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Youth and Spiritual Training

Interview with St. Andrew's College Dean of Theology, Very Rev. Archpriest Roman Bozyk

Part two (originally published in the October 2012 issue of Visnyk/Herald)

Visnyk: Glory to Jesus Christ! Fr. Roman, thank you for participating in this interview. St Andrew's College is the seminary for the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada. Traditionally, it has been the Theological College to prepare young men to become priests. I understand this model is changing and there are a broad range of courses to meet a variety of needs and interests for those wanting to learn more about Orthodox theology.
Fr. Roman: One of the misconceptions that people have is that theology is just for men who want to be priests. This clearly is not the case because part of the program is self-examination, and learning the basics. So, of course, many people who teach or work in the Church would benefit from theological study. Our Bachelor program is for fulltime students and those expecting to take the full program eventually. When they finish the Bachelor program, which includes Ukrainian and/or other useful Humanities, they will be considered for ordination. It would be even better if they finished a BA in addition to the Bachelor of Theology and then took an extra year of Theological specialization, which constitutes our Master of Divinity program. We have a two-year course for people who are almost already prepared to be ordained—people who have lots of life experience. For example, a 55-60 year old high school teacher who is retired, or the choir director who has been working with people for a long time, already knows the languages—Ukrainian and English—and does not have to put any time into that. Then, he should do two years of intensive course work. We have a Certificate which is one year of study for lay-people who have an interest in Theology for their own benefit or to be able to be a more qualified Sunday School teacher or youth worker. It has been proposed as the minimum for a Sunday School teacher to have one year at St. Andrew's College. The Certificate is often taken by correspondence. Recently, I have tried to propose that the Certificate be come a type of "Gap Year." It would be nice to have all of our high school students—both men and women—come to the College for one year before they go to study or work in their primary interest. This is what some other Christian groups have and it would be a good start in life for many of our young people.

Visnyk: You mentioned this is for everybody. What kinds of opportunities are available for women studying theology?
Fr. Roman: In the gap year program we have had a number of women studying. Because it is for interest, they usually take some of the very basic courses that everybody needs and then some of the higher level ones which are of particular interest to them. You clearly cannot take everything if you are only doing one year. We have had a number who have graduated from the Bachelor's program. One worked as a hospital chaplaincy worker. This is a very good program for that because most major hospitals hire chaplains to work. There are lots of possibilities for women. Some of our graduates or students have worked at the College, or on Consistory or parish committees and programs.

Visnyk: So, if someone wants to become a priest, what is involved in the preparation?
Fr. Roman: The first level of pastoral theology is really about what a priest is, why the priest is important and then, what do we think about it, how do we fit, how do we see ourselves on this road. Basically, the first course is really about your own self—about themselves, about the students. You have to ma ke a major commitment to becoming a priest. So you have to know what is involved in becoming a priest, what are the legal applications, spiritual understandings—these things are all discussed. The whole concept of the confidentiality issues and confessions and counseling—all these things have to be discussed ahead of time.

That is part of what the seminary does. Some of it is actual evaluation and preparing the base. Do you know who you are and what you want to do? Do you really want to be a priest? So, sometimes when people leave, they leave for very honourable reasons because they say, no, this is not for me. That is one part of the College program. Another part of it is getting the academic understandings of what a priest needs to know and do.

Visnyk: Can you tell us a little more about this academic part, about the courses themselves?
Fr. Roman: First of all, you have to know what is in Scripture and what is the Orthodox understanding of it so as to prepare to share the true teachings of God's Word. Then, of course, you have to understand what the Church in general speaks about so you have to look at the Patristics, the writings of the early Fathers. You have to learn the Liturgics—the meaning and order of Services. Liturgics may seem technical, but in technical studies a student can learn things that help in their own spiritual growth and in the spiritual growth of their future parishes. For example, a proper understanding of Vespers can be very deep and very spiritually helpful. On the other hand, we we
all must start at the beginning, such as how to serve Vespers and Liturgy— knowing how it starts, where to stand, what to do and how to finish properly. This is a very important thing because when you go to your parish, people have the right to expect that you know how to do a Baptism or a wedding etc. We have a whole section of studies called practical theology. You have to learn the actual teachings of the Church. That is why Dogmatics is really the centre of most programs. Then, you have to be prepared to look at what is in this world, and inside the Church, so that is why Church History is important. We hope that students either come with a BA or are willing to take some Humanities courses because they have to know a little bit about everything to a certain extent—Ukrainian language, history, and sociology—how the world works—psychology, how people think outside of the Church. This is helpful. Then, you also have to understand what is going on in the world around you. That is why you have Ethics because Ethics teaches the interrelationship between what the Church thinks is right and what actually happens in the world. There are three ethics courses, one general introduction— what is sin and what is virtue, an other, which is an in-depth understanding of issues inside the Church and outside of the Church. A priest must be able to explain the Orthodox understanding to Orthodox and to the non-Orthodox.

There is also a whole ethics course on gender is sues because this is a big issue in to day's society. Theology students at St. Andrew's College or anywhere have to understand the situation in which they are living. In the 21st century, people that come from outside the Church do not often ask "classic" questions such as about the filioque, but rather about gender issues. "Are there women clergy in your Church?" "Why not?"

Another important course taught at St. Andrew's, that is not taught everywhere, is Comparative Theology. Once the person has gone through their own self-evaluation—self improvement in secular terms, then, has learned the basics of what they need to teach— Dogmatics, Liturgics, and Scripture etc.—then, they start to look at what is around them. When you are doing a mixed marriage between an Orthodox, say, and an Anglican, it is very good to un derstand what the Anglican thinks. Then, there are courses that are more clearly outreach—the pastoral courses. One talks about how to do out reach and the compassionate things a priest is supposed to do: How to do visits in hospitals; How to discuss difficult questions; How to interact with people. You can give them the necessary tools, but caring must be in their heart. If they do not care about people that are hurting or people who need to talk, it is not always possible to teach them to care. We do have courses that teach what you can and cannot do in the parish—legally, ethically and, of course, compassionately. How to be a pastor. How to be the spiritual father. It is not easy sometimes to teach this to people. It depends on what kind of example they have had in their time in parish life.

We have two courses in Homiletics, i.e., preaching. One is taught how to preach the Sunday sermon, and how to look at a text and prepare a talk. They have to do sermons in class and often in the Chapel. Usually, they start in the classroom, then the Chapel, then the rest of the Church. We have a second course on Homiletics that talks about what is appropriate and how to do things and what to say on various occasions.

There are three objectives that students need to keep in mind during their preparation. Each student must strive to present himself as a suitable candidate. He must spiritually grow and repair anything that is lacking so as to be a good vessel into which the Grace of the Holy Spirit will be poured. You have got to start with that— build the vessel. Second, you have to learn the sources—learning the stuff that you need to know, the technical stuff. Third, a student must under stand the outreach—how to be a priest and pastor amongst the people.

Part one : click here

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