The school year for St. Herman Orthodox Theological Seminary in Kodiak will begin on both somber and joyous notes.
On Sunday at the seminary chapel, a memorial service — followed by a potluck — will be held for Timothy Jacob, beloved seminarian who died in a hit-and-run incident in Naknek this summer. Jacob was working at a Naknek cannery to earn money for seminary, which he had planned to return to this fall.
Jacob, who came from the village of Napaskiak, contributed “a presence of service, joy, laughter” and demonstrated the importance of service in the church,” said Fr. Vasilly Fisher, St. Herman’s seminary dean and parish priest of Napaskiak.
Jacob was known for “teasing in a Yup’ik way,” said Fisher.
He was instrumental in getting the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, an Orthodox Sunday School, into his village and was raising funds for materials for the program.
“He had a love for teaching children,” said Fisher.
Jacob made such a positive impression that one of the Catechesis classrooms at Holy Resurrection Cathedral will be dedicated to his memory.
One of Jacob’s classmates, Deacon Noah Andrew, will be ordained into the priesthood on Saturday morning at Holy Resurrection Orthodox Cathedral on the Feast of the Dormition of the Theotokos.
Andrew, a Native leader, enrolled in St. Herman after his son — Fr. Ishmael Andrew — attended there.
The memorial service and ordination will set the tone for the new seminary year, Fisher said.
As Fisher looks at the curriculum and plans for the seminary, he said it’s returning to its original focus, in the spirit of St. Innocent (Fr. John Veniaminov), a Russian missionary who dedicated his life to preaching and teaching the Gospel of Christ to the Native people in Alaska. That objective inspired him to translate the Bible and church services into Native languages.
The teaching of Native languages will be a big focus of the seminary, said Fisher. “We have the bishop’s (Alexis) greatest support” in that effort. The languages will be taught in the context of Church services.
Fisher said that the seminary is reclaiming its original mission, which was to provide a place of formation for indigenous clergy.
“The Seminary is here to serve the Diocese,” which includes regions that are indigenous, said Fisher.
Part of the formation of students at St. Herman will come about through the influence of Alaska clergy who, along with their wives, will be invited to spend time with students at the seminary.
This concept is “something we’re building up so that … students will be exposed to what they will experience in the parish,” said Fisher.
Fisher said new hires at St. Herman’s include the Most Rev. Michael Dahulich of Pennsylvania, who will teach ethics. Dahulich taught at St. Tikhon’s Orthodox Theological Seminary. Prior to that he was on the faculty at both Christ the Saviour Seminary and Duquesne University. Father Ephraim, a monk at the St. Nilus Serbian Orthodox Skete in the Spruce Island vicinity, will teach spirituality. Rachel Nicholai, whose husband, George, is a second-year seminarian, will teach Yup’ik.
Fr. John Dunlop, who resigned from his position as seminary dean, will continue teaching classes at St. Herman. Dunlop and his wife, Mathushka Bea, have moved to Port Lions where Fr. John will serve as parish priest, and his wife will teach math for the Kodiak Island Borough School District.
Fisher said seminary classes are open to the public.