A Conversation with Mat. Amy Bozeman (Fr. David, SVOTS 2012)

Virginia Nieuwsma

The Bozeman familyThe Bozeman familyIn late October of 2015, Matushka Amy Bozeman returned to St. Vladimir's to present a mini workshop on "Expectations and Self-Care." She and Fr. David (SVOTS 2012) serve St. Nektarios Orthodox Mission in Waxahachie, TX, founded in 2012. Their mission was recently awarded a planting grant by the Orthodox Church in America.

As an experienced labor and delivery nurse, an educator, a mother, a doula, a writer and editor, Mat. Amy wears many hats, but she explains that she "spends a lot of time thinking on her role as a new Matushka." As such, she graciously opened up a slot in her busy itinerary to be interviewed for Svots.edu about what St. Vladimir's has meant and continues to mean to her and Fr. David, and what advice she would offer to today's seminarians and their wives.

Mat. Amy, how did you first respond to seminary upon arrival?

Before Fr. David and I went to seminary, a good friend who had gone to SVS before us, had given us the great advice of "Don't have any expectations of your seminary experience!" I've learned that many of our disappointments in life are often related to our own failed expectations, so our difficulties can be of our own making. It seems that people post-SVS tend to either romanticize or vilify their seminary experiences; this is often based on how their expectations were fulfilled, either positively or negatively. Often one's experiences are formed by one's expectations and whether they succeed or fail. So abandoning unrealistic expectations before seminary was great advice and something I really tried to do.

What adjustments did you make while you were here?

What worked for our situation was to set aside expectations of the school and people, and be open to what God had for us. St. Vladimir's is first and foremost a school—an academic institution—and we tried to remember that while experiencing a lot of grace and meeting many amazing people in the process. What was really difficult was meeting so many wonderful people and not having enough time to hang out with them! (Laughter)

I quickly realized that I wasn't going to be able to get in on everything that was going on. Having a full time night job as a labor and delivery nurse during our first year was often hard because I felt like I was missing out on the community life. Living in a tiny apartment and working so much, combined with so many expectations of SVS community life, led me to feeling very dissapointed at the time.

Our second year improved when I made some job schedule adjustments and we were able to move up to Lakeside apartments. More importantly, I started to really listen to some wise counsel from my father confessor: I allowed myself to miss things and gave myself permission not to participate in everything. Good boundaries also became very important—which became such a valuable life lesson for me. I now realize all these life lessons we learned at SVS are so, so important in parish life!

Ultimately, our whole family loved the time at seminary. It's not the property or buildings that make the seminary, it's the amazing people. There's so much joy, sorrow, frustration, etc., contained in those three years. My husband says it was the "best three years of his life." My husband felt very inspired at St. Vladimir's. The time is very compressed and you're being very intentional, living more in the present, and our relationships and friendships during those years continue on today.

Tell us about life after seminary!

In a brand new mission parish, I quickly realized that while a priest's job is very specific, the Matushka's role is non-specific, and is individualized. All Matushki are different and are able to contribute to the parish in different ways. I've learned that I will always need to be flexible as our parish grows, especially because our mission plans to do a lot! Really, our parish wants my presence—they want me around. I feel very loved! The difficulty lies in my work schedule. I can't always be there, so again, setting expectations and boundaries are still playing a big role in our lives. I also have mourned the loss of anonymity, since once you are a priest's wife you really lose that. Your last chance to "worship anonymously" is at seminary. That can be difficult to adjust to for not only the Matushka, but also the priest's children.

The last three years have found me adjusting my work schedule and commute so that it works not only for my family and our finances but also for our parish community. It is a big balancing act! Communication of expectations with the parish is vital and if I hadn't worked through these things at seminary, I wouldn't have been as prepared.

What boundaries have you needed, now that you are serving in a parish?

Father David and I are careful about discussing church issues in our home and Fr. David tells me about problems only on a "need to know" basis. He leaves out the parish council details! (Laughter) And I've learned an invaluable response to the numerous questions our parishioners ask: "Ask Father!"

In parish life you don't have all the resources that you have at seminary, such as all the close friendships and wisdom. If asked, I always encourage seminarians to nourish their relationships while here and after graduation, because they will often need these friends and the seminary network long after leaving!