Re: Make a choice
- There is definitely a need for a monastery in this country. I know Fr. C.O. Vargis in
Houston has had a plan for such a place, probably in the south somewhere. But, I think
we really need to take a second look at its feasbility. Of course, in this current age,
there are some celebate priests. All are from India, and have a plan to return to India.
Who will be the inmates of this monastery? Personally, I have not run across an
America-born person, seminarian, or deacon that is interested in becoming a monastic.
All plan to be married. It is definitely a good idea for a monastery. The
Russian-tradition OCA seminary where I study is a monastery and seminary established in
the early 1900's. All of the monastics are converts to Orthodoxy. Unless we encourage
and support monasticism within the coming generation, I don't see any success for a
monastery (unless we plan to bring monastics from India).
The real and current need, though, is for a seminary. We are getting about 3-5 new
seminarians each year. The American Diocese (or Kottayam Seminary) needs to develop a
relationship with a seminary in America and create a program that includes courses from
both seminaries. I heard that the Holy Synod has already given permission to Barnabas
Thirumeni for those in America to study at an Orthodox institution in America. That is
also the general perception from many bishops and seminary professors in India. Of
course, some time needs to be spent in Kottayam Seminary after the course work here.
I have visited many of the Orthodox seminaries in America, and I carefully selected St.
Tikhon's Seminary for my theological studies for two reasons: (1) as most of you have
already noted - it is a monastery/seminary where prayer and liturgical life are very
important; and (2) cost - the cost of seminary studies at St. Tikhon's is only about
$5000 per year, including room and board - this is for a Master's Level program! Their
basic mission is to produce spiritually-grounded priests. That is our need too. The
theology can be learned over time, and higher studies sought. But, we need
spiritually-sound and grounded priests in America. The formation is different in India.
The culture and issues are different. Thus, I feel studying in America is very
important. The issues we deal with in our classes are taught from the American
perspective, from a Church more than 100 years old in America.
My proposal is to build a residence hall at one of the local seminaries where 12-15
seminarians can reside within a full-time monastic priest as warden. That priest can
teach our relevant courses, like Indian Church history, liturgics, sacraments, etc., and
be a spiritual father for the seminarians. I think St. Tikhon's is the right place too.
Land is very affordable, it is a secluded place (nice retreat area), and the relationship
with the seminary is very good right now. The dean has a special place in his heart for
the Indian Church, as he has said many times over and as evidenced in his speaking at
many of our conferences and youth meetings. In fact, he is one of the main speakers at
the NE Family Conference.
There are many things we need to do in the country for the survival of the Indian Church.
We should proceed only with prayer and a clear vision. A survey should be created and
distributed to get a pulse from the Diocese as to the direction we should go. A seminary
in America could serve America, Canada, Europe, Australia and the Pacific, places where
English is the predominant language. We need to encourage young men to come forward from
these places to support the churches in the future. We cannot continue to look to
Kottayam and Nagpur to send us priests. They are looking and planning for their own
These are just some ideas over which I have pondered and in discussions with other
seminarians and deacons. The top priority is the development of a vision and mission in
this country, and then financial backing from all our parishes to support them. There is
always alot of agreement and ideas, but when the time comes to support the endeavors,
everyone becomes silent. If all of our families tithed, we could so many things in this
country. Let us pray for God to reveal His vision and mission in this country, and then,
as His hands and feet in this world, make it happen.
Dn. George Mathew [Benny]
Seminarian, St. Tikhon's Orthodox Theological Seminary
South Canaan, PA
St. Thomas Indian Orthodox Church, Washington, DC (est. 1965)
Visit our website: http://www.st-thomas-orthodox-dc.org/
Pray for our parish - we have commenced construction; tax-deductible donations are welcome! Visit our website to make a contribution.
- The American Diocese is in need of a monastry in America. There is no
scarcity for monks or leaders to lead the Monastry. We have rambans
and unmarried priests those are capable to lead a monastry. If we do
not have anyone to lead a monastry in America we can bring leaders from
Bedhany Ashramam or Tabore Dayra (Pathanapuram)or from any other
Monastries and then it will get a continuation.
It is advisable if we can find at least a 10 acre land in an
inexpensieve place instead of the 3 acre in an expensive place to build
the Diocesan center. We could build the diocesan center and the
monastry as a part of the center.
Rev. Dr. C.O. Varghis once suggested to build the diocesan center in
Houston because it is less expensieve than New York and the majority of
the members are close to Houston.
Charly V. Padanilam.