A refection on Holy Cross Greek Orthodox Seminary of particular interest to Greek Orthodox readers in the United States.
This week I made my first trip back to Holy Cross in over 17 years. It wasn't a hit-and-run visit. I had time to sit down with the faculty, interact with the students, and observe the goings on in the chapel and around campus. I found a school much different from the one described by "journalists" who blame the seminary for America's vanishing omogenia (ethnic dispersion) and mocked by disgruntled alumni who can't admit that their calling might have been a wrong number. In every aspect, Holy Cross is in the best shape it's ever been.
The place is clean and well cared for. A wrought iron fence stands where there was once the infamous prison barbed wire. The library is fantastic. The chapel has had a total makeover. The bookstore no longer smells like a locker room. Staff and students can avail themselves of a fitness club quality workout room. The new (for most of us grads) married housing is attractive. I enjoyed eating the cafeteria food, which includes a salad bar and other healthy options. Even the signage is spiffy.
The seminary has compiled three books that enable students to participate fully in every vespers and matins -- and they do! Worship is 50-50 Greek-English and everyone learns to chant in both languages. There are so many deacons ready for ordination to the priesthood that one wonders if the seminary is collaborating in cloning research.
My generation had strong faculty (how many people in the world can boast of learning Old Testament from Archbishop Demetrios?). Today's blend of old warhorses and young guns comprise a professorial dream team. Father Ted's New Testament courses are as rigorous as ever and newcomer Father Philip is a living encyclopedia of liturgics. Anyone who spends three years at Holy Cross and doesn't learn theology has only himself to blame.
There is real life in Student Life. World-traveler Father Thomas Fitzgerald's blend of kindness, piety, and intellect make him ideally suited to serve as Dean. President Father Nick Triantafilou continues to exude the energy and piety that have made him one of the Church's most admired clergymen. As the school's chief moral officer, he is able to fuss at a seminarian for missing chapel and leave the young man feeling good about his reprimand. The optimism and lightness that fill the campus have come under his leadership.
Is Holy Cross perfect? How could it be? Scratch deep enough and you'll find something to complain about at any place of higher learning, especially when it is filled with people who have the gift of leadership (a population that always gets a D+ in "Works and Plays Well with Others"). There are days at every theological school that are downright miserable.
But you don't go to seminary because you're looking for kicks. You go to prepare yourself for a lifetime of Church service. While not wishing to take anything away from America's other Orthodox religious institutions, I can't imagine a better place to receive that preparation than at Holy Cross.
Rev. Aris P. Metrakos is the pastor of Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church in Columbia, South Carolina. He is frequent retreat leader and speaker for both teens and adults. Prior to attending seminary, Fr. Aris was an aviator for the US Navy. He travels annually to Romania to help the Romanian Orthodox Church establish ministries for Romanian youth. You can contact Fr. Aris at FrMetrakos@orthodoxytoday.org.