Diocesan Seminarian Graduates St. Vladimir's Seminary as Valedictorian - 05/17/08Crestwood, New York
At St. Vladimir’s Seminary, the Class of 2008 joyfully celebrated their commencement on Saturday, May 17. There were twenty-nine students graduating in five academic programs and for the first time, the ceremony included the awarding of academic hoods to the graduates. The seminarians received twelve Master of Divinity degrees, eight Master of Arts degrees in General Theology, two MAs in Religious Education, five Master of Theology degrees, and two Doctor of Ministry degrees.
His Beatitude, Metropolitan HERMAN, Primate of the Orthodox Church in America and president of the seminary, was joined by His Grace, Bishop ANTOUN, of the Diocese Miami and the Southeast of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America in handing out the degrees. Representing the Malankara (Indian) Orthodox Syrian Church was The Very Rev. Dr P.S. Samuel Cor-Episcopa.
The day began with a bright paschal Divine Liturgy, celebrated by His Beatitude, Metropolitan HERMAN. The Commencement Ceremony began with a brief prayer service of thanksgiving. Making a colorful procession, students, graduates, faculty, and trustees walked down from the chapel to a large tent on the front lawn joyfully singing, “Christ is Risen.” Proud parents, grandparents, wives, children, other family members and friends eagerly awaited them in the tent.
Fr. Michael Oleksa, a recognized expert on Alaskan missionaries, gave the keynote address. He is an alumnus of St. Vladimir’s Seminary and has spent the last 35 years in Alaska, serving as village priest, university professor, consultant on intercultural relations and communications and authoring several books on Alaska native cultures and history. Fr. Michael shared the remarkable lives of St. Herman, St. Innocent, and St. Jacob of Alaska and encouraged the graduating class to hold up these three foundational missionary saints as examples in their future ministries, emphasizing especially the need to love and learn about those you will serve. The text of his address can be read here.
Of special note for the Diocese of the West, its own native son, Subdeacon Rico Gabriel Monge, graduated summa cum laude and was the valedictorian. In his valedictory address, he built on Fr. Michael Oleksa’s theme of needing to love each other. He emphasized that we can never understand each other unless we first love one another unconditionally. Subdeacon Rico was also the recipient of the St. Basil’s award, which is given annually to students in the Master of Divinity program who rank the highest in academic achievement, one from each class year. We welcome him back to our diocese where he will be pursuing doctoral studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He is to be ordained a Deacon this summer and will be serving in Southern California.
Other Antiochian students graduating were Fr. David Lewis, Subdeacon Gregory Abdalah, and Maria Bethancourt. Fr. David and his family will be moving to Austin, TX to serve with Fr. David Barr at St. Elias Antiochian Orthodox Church under His Grace, Bishop BASIL in the Diocese of Wichita and Mid-America. Maria Bethancourt will be moving with her husband Reader Daniel (SVS ’07) to Shreveport, LA, also under Sayidna BASIL, where he will serve as a priest after his ordination this summer. Subdeacon Gregory Abdalah is planning on serving the Church in youth ministry and is currently exploring several job opportunities.
May God grant the graduates of the Class of 2008 along with their families many years and success in their future ministries!