At the annual Commencement on Sunday, June 2, 2019, Holy Trinity Seminary graduated three Bachelor of Theology seminarians in the Class of 2019:
Milan Dragisic (Valedictorian)
The Commencement exercises began after a Hierarchal Liturgy, celebrated by Metropolitan Hilarion (Kapral), First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia, and His Grace Bishop Luke (Murianka) of Syracuse. After a procession of all Seminary administrators, faculty in residence, seminarians, and the bishops from the Monastery to the Cathedral, the clergy offered a moleben in thanksgiving for the Seminary's successes and in supplication for divine blessings on all those who help to perpetuate the institution.
Following a group photo in front of the iconostas, a second procession from the Cathedral to the Seminary led to the formal graduation ceremony. Seminary Dean, Archpriest Alexander F. C. Webster, PhD, introduced the Commencement speaker, recently consecrated Bishop Luke, Rector of the Monastery and Seminary and quite familiar to the gathering, through personal reflections on Bishop Luke as a spiritual and moral role model, an esteemed colleague and friend, a wise “commander to go to war with” anywhere and anytime, and an inspiration to all of us.
Bishop Luke spoke of the need to integrate all the knowledge acquired in the classrooms and library into the wisdom of a complete Orthodox Christian life and continual growth in communion with God. Otherwise that “knowledge” is mere trivia. That distinction is crucial in the current technological environment, where the flood of data and trivia drowns useful knowledge and leads to a state of distracted dissolution, ultimately seducing its victims to treasure "nonsensical information" and to become "boring babblers" not grounded in the eternal Truth of Christ.
Holy Trinity Seminary, on the other hand, facilitates that integration by providing a spiritual anchor to intellectual knowledge through the Church services in which theory is embodied in practice. The training of spirit, mind, and body together provides the internal strength required for seminarians (and prospective priests) to exist in the world without coexisting with it. Through the discernment granted by the Wisdom from Above, an Orthodox Christian can navigate the differences among existence, coexistence, and isolation.
By maintaining an internal disposition of isolation from the sinful temptations that threaten to shift one's love for God into love for the world, each of us can exist in the world without falling into a relativism that destroys the very definition of truth itself and is, simply, a modern manifestation of the devil's ancient strategy for undermining God’s human creation. That strategy was evident, for example, in Balaam's attempt to sabotage the Israelites in Moses’ time. Bishop Luke reminded the Commencement gathering that "the Moabite King Balak summoned the magician Balaam to cast a spell on the Israelites in order to defeat them, but he could do nothing but praise them. Finally, he whispered into the ear of the king, 'Get them to worship idols and fall into sexual immorality and God will abandon them and you will defeat them.'"
Finally, with internal isolation and integration and a refusal to "go with the flow" and coexist, Orthodox Christians can exist in the world according to the love of God and love of neighbor, purified of self-seeking and establishing a "good reputation with outsiders." That is the key to attracting others to a vibrant Church constituted by Truth, Goodness, and Beauty rather than one that exclusively focuses on preservation.
After Bishop Luke's Commencement Address, the graduating class received their diplomas and a blessing from Metropolitan Hilarion. The celebration continued with Milan Dragisic's valedictory address. Describing his four years at Holy Trinity Seminary as difficult, particularly the rigor required to maintain discipline and balance between private/family life and academic/spiritual life, Milan concluded that his experiences at Holy Trinity Seminary were the best of his life so far. He also lamented that some seminarians get stuck obsessing about the difficulties of their years at Seminary, which prevents them from experiencing the consolation, stability, and hope of Christ, all of which the academic and Church life of the Seminary engenders and reinforces.
After the bestowal of diplomas upon the graduating 4th Year seminarians, the following lower classmen received prizes for excellence or diligence:
1st Year Bachelor of Theology:
2nd Year Bachelor of Theology:
1st Year Certificate of Pastoral Studies Program:
As a surprise, Archpriest Alexander Webster received an official Gramota from the Holy Synod of Bishops in anticipation of his retirement as Dean of the Seminary at the end of August 2019. He was also awarded the title of Dean & Professor of Moral Theology Emeritus for his many achievements during his tenure as Dean, especially the establishment of the new Master of Divinity (M.Div.) graduate degree program in 2018. In gratitude for their new degree program, the graduate seminarians of the St. Justin Martyr M.Div. Student Assembly gifted Archpriest Alexander with a magnificent Pectoral Cross.
Uncharacteristically caught off guard, the Dean thanked everyone by observing that the older he gets, it is not the ideas, places, events, struggles, or achievements that he remembers with fondness, but rather the persons he has known and cherished. Jordanville will provide, he said, in the years to come back home in Virginia, God-willing, unforgettable memories of the monastics, Seminary administrators, faculty, and seminarians, and even the many regional families and individuals who frequent the liturgical services and constitute the “penumbra” of the Monastery community.
The Commencement ceremonies concluded with congratulations and encouragement from Metropolitan Hilarion, who invoked the Lord’s blessing for the coming years of the graduating class and the future of the Seminary and its constituents.
Refreshments, fellowship, photographs, and salutations ensued.