A team of volunteer students from St. Tikhon’s Seminary attended the Orthodox Church in America’s 19th All American Council, held in conjunction with the Fellowship of Orthodox Christians in America’s 92nd Annual Convention, at the historic Union Station Hotel in St. Louis, MO from July 20 to 27. Several St. Tikhon’s Seminarians,were joined by volunteers from St. Herman’s Seminary in Kodiak, AK, as well as volunteers from our sister seminary, St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary, located in Crestwood, NY. This assembled team of seminarian volunteers received various assigned tasks throughout the week, among which were, most importantly, assisting in setting up and taking down the full iconostas that was in place throughout the week in the hotel’s Grand Ballroom, assisting in the scanning of delegates’ and observers’ badges at the Council’s many Plenary Sessions (to ensure an accurate count of voting members), and assisting in various liturgical and ecclesial responsibilities throughout the week.
The 19th All American Council was full of highlights, including the celebration of the Divine Liturgy on the mornings of five of the seven days the Council was held. Of particular note was the awarding of scholarships that occurred during the first banquet of the week, on Sunday night – as part of the 92nd Annual FOCA Convention. Two seminarians who were both present at the banquet: Alex Norton, from St. Mark’s Orthodox Church in Bethesda, MD, and Robert West, hailing from Holy Apostles Mission Church in Lansing, NY, both received scholarship awards designated specifically for seminarians. This was a proud moment for St. Tikhon’s Seminary, and will serve to strengthen the already solid relationship St. Tikhon’s has with the Fellowship of Orthodox Christians in America.
The schedule was full of activities to better serve the smooth operation of the Council, but the St. Tikhon’s volunteers still found time for fellowship and socializing during the brief windows of free time, as well as at the Alumni Reception Tuesday night (07/24) generously sponsored by the Alumni Association. It was a joy to hear from alumni young and old, about their current parish ministries, about how the Seminary has changed over the years, and any words of wisdom they had to share.
At the next day’s Plenary Session, another highlight of the entire week occured in the presentation on Monastic Life in the OCA, delivered by Archimandrite Sergius, Abbot of St. Tikhon’s Monastery. Fr. Sergius invited all attendees at the Council to come and visit St. Tikhon’s, as it is a treasure in the life of the OCA as a whole. After his rousing presentation, the council was receptive to a new video on life at the Seminary, after which the Seminary’s new Dean, Fr. John Parker, spoke about his impressions of the Seminary, and what he hopes to bring to his role as Dean. It was inspiring and exciting to see such a great showing for St. Tikhon’s Monastery and Seminary at the 19th All American Council, and hopefully the attendees will be inspired to make pilgrimage here, become supporters of the Monastery and Seminary.
The final highlights of the 19th AAC took place Friday, in the form of two different but related events. The first was a video presentation by the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., featuring interviews with Fr. Mark, a Hierodeacon at St. Tikhon’s Monastery, about the monastic vocation, and with Alex Norton, about the calling to attend Seminary. Later that morning, in the final Plenary Session of the Council, the Youth made a presentation to the AAC, led by St. Tikhon’s very own Miriam Sheehan, the daughter of Music Director Benedict Sheehan. Their speech, contributed to the spontaneous fundraising drive that marked this last day of the Council, leading to raising over $87,000 for the employment of a full time Director for the Department of Youth, Young Adult, and Campus Ministry.
It was a joy to serve the needs of the OCA by volunteering at this blessed Council, and all the seminary volunteers thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to pray, work, and serve with their counterparts from the other OCA Seminaries in the United States, all to the glory of God and the building up of His Holy Church. We are already looking forward to the 20th All American Council in 2021!
(Write-Up by Seminarian Alex Norton. Photo Credit to Seminarian Herman Garrison)