In the presence of the faculty, family members and friends, the Saint Sophia Ukrainian Orthodox Theological Seminary of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA held its 49th commencement ceremony in order to award fourteen students of the Seminary with the Degrees: Master of Divinity, Master of Arts in Applied Orthodox Studies and Youth Ministry Certificate.
The 2020-2021 Commencement Ceremony began with the formal procession of graduates and faculty of the Seminary into the main hall of the Ukrainian Cultural Center of the National Spiritual Headquarters of the UOC of the USA in South Bound Brook, NJ.
Very Rev. Fr. Stephen Hutnick, professor of Sacramental Theology served as Master of Ceremonies, who introduced the graduates and invited Subdeacon Yaroslav Bilohan and Seminarian James Cummings to deliver Valedictorian remarks on behalf of the Full and Part-time students.
Both graduates reflected on their life’s journey and the accomplishments of the graduating class. Expressing their gratitude to the clergy and faithful of the Church, Subdeacon Yaroslav and Seminarian James stated that much has been done by the Church’s academic institution in the process of formal training of the future pastors of the Church in the USA and other parts of the world, where the graduates of the Seminary shall serve in the near future.
With the sense of profound gratitude to Almighty God for the blessing received, the Provost and Academic Dean of the Seminary – Archbishop Daniel called everyone’s attention to the formal ceremony of presentation of the academic degrees to the graduates of St. Sophia Seminary:
Your Eminence, Metropolitan Antony, Rector of St. Sophia Ukrainian Orthodox Theological Seminary of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA:
As Provost and Academic Dean of St. Sophia Seminary, with concurrence of the faculty and the Board of Trustees, respectively, I am recommending for graduation the following individuals who have satisfactorily completed all of the requirements of the Master of Divinity, Master of Arts in Applied Orthodox Studies and Youth Ministry Certification programs:
THE DEGREE OF MASTER OF DIVINITY
Subdeacon Yaroslav Bilohan (2021)
Rev. Fr. Sviatoslav Hot (2020)
Deacon Frank Joe Lucero, Jr. (2020)
Protodeacon Ihor Mahlay (2021)
Deacon Myroslav Mykytyuk (2021)
Deacon Clifford Evan O’Neil (2020)
THE DEGREE OF MASTER IN APPLIED ORTHODOX STUDIES
Seminarian James R. Cummings (2021)
Subdeacon Aaron Holloway (2021)
Dmitry Medrick (2020)
Subdeacon Volodymyr Pichkurov (2021)
Crystal Siniari (2020)
Emrys Tennessen (2020)
THE CERTIFICATE IN YOUTH MINISTRY
Elizabeth A. Bare (2020)
Susan Leis (2020)
To which, His Eminence Metropolitan Antony responded: "By the authority vested on me as Rector of Saint Sophia Ukrainian Orthodox Theological Seminary of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA and by the Secretary of the Higher Education of the State of New Jersey, I accept the recommendation of the faculty and the Board of Trustees of St. Sophia Ukrainian Orthodox Theological Seminary and approve the granting of the degrees of Master of Divinity, Master of Arts in Applied Orthodox Studies and Youth Ministry Certification upon the above mentioned individuals."
One by one, the graduates approach Archbishop Daniel, the Academic Dean of St. Sophia Ukrainian Orthodox Theological Seminary, to receive their academic hoods and pins, while asking for the blessing of His Eminence Metropolitan Antony, the Rector of the Seminary and receiving their graduation certificates and diplomas.
In his Charge to the Graduates remarks, Metropolitan Antony stated:
CHRIST IS RISEN! ХРИСТОС ВОСКРЕС! WE ARE RISEN! CHRIST IS ALIVE AND WE ARE ALIVE IN HIM!
I pray that we who live in the world of 2021, all our graduates and every other person here present and throughout the world can express these Paschal greetings with a deeper sense of comprehension than ever before. YOU – the graduates of our Master of Divinity Program, of our Applied Orthodox Studies Program and our Youth Ministry Certification Program – have spent the last years of your lives preparing to serve in a world that all too often seems to be shrouded in the deepest of darkness. The Light that shines forth from our Lord’s empty tomb, however, easily penetrates that darkness and can eventually obliterate it, if you allow it to emanate from within you. The darkness can and must give way to the power of the living, caring and loving Christ Risen. You dear graduates should and must rejoice today with a joy that cannot be restrained.
We are surrounded on all sides by people who are physically, emotionally, psychologically and spiritually scared – the legacy of a pandemic that has affected every one of our lives. Distrust, suspicion, division and a lack of attention to true moral, ethical and Biblical codes have raised their ugly heads throughout every aspect of community life all around us, seemingly compounding the ministry of our Holy Church. All this must be met by your faithfulness, dear graduates, along with that of all of us to the Word of God. Through US the CHURCH MUST BECOME THE MORAL CONSCIENCE OF THE NATION through a profound sense of true shepherding emulating the example set by the Good Shepherd. YOU, my dear graduates, must become be willing proclaim the truth that: THE GLORY OF GOD IS MAN TRULY ALIVE IN CHRIST AND CHRIST TRULY ALIVE IN MAN! YOU must comprehend the purpose for which our Lord called you to follow Him. You did not choose Him, He chose you from the busy, stressful and perhaps confusing path of your lives in a “world wide web” human community. He chose you, whether you are to be ordained to the Holy Priesthood, to teach or to minister in any other capacity to bring you to self-comprehension under the guidance of the Holy Spirit and uniting with Him in the Eucharist – “He who eats of my Body and Blood abides in Me and I in Him” – YOU TRULY ALIVE IN CHRIST AND CHRIST TRULY ALIVE IN YOU!
The CHARGE that is given to you this day of your graduation is that in the knowledge of Christ truly alive in you and you in Him is not something that you can contain within. You – and we – must BE Christ to one another, to the stranger, to those who are imprisoned and oppressed, to those who are suffering from the consequences of so much isolation over the past year and a half. You cannot bury Christ alive within you under a basket. You can and must allow His Light to shine in and through you. YOU must be Christ to all. YOU must open your hearts and minds to the words of the prayers before and after participation in the Eucharist. If you fail to read these prayers, you will find no self-comprehension in relation to Him. If you fail to comprehend yourself as ALIVE IN CHRIST AND HIM ALIVE IN AND THROUGH YOU, you face the grave danger of being lost in the darkness that can blind us all. Your personal prayer life – beyond liturgical services – is the key to your priestly service or to any other ministry in Christ’s Church. It must be THE primary guiding force behind being Christ to others.
Photos by Subdeacon Pavlo Vysotskyi