His Beatitude Metropolitan Tikhon presided over the 2023 commencement exercises of St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary and St. Tikhon’s Orthodox Theological Seminary on Saturday, May 20, 2023, and Friday-Saturday, May 26-27, 2023.
On Saturday, May 20, His Beatitude presided at the celebration of the hierarchical Divine Liturgy at Saint Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary’s Three Hierarchs Chapel. During the Liturgy, he awarded the double orarion to Rev. Dn. Dr. Vitaly Permiakov and ordained Dr Harrison to the holy diaconate.
The exercises began later that day when twenty-seven seminarians graduated at this year’s commencement: fifteen were granted the Master of Divinity (M.Div.); eleven received the Master of Arts (M.A.) degree, and one received a Master in Theology (Th.M.). Graduates represented twelve different Eastern and Oriental Orthodox jurisdictions.
The Commencement Address was given by the Hon. Alex M. Azar II, who was also awarded a Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa, in recognition of his faithful and dedicated philanthropic service over many years within the Church. Secretary Azar gave a stirring speech, drawing on his high-profile leadership experience as Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (2018–2021) to encourage SVOTS graduates to embrace a collaborative style of leadership within their future ministries, to always communicate the “why” behind their decisions, and to respectfully seek input from members of the communities they are called to lead.
Salutatorian Mother Cassiana Colchester (M.A. Concentration in Theological Scholarship and Research) and Valedictorian, the Rev. Dr. Anthony Gilbert, both addressed their classmates. Mother Cassiana gave thanks to God for a fruitful and humbling experience at SVOTS, reflecting that above all, seminary is about “learning to be weak,” to truly see one’s darkness and failings, “for in this weakness can Christ’s strength and His glory truly shine through.” Fr. Anthony called his fellow graduates to always remember that “He is the source of our strength, and that when we falter or stumble or get lost, He is near and we know His voice.”
Immediately following the conferral of degrees, Student Council President Mark Sultani (M.Div.) presented the Saint Macrina Award to Dn. Vitaly Permiakov. The Saint Macrina Award is an honor given each year to a professor elected by the student body to recognize his or her effort and excellence in teaching. Sultani then presented an unexpected and touching class gift to Fr Chad Hatfield, an icon commissioned with a local iconographer, depicting the Mother of God overlooking the seminary campus.
The commencement exercises were concluded by a short concert by the St Vladimir’s Seminary Chorale and final remarks by His Beatitude. In his address, His Beatitude exhorted the new graduates to lay aside personal opinions or pride in their new ministries, saying, “If you wish to serve the Church, if you wish to be a shepherd of Christ’s flock, then let go of your own voice and become the voice of Christ.”
On May 26-27, 2023, Saint Tikhon’s Orthodox Theological Seminary held its eighty-first annual commencement exercises. During the exercises the seminary graduated 12 students from its Master of Divinity Program, and awarded one student a Certificate in Pastoral Studies.
On Friday evening, May 26, the seminary community gathered for a program that included remarks by the Dean of the Seminary, Archpriest John Parker; the charge of the Rector, His Eminence Archbishop Michael; the commencement address delivered by Rt. Rev. Archimandrite Peter, Abbot of the Monastery of St. John the Baptist in Essex, England; presentation of the graduating class icon by Fr. Michael Rehmet, representative of the Class of 2023; and a concluding address from His Beatitude, the seminary’s President, in which he encouraged the graduates to “Seek the royal way, the way of moderation and balance, not for its own sake, but for the sake of Jesus Christ, who urges us to stray neither right nor left.”
Saturday, May 27, began with the celebration of the Hierarchical Divine Liturgy, during which second year seminarian Damian Kulp was ordained to the Holy Diaconate by His Beatitude Metropolitan Tikhon, Seminary President. Following the Liturgy, the afternoon’s Commencement Ceremony was opened by His Beatitude Metropolitan Tikhon amidst a gathering of family and friends in the seminary’s Convocation Center with standing room only.
In addition to the awarding of degrees and academic honors, the Saint Tikhon’s Seminary Alumni Association presented its Alumnus of the Year award to Fr. Stephen Meholick. Michael Herzak, chairman of the seminary’s Board of Trustees, was also recognized. The students of the Class of 2023 presented the Alexander Atty Institutional Service Award to professor Fr. Michael Demko. Following the commencement exercises all those gathered enjoyed a wine and cheese reception hosted by the seminary.
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