From November 21–22, St. Vladimir’s Seminary (SVS) warmly welcomed back to its campus an alumnus, James Paffhausen—but this time as His Beatitude Jonah, Metropolitan of All America and Canada of the Orthodox Church in America (OCA) and new president of the seminary.
His Beatitude, who had received two degrees from SVS (’85 M.Div. and ’88 M.Th.), was elected as metropolitan at the 15th All-American Council of the OCA on November 12, 2008. According to the statutes of the seminary, the metropolitan of the OCA also concurrently assumes the position as the seminary’s president. Prior to his election, Metropolitan Jonah served as auxiliary bishop of Fort Worth in the Diocese of the South (11 days) and as abbot of a monastery under the patronage of St. John of Shanghai, in California (12 years).
On his first visit to his alma mater since his election, Metropolitan Jonah participated in several coinciding campus events. He was the main celebrant and homilist at the Divine Liturgy for the Feast of the Entrance of the Theotokos into the Temple; he blessed the recently constructed Lakeside Student Apartments and spoke at the dedication celebration; he attended all sessions of the Board of Trustees, who were on campus for their fall semi-annual meeting; and, he greeted not only SVS seminarians and their families but also visiting students who had gathered on campus for a meeting of the Orthodox Inter-Seminary Movement (OISM).
Although he spoke in several different venues, Metropolitan Jonah delivered one consistent message: he continually noted the enormous influence of his seminary training on his personal ministry and advocated a “unified, clear vision” for theological education in America.
“All leaders of the Church, who take up the yoke of Christ,” he urged, “must have a clear vision of theological education, which consists in four things: first, we must present the gospel of Jesus Christ; second, we have a mission to evangelize all people, regardless of color, ethnicity, or socio-economic status; third, we must bring integrity to the gospel message; and fourth, we must take up the task of bearing the presence of Jesus Christ to those around us.”
On the last point, he particularly reiterated the need to imitate the sacrificial path of Christ and his mother, the Virgin Mary. “To become the living presence of God, the living temple of God, requires us to crush our ego and shatter our will,” he said, “so that we might conceive God within us and become his presence in this world.
“Seminarians,” he noted, “do not come to theological schools to become ‘professionals’ and to be ‘respected,’ but rather to be crucified and thereby shine forth the light of Christ.” His Beatitude reminded the seminarians that his own title of “episkopos” means not “master of the house,” but “slave of slaves.” Finally, Metropolitan Jonah emphasized the need for the Church in America to support all theological institutions with prayer and love (emphasis added).