After reading and seeing the beautiful pictures of the reception of a former Byzantine Catholic Monastery into Holy Orthodoxy, I couldn't help to reflect on what an important role converts are already playing and will play in the future of Orthodoxy here in America.
The new chosen auxilliary bishop (Tikhon) is a convert which, if I am correct, makes over half of the Bishops in the OCA converts.
In a recent conversation with my parish priest, he tells me that this year there is a high enrollment in our three seminaries of either seminary students or those who are studying Orthodoxy through various other correspondence programs, etc. through the seminary programs. Think he said the total is somewhere around 200 total. The vast majority being converts to Orthodoxy.
Though my heart is gladdened by this news it is somewhat saddened by the fact that our own cradle Orthodox have the lowest statistics of enrollment. So I guess we can but thank God for those he is sending to us.
An example of what I am talking about is in the Spring/Summer issue of 'The Spirit of St Tikhon's' seminary newsletter which reflects the statistics of only one of the three seminaries -
Student Body - The commencement of the 64th year of our theological school saw the largest incoming class of seminarians ever! Currently a total of 59 men are registered in the two programs of study in preparation for the Holy priesthood. In addition, 27 individuals are taking courses on a part time basis in Extension Studies, and 14 others have been studying "Introduction to Orthodox Christian Spirituality" on-line in the Distance Learning Program, which began last semester.
On the present enrollment of 59 students: 30 are new this academic year and 29 are returning upperclassmen. By the program: 39 are Master of Divinity students, and 20 are Diploma Program students. By marital status: 31 are married, and 28 are single. Thirty students live in the Seminary dormitory, and 29 live off campus.
Of these 59 seminarians, 42 of them are being educated for the Orthodox Church In America. Of the remaining: 6 are from the Antiochian Archdiocese, 2 from the Church of Russia, 2 from the Moscow Patriarchal parishes in this country, 2 from the Serbian Diocese in America, 2 from the Alexandrian Patriarchate, 1 from the Bulgarian Diocese in this country, 1 from the Jerusalem Patriarchate, and 1 from the Ukrainian Church in the United States. Five of these are foreign students, and the average age of the seminarians is 32 years.
Of the current enrollment, 45 students (an unprecedented 76%) are converts to Orthodoxy - that is startling news! This is truly a credit to the missionary zeal and labors of the hierachs and clergy of the Orthodox Church in this country. However, when one factors out the remaining 14 students those that are foreign born, the sad statistic is that a very small percentage of the seminarians are American born cradle Orthodox. This presents us with a serious challenge: to re-claim our own parishes as a primary source of vocations to the Holy priesthood.
Interesting, isn't it? Seems the Holy Spirit is working overtime to ensure a future for Orthodoxy here in the U.S.