On Saturday, May 24th, the St. Tikhon’s Seminary celebrated its 72nd Commencement, as part of a series of events that included the 110th Annual Memorial Day Weekend Pilgrimage to St. Tikhon’s Monastery on Monday, May 26th.
Graduation day began with Divine Liturgy at 9am with His Grace, Bishop Michael, Bishop of Diocese of New York and New Jersey, and Rector of St. Tikhon’s, and Bishop David of Sitka and Diocese of Alaska. Among the con-celebrants was Archpriest Chad Hatfield, Chancellor of St. Vladimir’s Seminary, who also stayed for the commencement and accompanied the St. Tikhon’s faculty for the graduation procession. Bishop David offered the homily, at which time he shared reflections on the early missionaries coming to Alaska from Russia (including those called forward before St. Herman and those with him, that refused to accept this charge!).
Following brunch, commencement was held at the Bell Tower Church following a procession from the seminary building at 1pm. Metropolitan Tikhon offered the opening prayer. Before proceeding with other portions of Commencement, Bishop Michael remembered Archpriest Alexander Atty, the previous Seminary Dean, who fell asleep in the Lord in March.
Dr. Eli Stavisky, recently given Emeritus Board Member status, received an Honorary Doctorate in Humane Letters following his thirty years of service (the longest of any trustee member to date). During this time he served as Vice-Chair of the Board since the position was created, was an integral part of the initial approach to accreditation with the Association of Theological Schools, offered dental care to students and their family members through his dental practice, and was an active liaison of the board with faculty of the school. Following his daughter’s untimely death ten years ago, he also established a scholarship in her name.
Among the fifteen graduates, 6 completed the diaconal formation program, and nine completed Master of Divinity Degrees. Diaconal graduates included: Philadelphia: David Maliniak, Michael McCartney; Endicott: John Koch; Miami: Brian D. Allen, Christian A. Doval, and Carlos Mirandos. Three were able to be present for graduation.
Those graduating with an M. Div. degree included: Deacon Edward Batchko, Dmitry Bolbot, Priest Ignatius Gauvain, Priest Moses Hibbard, Alexander Koranda, Priest Joseph Landino, Gregory Levitsky, Priest Michael Lillie, and Deacon Theophan Mackey (now Fr. Theophan following his ordination on the Feast of Ascension). Of the graduates, three were recognized with honors. Alexander Koranda and Gregory Levitsky received honors for projects in Pastoral Arts and Praxis (a digital educational video on the Divine Liturgy, and An English Translation of the Markian Capitals in the Slavonic Typikon, respectively) and Dn. Theophan Mackey for his thesis entitled: A Short History of the Ukrainian Church in America. All the graduates were graciously welcomed into the Alumni Association by its Chair, Archpriest Theodore Boback.
The Valedictorian of the 2014 class was Fr. Moses Hibbard. His address was very meaningful and hearfelt. In it he said:
"Whenever a seminarian crosses the road from seminary to monastery at St. Tikhon’s, that person is, whether consciously or not, entering into a struggle to actualize all that is being taught in the classroom. In this place, there is no room for empty philosophy, materialistic pursuits, or self-seeking pleasure. It is the Knowledge of Jesus Christ which we seek in this place. My brothers and I, as we gather here today, about to graduate from St. Tikhon’s Orthodox Theological Seminary, have hopefully begun to embrace the calling of Christ; the voluntary participation in the suffering of the world. It is our great hope upon leaving here, that of the good things we have seen and heard in this place, we will carry them to a world in desperate need of healing and proclaim the True Faith of Jesus Christ to the world."
Fr. Moses put into words a very meaningful charge to his fellow students, after having served (as well as modeling these attributes) as Student Government Chair in reactivating it after a period of dormancy.
The Commencement Speaker was Bishop Sava, recently retired Bishop of Slavonia. His Grace attended Vespers at one of the churches that the St. Tikhon’s Mission Choir attended during Great Lent. From that time on he was encouraged by Fr. Steven Voytovich, Seminary Dean, to return to St. Tikhon’s after having been part of the monastery community and a seminarian here fifty years ago. He lived through times of difficulty both in the Serbian community here in the United States in the 60’s, and in similarly in Australia. He was consecrated by the late Patriarch Pavle, and most recently served in very trying circumstances in the Croatian Diocese of Slavonia. His Grace was able to interact with many throughout the course of the weekend, and those experiencing him likewise heard repeatedly through his heartfelt address the witness of a humble servant who sought to simply follow through on what he was asked. He related the many reasons he had given the late patriarch why he should not be consecrated a bishop. On their numerous subsequent visits with each other Patriarch Pavle inquired about his well-being, and shared with Bishop Sava the many difficulties he also faced in his role as Patriarch, admitting in the midst of them that he too did not seek to be elevated to the rank of Patriarch! Bishop Sava’s comments and stories offered a wonderful lens for new graduates to draw from in going out into the world in like manner as humble servant clergy and dedicated laypersons! Archpriest Basil Stoyka accompanied His Grace here, and they in turn interacted with yet other classmates during the course of the weekend.
Before closing the Commencement exercises, Metropolitan Tikhon offered his own comments. He shared remembrances of ancestral family members serving in the Revolutionary War that brought Matthew 25 to life for many in the midst of their own trying circumstances.
Serving at the Liturgy Monday during the Pilgrimage, again at the Bell Tower were: Metropolitan Tikhon, Archbishop Justinian, Archbishop of Naro-Fominsk of the Russian Orthodox Church, Bishop Michael, Bishop David, and Bishop Mark, recently installed as Bishop of Philadelphia and the Diocese of Eastern Pennsylvania. Bishop Sava did not serve but was present. Over forty clergy concelebrated, and the weeping Icon of the Theotokos of Taylor, Pennsylvania was placed next to the fragrant Icon of St. Anna that resides at St. Tikhon’s. Many came to venerate these wonder-working icons.
While the St. Tikhon’s Monastery Community chronicled the events of the Pilgrimage, two reflections are worthy of note as related to Saturday’s graduation. First, Fr. Steven presented Bishop Sava with a historic Icon of St. Anthony the Great, founder of Monasticism. This icon traveled from Ukraine here to the United States, just as Bishop Sava had traveled back and forth from both Australia and Croatia. And, his given name was Anthony.
The second reflection came in Metropolitan Tikhon’s comments. He offered some spiritual calculations during his homily that included doubling the 110 years of pilgrimages held at St. Tikhon’s to 220 years since Orthodoxy first came to Alaska in 1794! These comments connected with Bishop David’s Saturday homily, bringing a decidedly missionary focus to the pilgrimage!
The newest edition of the Tikhonaire was made available for sale for the first time on Monday, which included numerous stories about the life of the seminary and monastery. These are still available for purchase from the St. Tikhon’s Monastery Bookstore. With gratitude for the cooperative weather over the course of the weekend, many came to attend these events, as well as several special services conducted over the course of the day on Monday.