Vasilije Vranic came as a full-time student on the MA in Pastoral Theology. He has since succesfully completed his studies and is now married to his wife Jelena. The Vranic family live in the USA where Vasilije serves as a deacon in St. Sava Serbian Orthodox Cathedral, Milwaukee. Since Feb 2008 Vasilije and Jelena are the proud parents of their little baby boy Petar. CONGRATULATIONS!
Here is what Vasilije said about himself and about his time in Cambridge:
I was born in 1976 in Sarajevo, of the late Perisa Vranic, protopresbyter, and Jelena Vranic, professor of music. As a son of a priest I started to come regularly to the Church to attend all the services and so the Church became my second house. It was my great pleasure and indeed an honour to be in the altar with my Father who was celebrating the Liturgy and to help him, and around that time I have made firm decision about what I wanted to do with my life.
After I completed the elementary school I moved to Belgrade and enrolled into the Seminary. After finishing three years in Belgrade I was invited by Hilandar monastery to continue my education on the Holy Mountain, from where I graduated in 1996. Then I received a scholarship from the Lutheran Church of Germany to spend a year in Sibiu (Romania) learning German at the Goethe Institute. After finishing the course I spent one year in Belgrade teaching Greek at the Public University 'Bozidar Adzija' (an alternative school). After that I enrolled into St. Sava Serbian Orthodox School of Theology in Libertyville (USA) from where I graduated in June 2002.
I am very glad that I have been admitted to the Institute for Orthodox Christian Studies because even though I am in a foreign country I feel that I am in a very friendly environment. Here we have staff of very capable young people and experienced professors together, working hard to represent their and our faith to people who might have never heard about it and at the same time to provide a possibility for us the orthodox students from all over the world to study here in Cambridge at the one of the best universities in the world.
Elizabeth Higgs was a part-time student of the Institute following the Certificate of Higher Education in Orthodox Christian Studies. She is now married to Vasileios Stamatelatos, one of our former MA students, and they live together in Greece. These were her words about the Certificate course:
I graduated from Queens University of Belfast in 1996 with a degree in scholastic philosophy. During my time at University I was an active Anglican and was very involved in an ecumenical prayer group, which in the context of Northern Ireland at the time was particularly poignant. On leaving University I knew that I wanted to get back to real life and do something personally and spiritually challenging, so I moved to the L'Arche Community in Cork to live with adults with severe learning difficulties. During my 18 months there, I became acutely aware of the way in which community life strips you bare–you are confronted with who you really are and the extent of your own needs. The people that I lived with really showed me how what matters is not what qualifications or degree we have but the extent of our capacity to love. I had to learn to receive love, as they were more open and capable of expressing their love and their feelings than I was. Their spontaneity was amazing and their faith in God was alive and natural. However, being the only non-Catholic Christian in the community affected me quite deeply and I left the Community and went to Poland where I taught English in Warsaw for one academic year.
The experience in Poland was like having time out - it was a break from the pressure of what it meant to be a 'good Christian' - it was a time during which I thought a lot about my life and what I was doing and the reasons why. I came back to the UK and did a PGCE and worked as an RE teacher for two years in Birmingham. My father became Orthodox in 1998 and when I got back from Poland I started going to church with him. This led to my own entry into the Orthodox Church in December 2001 in Greece. Joining the Institute's Certificate course feels like a real opportunity to learn more about the Orthodox faith and living an Orthodox life. I have now moved to Cambridge where I am teaching school refusers. The balance that I am currently enjoying in life between the course, my job and the community of other young Orthodox living here in Cambridge has contributed to making me feel very at home and excited about the future.
Ioana Dumitrache was a full-time MA student and she also worked for the Institute as a Graduate Assistant while studying here. She is now married and works as an Assistant Lecturer for the University in Bucharest (Faculty of Orthodox Theology). Before she left for Romania, Ioana kindly took part in an interview at IOCS:
Ioana, what are the differences between Orthodoxy in Romania and Orthodoxy as you have experienced it in England?
I think that Orthodoxy has a unity of spirit which enables one to feel at home when attending Orthodox services anywhere, despite natural cultural differences. I would rather refrain from making sharp distinctions between Orthodoxy here or Orthodoxy there. However, there are particularities about the Orthodox Church in England - both good and bad. I was struck by how intricately the different jurisdictions seemed to overlap, but I enjoy immensely being part of a very small community, where worship is something you do rather than something you witness as a spectator, and those around you are people you know well and your friends. Also I think being a minority in a Protestant see, the Orthodox here are more acutely aware of their tradition and identity which they do not take for granted.
What has your experience of the Masters in Pastoral Theology been like so far?
The MA in Pastoral Theology has proved quite a challenging experience, firstly because I had to adjust to a style of teaching which is specific to Cambridge, but to which I had not been exposed before, and secondly because it meant an opportunity to discuss crucial theological issues in an ecumenical context - only two of the twelve students on my course were Orthodox. I felt that it is important that there are Orthodox students on the course, as it is an opportunity for the Orthodox voice to be heard.
Tell us something about your life so far?
I was born in Bucharest, 1979 and only became practising Orthodox as a teenager, being influenced by a great religious renewal which took place in Romania after the fall of communism. This revival involved mostly young people who believed that Christian values could be the foundation on which a new society could be built and who sought models in personalities formerly persecuted by the totalitarian regime, most of whom had emerged from prisons and forced labour camps with renewed and even stronger Christian beliefs. My growing interest in theology materialised by attending the courses at the Faculty of Orthodox Theology in Bucharest. In my third year I took some time out and came to England to work as a volunteer in a school for severely disabled children. This enabled me to attend the part time courses of the Institute, an experience I enjoyed tremendously, benefiting from it both in terms of theological knowledge and human encounter. This is why I decided to come back here for full time studies, after graduation.