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As orientation for incoming and returning students came to an end on Friday, September 1, three second-year St. Tikhon’s seminarians made their way to the Harrisburg/Hershey Sheraton Hotel for the 91st Annual Convention of the Fellowship of Orthodox Christians in America (FOCA). Accompanied by His Eminence, Archbishop Michael, Seminary Rector, from Friday evening until Monday morning, Alexander Norton, Student Government Vice President, Bob West, Secretary, and FOCA Representative Isaac Lampart (FOCA Chapter 121), enjoyed three days of prayer, fellowship, and plenary sessions surrounded by friends familiar and new.

The Convention commenced on Friday evening with a reception.  After the reception Alexander, Bob, and Isaac helped Deacon Peter Ilchuk construct the portable iconostasis for the weekend’s services, which had been stored at the seminary.

The next day, FOCA’s National Spiritual Advisor, His Beatitude Metropolitan Tikhon, encouraged those gathered to take a deep look at the underlying questions facing us today as Orthodox Christians, and how FOCA may respond and contribute as an organization with a history and a heritage. Archbishop Michael followed His Beatitude by offering a heartfelt talk on married student housing, thanking FOCA for all of their generous work over the years to move this project, and described with great love the faithful student families of St. Tikhon’s Seminary, and their children, whom FOCA would assist in housing. According to His Beatitude Metropolitan Tikhon: “We are closer to the end goal than we have been.”

On Saturday evening, seminarians were happy to reconnect with St. Tikhon’s Alumnus, Father Steven Vernak (STOTS 2007) and the parishioners of Christ the Savior Orthodox Church in Harrisburg, PA, who visited the hotel for Great Vespers. Afterwards, alongside Archbishop Michael and Bishop David of Alaska, Alexander, Bob, and Isaac enjoyed the Euro-Slavic music and dance performance by Duquesne University’s “Tamburitzans.” On Sunday morning, a Hierarchical Liturgy was officiated by His Beatitude, Metropolitan Tikhon, followed by an evening dinner banquet and dance.    

“Whenever we represent our seminary, whether at the Century Association or on Mission Choir trips, I always return to South Canaan with a full heart,” remarked FOCA Representative Isaac Lampart. “All the prayerful generosity which FOCA has offered to this school and its students over the years, and continues to offer, was made personally manifest by the joy with which we were greeted by FOCA at the conference this weekend. I believe I speak for all of us when I say we are humbly inspired by FOCA’s generosity to St. Tikhon’s future leaders of the Church. We are grateful! We hope that our seminary’s relationship with FOCA might deepen as the years go on, both for those currently enrolled here, and for alumni who have already graduated, now serving in their own parishes.”

Story by Seminaran Isaac Lampart, photos by Seminarian Robert West.