Wife of New Seminarian Reflects on “Roaring Good Time”

Destinie Winn, wife of Seminarian Jarod Winn

The Winn family (photo: Amy Clemons)The Winn family (photo: Amy Clemons)As my family and I plan the details of our cross-country journey to St. Vladimir’s Seminary for Fall Semester 2017, I’m coming to grips with this monumental change in our lives. We are leaving behind our community, our beloved parish, our extended families, and our home. There is so much unknown ahead!

However, as I sat in the beautiful banquet hall at the Seminary’s recent “Roaring 20s” fundraiser and listened to the stories of former seminarians—faithful men and women who had come out of St. Vladimir’s in years past—my heart was calm. It was as if they were speaking directly to me. I felt encouraged, knowing these people had already walked the path my husband and I were about to take. Also of great benefit to me was realizing that other people on different paths of life were there, eager to support seminarian and clergy families. That special evening, hosted by St. Luke’s Church in Garden Grove, California, and coordinated by St. Vlad’s alumni, was one I will not soon forget—and one I was so glad I had decided to attend….

As a newish mom to a one-year-old little girl, I had soon discovered that leaving the house without a baby is a rare occasion. So when I got word about the “Roaring 20’s” fundraiser, I leaped for joy and secured my trusty sitters: Grandma and Grandpa. Just the thought of a special night out with “my fella” made me giddy, but a themed party with a dress code suggestion? I was so there! 

Upon arrival, we were greeted by glamorous, accessorized ladies who kindly directed us to the hidden-out-of-sight cocktail hour with a variety of delicacies. I felt as if we were being ushered into a secret speakeasy, filled with happy people adorned in 1920s fashion—and yummy treats!

After checking in with Matushka Robyn Hatrak, who handles Special Events for the Seminary, and whom we had met during our recent visit to the seminary campus, I turned around and saw Fr. Chad Hatfield walking towards me at the check-in booth. I wondered if this President of the Seminary was going to remember me, since our previous meeting had been so brief. As I approached him, I caught his eye and was met with a smile. Though I wasn’t convinced by his smile that he had recognized me, I greeted him by asking for his blessing, and as he gave it, I realized that he had, in fact, recognized me. His warm reception made me feel as if I had known him longer than I actually had: a special moment indeed.

Then, we all were invited into the banquet hall. The real party was about to begin! We were spoiled (lavishly!) by a special photo booth station, silhouette artists, and a live band, as the magical atmosphere transported us back to the 1920s.

Looking around the room, I could see exquisitely set tables, twinkling lights, and dashes of black and gold shimmering all around. People whom I did not recognize surrounded me and made me pause in awe, as I realized how many people love and support St. Vladimir’s Seminary. I realized this group (all strangers to me) represented the little-known faithful who wish to support the mission of the Seminary and the Church. There was unspoken comfort and unity amongst the guests, which though hard to describe made me feel like I was meeting old friends.

Just before dinner was served, Fr. Chad took an opportunity to honor the spouses of St. Vladimir’s alumni and even the spouses of current seminarians. When I saw the spouses of the alumni stand, and I heard the loving applause of the crowd, I realized that people genuinely recognized the sacrifice, not only of the seminarians but also of people like me—a future seminarian’s wife. My eyes immediately filled with tears, as I comprehended their understanding. They knew, they could see, without my—or any pastor or clergy wife—having to tell them, the cross a clergy family is called to bear. I felt very loved within that room. 

While a band played in the background, our table was dismissed to get food. When we returned, we began to engage in conversation with one of the night’s speakers, St. Vlad’s Alumnus Greg Abdalah. You would expect us to have spent our time talking about the Seminary, life’s big issues, or perhaps theology, or some other deep and lofty topic; in reality, we merely received good advice from Greg concerning the best places to eat around Yonkers! I left our table with very little doubt that I would be able to find a delicious deli or pub once we landed at the Seminary; I found this to be an invaluable and important part of becoming a “local”!

As my “Roaring 20s” experience came to a close, I felt peace, contentment, and assurance that my husband Jarod and I are already part of an extended family keenly aware of the challenge before us, and supportive of us in our journey. For me, a 21st-century Orthodox Christian and soon-to-be seminarian wife, traveling back to the 1920s that night was one of the best things I ever did!