Romanian Student Discovers New Horizons at St. Vladimir's

Author: 
Alexandru Popovici

I first encountered St. Vladimir's Seminary early in 2013, when a partnership was forming between the Faculty of Orthodox Theology in Bucharest, St. Vladimir's Seminary, and the Romanian Orthodox Archdiocese in the Americas (ROAA). While browsing Svots.edu, I learned about the Seminary's history, mission, and community life. I marveled at the photos of Hierarchical Liturgies served in Three Hierarchs Chapel and thought about applying for the Master's program, but attending seemed like an impossible dream.

Then came the critical encouragement that was needed. Professor Remus Rus of the Faculty of Orthodox Theology had served for a year as a visiting St. Vladimir's professor. He told me about his experience at St. Vladimir's, emphasizing that the Seminary isn't merely an educational institution teaching Orthodoxy, but also a spiritual center and community where professors, seminarians, and their families study, pray, and live side by side. He noted that this enriches the experiences of the faith immensely. He also said that studying at St. Vladimir's would better prepare me to serve the Orthodox Church and face the challenges that have been brought to us by secular society.

Up to this point, studying abroad had never been a priority for me. Three years ago, my whole life was centered around my studies in Orthodox Theology at the Faculty in Bucharest, where I was a student and also held a full time position as a network administrator and webmaster. I was planning to get married after graduation and to continue my activity within the faculty there. Yet God had bigger plans for me, of which I was not aware.

I decided to connect with Fr. Daniel Ene, Secretary of ROAA. He told me that my dream to study at St. Vladimir's might actually be a possibility, thanks to the agreement signed between the Archdiocese and the Seminary. Father Daniel encouraged me to apply to SVOTS, and to come for a visit.

During this first journey to America, I spent time on campus, talking with seminarians, professors and staff. I attended chapel services, and sat in on classes taught by the Very Reverend Dr. Chad Hatfield and Professor Paul Meyendorff. Studying at St. Vladimir's became my goal; I decided to finish my courses in Romania and apply to SVOTS.

During a subsequent visit to the United States, His Eminence Archbishop Nicolae of ROAA gave me his hierarchical blessing to apply for a Master Degree. Furthermore, the Archbishop helped me to fund my studies. So it was that on September 1, 2014, I began the Master of Arts program at SVOTS. What an amazing time that was! As a teenager, during the first year of my Romanian theological studies, I had read books by former St. Vladimir's deans—Great Lent, by Fr. Alexander Schmemann, and Byzantine Theology, by Fr. John Meyendorff—and learned about the liturgical renewal they promoted. It never crossed my mind that within ten years, I would become a seminarian at the same school where Fr. Alexander and Fr. John had served for many years!

Now, halfway through the last semester of my studies, I give thanks and praise to God for guiding me onto this path. Being a seminarian at St. Vladimir's has enabled me to understand the Orthodox faith from a deeper perspective. It has helped me not only to enrich my theological knowledge and to value my faith even more, but to learn and to experience new things. I discovered wider horizons through the liturgical life, the discipline of study, participating in community service,  and interaction with new people from different cultures and traditions. After two years, St. Vladimir's Seminary is home.

I would like to give thanks to Archbishop Nicolae for his support and prayers, to Fr. Chad Hatfield for his guidance and care, and to Fr. Daniel Ene for his help. Last, but not least, I want to thank all those who support and donate to St. Vladimir's Seminary. Without their help, I and other international students would have not been able to study Orthodox theology on American soil.

Alex is a second year M.A. student from Bucharest, Romania. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Orthodox Theology and a Master’s Degree in Systematics, both granted by the University of Bucharest, Romania. Before coming to the United States, he was a member of the Board of the Faculty of Orthodox Theology in Bucharest. In his words, he is "passionate about technology, traveling, reading, and cooking."

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