The enrollment of eight new women in 2022 nearly doubled the proportion of female students at St. Vladimir’s. Their presence has “magnified the heartbeat” of the seminary.
Women have attended St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary in Yonkers, New York, since the early 1960s, and the school’s female alumni have gone on to become educators, counselors, missionaries, musicians, writers, and lay ministers in the Orthodox Church. Still, incoming classes have remained predominantly male.
That shifted in 2022, when eight new women enrolled, bringing the total to 14, or 20 percent of the student body.
Before seminary, the women likely would not have encountered each other. That’s partially due to geography; they’re from around the world – but also because of their backgrounds.
They had worked in a library, in the office of a congressional representative, and in the military. There’s a therapist, a new college graduate, a former professional dancer, a trauma staff chaplain, and a TV journalist. Five are from the Monastery of St. Macarius the Great in Arizona, a community of nuns of the Orthodox Church in America’s Diocese of the West. Some are lifelong members of Orthodox churches, others are converts.
“These women have quickly become essential to our community through their humility, passion for the Church, and their infectious love of God,” says Sarah Werner, chief advancement officer. “Their presence magnifies the heartbeat of our campus and the seminary’s mission to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ throughout the world and to become active apologists of the Orthodox Faith.”
Now they share morning and evening prayer, meals, classes, and “obediences,” or campus chores. “My obedience for this semester is meal crew, [so] you can find me in the refectory,” says Kripaya Varghese, who is studying for her master of arts in General Theological Studies.
Naomi DeHaan is working on her M.A. in Theological Scholarship and Research, and she stretches to fit in more than a full load. “One of the students is offering a course on Byzantine notation once a week. I also participate in a Hebrew reading group, and occasionally in a student-led poetry get-together.” There are also late-night library sessions for her research “to lay aside the distractions of the day and focus on writing.”
Sister Anastasia Colchester, also pursuing an M.A. in Scholarship and Research, mentions twice-weekly choir practices and student council each month. Like DeHaan, she enjoys the peacefulness of the library.
While some of these women have an idea of what their future holds – chaplaincy, adult education, iconography – others are still discerning. “I don’t want to plan out too much,” says Mother Devorah Salamon, an M.A. student. “If I feel something is being put on my heart, I will look into it and see if God opens the doors.”
Meanwhile, they are appreciating their time at St. Vladimir’s. “We have an interesting lifestyle here,” says Andjelka Stankovic. “Church, classes, extracurricular activities, and of course, free time for just enjoying the beauty of this amazing place with friends.”