Where Have All The Theological Students Gone?
The priesthood in America is a dwindling, honorable profession
By Christos Papoutsy
Founder and Publisher, Hellenic Communication Service
With approximately 600 Greek Orthodox Churches in the U.S., one would think that there would be at least one new seminarian from every parish enrolled in Holy Cross School of Theology annually, resulting in hundreds entering each academic year. This is not the case. And it is a serious issue for the future of the Greek Orthodox Church in the U.S.
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Why are our young men not choosing to become priests?
Holy Cross Report Reveals Real Number of Seminarians
By Theodore Kalmoukos,
Special to The National Herald
BOSTON--Findings of a confidential report prepared by the new dean of the Holy Cross School of Theology, Rev. Emmanuel Clapsis, have alarmed the archdiocese and members of the executive committee of the school's board of trustees.
The report reveals that the number of admitted seminarians who come from the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese and are studying for the priesthood is considerably lower than previously thought.
Contradicting previous accounts that the number of new students for the current academic year was 45, Fr. Clapsis' report reveals that there are only 34 students admitted to Holy Cross, and that only 14 of them are seminarians from the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese who will serve the Greek Church in America.
According to the dean's report, a copy of which has been obtained by The National Herald, "The number of full time students admitted to the School of Theology for the 2002-2003 year is 34, 10 students in the MTS Program, five in Th.M Program and 19 in M.Div. Program (14 GOA, three Antiochian, one Bulgarian, and one Melkite). We also have 24 special students (one exchange students, eight BTI and 15 part time)."
According to Fr. Clapsis, the number of Greek Orthodox seminarians admitted in the last eight years was: 10 in 1995, 26 in 1996, 16 in 1997, 14 in 1998, 10 in 1999, 19 in 2000, 28 in 2001, and 14 in 2002.
In his report, Clapsis states that "the numbers indicate that we do not have any significant increase in GOA seminarians.
The low number of Greek Orthodox seminarians and the increasing number of converts, who apply for the priesthood are no different from what other Orthodox and Christian seminaries in this country are experiencing. It is urgent for the archdiocese and the local dioceses, in cooperation with the school, to develop pastoral strategies which cultivate the priestly calling among the young people in the parishes."
Sources told the Herald that Archbishop Demetrios, who is also ex-officio chairman of the board of trustees of Holy Cross, attempted to justify the situation by saying that we cannot arrive at conclusions judging from only one year.
But the Herald has also learned that George Behrakis, one of the most prominent members of the executive committee of the school, who, on October 10, learned for the first time the actual number of new students to the school, told the committee that "it is a shame not to be able to attract students from our Greek American community."
The school's annual budget is $7,000,000, and each students costs the school approximately $50,000-$60,000 per year. The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese gives the school $1.2 million annually and Leadership 100 has pledged $1 million per year for the next 10 years, to go to students who, upon graduation, will serve as priests in the Greek Orthodox parishes throughout the United States.
A decision made at Holy Cross recently dictates that the money donated by Leadership 100 be given only to Greek Orthodox seminarians.
The decision was reached after Bishop Gerasimos of Krateia noticed that the school's Director of Admissions, Fr. James Katinas, was granting scholarships from monies coming from the Leadership 100 to all theological students.
In his report, Fr. Clapsis states that: "The changing profile of students is a challenge that invites the School (faculty and administration) to rethink, further develop, and even devise new ways to assist the students to form their priestly consciousness.
"The administration and the faculty have begun to reassess their policies on admissions and the ways that the priestly consciousness of the seminarians is formed. The Admissions Committee is reviewing the requirements for admissions of new students and in consultation with the administration is examining the process by which M.Div. students are granted seminarian status."