took the name of the St. Juliana Society. Women’s fellowship events and programs on campus also include women seminarians. Read more about women’s fellowship on campus and past events here.