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« An academic question, part 2 | Main | Counseling note, little and bright »


Being the simpleton that I am, I answer the questions front and center...

1. It is not enough to say that he should have been through the wringer - but he should have learned from that experience as well....
2.VERY specific. The OCA are (is) not the Antiochians!God Bless the Carps and the Ants - truth even in Uniate form prevails.
3.This is a must (to be able to experience many different settings)..we each have our own calling/vocation and some may find a vocation elsewhere other than the priesthood.
4.That depends. How much do you wish to bring forth the Gospel to the masses? Let it rest on each priest's shoulders...
5.Should a seminarian be able to graduate if he is academically successful, but has "poor social skills"? - Do you not speak of maturity in this case? May it suggest that one is a learned skill? Or should it all ready be a part of the skillset of the priest that has sought the priesthood?
6.Degrees do matter if you have not all ready so studied God's Word that training should complete (not start) to encompass God's Word and the contemporary versus the ageless adage that there is nothing new under the sun. All priests that apply to seminary should have this understanding - that the more society changes the more it remains the same...greed, lust, gluttony, etc...they have all been given new clothes, but their sins are a old as the our creation...
7.Contemporary issues and keeping abreast is paramount. How else shall priests shine the ageless inequities of mankind in sharp contrast to God's Word if they are not abreast? 'Prophetic' critique is only valuable to those that understand Biblical prophesy...which chalks up to very fewin the Orthodox Church...
8. Is it valid for Orthodox seminary education to operate by the ethical categories of Western academics in its teaching of "moral theology" or "applied dognmatics"? If reports an statistics on the Orthodox ring true in terms of converts to the Church - this is a given - but only to show how the Orrthodox Church is in stark contrast to popular 'church' rhetorics!
9.Very. Welcome to the priesthood!
10. A wise semanarian will do such. One who has really poured over this decision. Otherwise, i believe them to be rash men. A 'called' semanarian will do such. The question should be why have you not counted the cost - this is a commandement from God. Count the costs before you undertake the action....very simple!

Dear Fr. Jonathan:

Only a comment on item 5 - "social skills" - I am not sure the "social skills" you mention such as leadership or gregariousness are of much value. But I think

As an attorney, I've seen many of my colleagues who are gifted academically, but can't talk to clients with sympathy, understanding, and frankness, and cannot deal well with the inevitable conflict in my profession.

Similarly, there ARE social skills that are needed that are more valuable than academic prowess in the priesthood. I would rank empathy, active listening skills, ability to develop rapport leading to meaningful dialog with individuals and small groups, and conflict resolution skills much higher than gregariousness or leadership.

Although it is not a new problem, bishops have had to face up to the problems that newly ordained seminary graduates seem to regularly experience during their first and/or second parish assignment because they would often end up leaving their vocations. The ideal would be that cathedrals and/or large parishes could have them attached and give them some experience before giving them a parish assignment. Sometimes that can happen, but most of time it cannot be practically done. Our diocese has an aggressive mentorship program for newly ordained seminary graduates so they don't have to sink or swim during their first parish assignment on their own. Either a nearby Archpriest, Dean, or the Chancellor will periodically meet with them for as long as it is necessary. It has saved a lot of vocations that way. People don't fully realize the ongoing struggles that seminary faculty as well their seminarians have to suffer through as they try to come to grips with the ideals and expectations that are laid upon them as they face the limitations and realities of their institutional communities. I have had many extended conversations with faculty from various Orthodox seminaries and each of them have shared (privately) how they deal with the contradictions. They are often the first ones to recognize seminarians who are not suited for academic studies or for holy orders or both. They are expected to work with what they are given and they do, but they are not miracle workers and they know they can't be. Still, they struggle with some depression over it for a time until they accept the situation as it stands and live with it. They give generously of their time and talent to their seminary communities, but there is just so much that they can give. I have also had many extended private conversations with graduates of various Orthodox seminaries who(they)chose not to enter any holy orders. They told me, in hindsight, they were seeking and found that their seminary education was a kind of extended catechumate that they felt they needed and didn't receive from their own catechumate. During the latter 20th Century, the Orthodox Church in North America has been on an extended learning curve with diaconate formation programs. They differ a bit and sometimes seminaries have a supportive role with them as they often are associated with cathedrals and/or large parishes under diocesan auspices. This has led to a discovery and a realization that diaconate formation programs can very effectively compliment priestly formation programs that would require some seminary education. The consensus among the bishops over this is still a work in progress. I personally know priests who have very fulfilling and fruitful priesthoods, who supported themselves and their families in secular work during their diaconate formation/ordination and later, after some time, would go to the seminary for awhile so they could enter the priesthood become ordained and use those secular work skills to support their families and their parish ministry. I have not observed any deficiencies with them. As the bishops see more and more priests coming from diaconate formation programs, we will see more and more educated and experienced deacons going to the seminary for a time to finish their priestly formation. However, I foresee a hostile confrontation with the seminary accreditation establishment over this when it becomes a common practice. The old Orthodox Seminary I went to had an established tradition where they accepted anyone who wanted to come to the seminary (as long as they were literate) and they would be educated and trained to the best of their ability, so they could serve at any capacity they were able to do. That created a two track curriculum system B.Div/M.Div. for those with postsecondary education and a diploma for those who did not. However, in recent years the accreditation agency has decreed that the diploma program had to be phased out and everybody had to be in the degree program, which is the new status quo. As preseminary educated, formed/ordained, and experienced deacons start to become a more common presence in the Orthodox seminaries for shorter periods of time,I suspect that the accreditation agency will object to it and demand the deacons submission to the residential degree granting curriculum. If and when that day comes, The Church will have the opportunity to choose an alternative method of priestly formation, which may or may not include some seminary extension support. There is also an old monastery across the road from that seminary where I also spent time in monastic formation. Apart from its very early formative years, it could not handle the administration of a seminary and so the Church had to take responsibility for it. The monastery brotherhood played a supportive role in some staffing and some part-time teaching which varied a lot over time. Monasteries are not seminaries; and seminaries are not monasteries. However, this monastery brotherhood had a lot to offer the seminary community since it was trying to live the Holy Tradition and offered a full daily liturgical cycle and other liturgical services that cathedrals and large parishes can't practically do and gave the seminarians a chance to participate in the fullness of their Holy Tradition within their limited schedules; and to actually experience and learn that they could live holy lives without becoming tonsured monks and continue to live a holy life at the parish. All things are possible with Christ and His Holy Church. I have been trying to convey a contextual perspective as to why I believe that the Church must take a major responsibility for theological education and vocational formation. The Orthodox seminaries need the fullness of The Church and its Holy Tradition to help them become what God meant them to be. I and many others foresee a more actively engaged seminary faculties into non-residential theological educational and vocational formation programs and it has already begun. Many seminary faculty members, have, by their own initiative, become engaged in extension ministries with The Church and have found great fulfillment in pursuing them. I hope and pray that it will continue.

Perhaps a bit off topic but having a degree from an undergraduate institution [even an Associates degree or a recognised trade carpentry, plumbing, etc.] will help the prospective priest make a living. To expect a congregation to pay for a full-time priest is not realistic in these times and with our few numbers in relation to other denominations.

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