Like graduations across the country, St. Tikhon’s had to greatly adjust how we conducted our commencement ceremonies. In so many ways, we are thankful to God that the seminary was able to hold any sort of graduation at all. Our sister school, St. Vladimir’s, being right in the midst of America’s hardest hit area, was not able to gather in any way, which is such a difficult situation for classmates who have spent these three years toiling together. Our prayers are with them: may this struggle through which they have walked be rewarded with that much more grace in their future ministries to the Church.
On Friday evening, May 29, we gathered the speakers into St. Nikolai’s Chapel in the seminary. Some were physically present, but others were present in their pre-recorded video only. Our dean, Priest John Parker, started us off, but not without the technical assistance of Priest Ignatius Gauvain, who, among many other responsibilities at the school, not only has the experience to be able to connect a video stream from the campus out to the world, but also to seamlessly weave pre-recorded speeches into the mix avoiding technical distraction, if at all possible.
First, our 2020 co-valedictorian, Priest Silouan Burns (speaking on behalf of our other valedictorian, Mr. Ian Attila) spoke, followed by a special guest who joined us by video, after having to cancel a trip to the St. Tikhon’s community earlier this year due to travel restrictions: Archimandrite Zacharias of Essex. We were delighted to hear his address to our community, made possible through these strange technological connections with which we have all become all too familiar.
Our beloved rector, Archbishop Michael, delighted everybody with a “what every priest needs to know about being a priest” speech, focusing graduates, and us all, on the essentials of a life of ministry in Christ’s vineyard. Few of us expected to have Metropolitan Tikhon be able to join us in the flesh. Yes, during the pandemic, he returned back to his monastic home at St. Tikhon’s Monastery, which is only across the street, but the monastery has needed to remain more cloistered than ever, for various reasons, but not least among them, the importance to all of us in the OCA that the monastery plays by unceasingly celebrating the Liturgy “on behalf of all and for all”. None of us want to jeopardize that unique and essential role the monastery fills.
His Beatitude, Met. Tikhon not only shared his presence with us, via the live-streamed speeches on Friday evening, but also graced us with his presence on Saturday, joined by Archbishop Michael. In these days of difficult and awkward reopening, when it is hard to know when what course of action is acceptable, these two pastors of our Church, who carry such a burden on their shoulders and cannot afford to fall ill, were willing to do what they could to salvage this important rite of passage of the Church’s future servants.
We give our thanks to you both, Your Beatitude and Your Eminence, for your presence. May the Lord continue to fill you with his grace as you guide our Church through these difficult times.
We are proud of our new graduates and look forward to see how our Lord uses their skills, talents, experience, and training to benefit the growth and strengthening of the Orthodox Church. Graduates of 2020, may the Lord grant you many years of grace-filled service.
Dcn. Ignatius Strange