At the beginning of 2015, two of us from St. Vladimir's Seminary joined students from three other Orthodox seminaries, to participate in a home building effort in New Orleans, Louisiana. Sponsored by the International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC) in conjunction with Habitat for Humanity, the humanitarian project addressed the ongoing need for housing rehabilitation in the city still recovering from the devastation of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
Most of our days were spent working on home construction and rehab, but we also were able to take a trip to see the Ninth Ward, a section of New Orleans that had been especially impacted by the hurricane. A decade after Katrina, there is still a lot of work to be done in rebuilding New Orleans.
This is the second year that IOCC has enlisted a team of seminarians to assist in the building and repair of homes; several students from St. Vladimir's participated in a similar project in 2014. In fact, since 2005, nearly 1,000 volunteers on IOCC Orthodox Action Teams have donated over 33,000 man-hours to repair 193 family homes across the United States damaged by natural disasters.
These past three years, I have been in the classrooms, the library, and the chapel at St. Vladimir's, studying and praying. However, soon it will be time to graduate and leave this behind, and I then will begin to apply the theology I have studied. The home build with IOCC reminded each of us seminarians that the universe is our parish, and that our Church is without borders. If we are to lead, we must first learn how to serve.
A third-year seminarian, Fr. Mark was ordained to the priesthood on the Feast of the Holy Cross this past year at Holy Cross Antiochian Orthodox Church in Linthicum, Maryland. His wife, Kh. Vasilia, is a clinical social worker who works at an outpatient counseling center with youth and their families in the Bronx, NY. They welcomed their first child, daughter Catherine, into this world on November 8, 2014. Father Mark will serve in the Self-Ruled Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America upon graduation; he is looking forward to fulfilling his vocation through Christian service and ministry.