Becoming a Healing Presence
Director of Field Education and Adjunct Professor of Pastoral Theology Dr. Albert Rossi has been a quiet, steady presence at St. Vladimir's Seminary for twenty years. Yet much of his work has also been done in venues around the country where he leads parish and youth retreats. A former Associate Professor of Psychology at Pace University and a licensed clinical psychologist in the state of New York, Dr. Rossi loves his work both on and off campus, and when he is not speaking in a classroom or at a retreat, he is preparing another podcast for Ancient Faith Radio on "Becoming a Healing Presence."
"Orthodox Christians as healers" is the theme that runs through all of Dr. Rossi's work. "I give about twelve retreats each year," notes Prof. Rossi. "In September 2013, for instance, Assistant Professor of Pastoral Theology The Rev. Dr. Nicholas Solak and I led an all-day retreat on Conflict Resolution for the Metropolitan Council of the Orthodox Church in America (OCA). Three bishops, the OCA's chancellor, and many of the Council members attended." The seminar was an abbreviated version of the class he and Fr. Nick taught during their 2013 SVOTS summer workshop on the same topic.
As is typical for Dr. Rossi, he broke out of the formal lecture format during the Metropolitan Council retreat, allowing for extensive interaction through group discussion. Attendees discussed several guiding principles and Orthodox theological perspectives on resolving conflict. "They talked in a serious and transparent way," notes Dr. Rossi. "Afterwards, the participants expressed much gratitude for the retreat, specifically mentioning the focus on inner stillness, which they felt would be most useful for them in their Council deliberations.
"I am heartened by the interaction of people at these retreats," he adds. "I learn from them! Those who come want to interact with one another, and grow closer to Christ—it's an encouragement to me."
While soft spoken, Dr. Rossi doesn't shy away from difficult topics. In addition to specializing in conflict resolution, he also leads retreats on the theme "From Pornography to Purity," such as the recent September pan-Orthodox gathering in Lima, Ohio hosted by St. Stephen the First Martyr Orthodox Mission (pastored by SVOTS alumnus The Very Rev. Mark Hodges). "It was a fine group of people," says Prof. Rossi, "and we engaged in a great deal of discussion. My accent was on solutions, but first it was important for us to have a clear notion of right and wrong, and to understand that the use of pornography really does diminish the viewer's ability to relate and to love."
Addictions are real, emphasizes Dr. Rossi, and healing can only begin when the addict establishes accountability and transparency. As a positive outgrowth of the September retreat, St. Stephen will be hosting a support group for people struggling with sexual addictions.
A former member of a Roman Catholic religious order who later joined the Orthodox Church and raised a family, Dr. Rossi has a keen appreciation for the struggles of Orthodox Christians and communities, whether in a seminary setting or in the local parish. "St. Vladimir's isn't a citadel," he notes. "Whether we live in Crestwood, NY or Lima, OH, our need for spiritual health and healing is the same."
Dr. Rossi's 2013 summer course, Pastoral Counseling; Conflict Resolution Skills