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Analysis: About the School of Theology

December 7, 2021

I have written several times in the distant and recent past about Hellenic College and Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology. The reason I revisit this topic today is precisely the importance and usefulness of the School for the Church and the Omogenia in America. The School is in the sine qua non category, that is, the Church can’t do without it, or more simply, it is the backbone of the Archdiocese and the communities that make it up, precisely because it is the training school and nursery of its priests.

And it goes without saying that there can be no parishes, i.e., local churches, or communities, if you prefer, without the charismatic and eucharistic presence of the priest, because otherwise they will be just religious associations and societies.

Unquestionably, the School has suffered unimaginably in recent decades, starting during the Archiepiscopacy of Iakovos, with the constant experiments and the expulsion of capable professors such as the late Florovsky, Romanidis, and Mavrakis, to name a few, and continuing during the time of Demetrios and up to today, to a point where the School was even in danger of losing its academic accreditation.

It is painful to say, but it is a reality, that the late Archbishop Athenagoras (Spyrou) of America and later Ecumenical Patriarch and our pioneering Greek immigrants would be turning in their graves, because with their vision and sacrifices, not only did they succeed in founding the School, but they even bought this ‘Boston diamond’ in difficult times – and their current successors are incompetent to maintain it.

In order not to merely talk about the misfortune and the ongoing trouble in the School, I will dare to quote a few facts, aiming not only at reflection, but some possible change of course, so as not only to prevent the worst, but to make for a bold and substantial reconstruction of the School. Otherwise, famine is coming.

First of all, the low number of 110 students that exists today in both schools, i.e. in Hellenic College and the Theological School, is obviously painfully small. The excuse of the pandemic and its derivatives is acceptable and understandable up to a point, but here we are talking about the number of 154 before the pandemic – not just the 150 that is hoped to be satisfactory for the next academic semester. This is greatly disproportionate to the cost of the schools’ operating expenses.

Since Hellenic College has for all these years been struggling to acquire an identity, a sense of purpose, a vision and a goal, it is time to make the brave decision to close it. This is painful, of course, but also necessary, since it is not getting anywhere, because there was not and there still is no vision and leadership – that is clear. If Hellenic College had become a leading center for Greek Studies in America, then it would have a reason to exist. But now?

Its current situation cannot continue, because on the one hand it costs a lot of money; on the other hand, it is a shame. Only the theological school should remain, which must recover its stride and function: the education and formation of Greek Orthodox clergy with ethos, devotion, and a sacrificial spirit – not burned out professionals.

It should launch a campaign in the Greek-American Community to find young, capable, balanced young men to study and to be ordained. It should pay more attention to who is admitted, but also to the graduates and the ordained, because the problems in the communities start from the School. The mentality of the School should change. It should approach the Omogenia, from which it should draw not only financial support, but also Greek students, as I mentioned above, with character, and not collect every ‘nut’ and bumbler just to show numbers.

Special attention should be paid to those celibates who are ordained, because the caste of Archimandritism has brought much suffering to the Church. Since they choose  celibacy, let them go to the monasteries, and not be in the world close to children, young men and women. I think the message here is more than clear…

Seeing on the official website of the College and the School of Theology all these teachers and employees, and because I happen to know people and situations, I just wonder if they need all of them, and whether or not the School is carrying empty wagons, people who do not offer essential services, but are simply getting paid. I will avoid referring to specific people and positions so as not to offend them, but I’m sure those in charge know – or should know.

In other words, more simply, a bold assessment and liquidation is needed, because the School should not be a Saint Panteleimon institution to which the helpless resort.

To be a little more specific: The Board of Trustees, the Deanship of Student Life, the Chapel, the secretaries, and the rest, the assistant secretaries and the assistants of the assistants need to be immediately reevaluated and reorganized or replaced by new, capable persons. Let me emphasize one more time that institutions walk in time and history through the footsteps of actual persons. If the persons limp, consequently the institutions will limp also. Persons give substance to the institutions.

One more thing: The leadership of the School should be the right and proper one and shouldn’t be controlled from outside by someone with a micromanagement mentality. The school’s leaders should be free to execute the program that is agreed upon in advance with the leadership of the Archdiocese since the purpose of the School is to educate priests for the Archdiocese, which provides substantial funding for its operation. And the Board of Trustees should be comprised of serious persons with financial, academic, and administrative knowledge – and thank God our Greek-American Community has a wealth of such people.

I am afraid that if the usual rhythms and mentalities continue, then we will be waiting “to see the end.”

 

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