Diocesan Seminarians

Phillip Dage

Home Parish: St. Peter and St. Paul Cathedral, Detroit, MI

Seminary: St. Tikhon’s Seminary

Year & Program: 1st year M.Div.

Phillip Dage joined the Orthodox Church in 2000. Along with his mom, dad, and brother, Phillip received the Sacrament of Holy Chrismation at Ss. Peter and Paul, OCA Cathedral in Detroit, MI. Phillip continues to be a member at SSPP, where he was tonsured a Reader in May of 2021. Following an extended
mission trip to Guatemala in 2017, Phillip was inspired to offer his life more fully in service to the Holy Orthodox Church. After working as a high school economics professor for a couple years, Phillip began his studies at St. Tikhon’s Orthodox Theological Seminary in the fall of 2021. God willing, he will graduate with a Master of Divinity in the spring of 2024.

Deacon Anthony Saunders

Home Parish: Holy Ascension Orthodox Church, Albion, MI

Seminary: St. Tikhon’s Seminary

Year & Program: 2nd year M.Div.

Fr. Anthony (Payton) and Bethany (Martha) are Michigan natives who met as students at Spring Arbor University, where they both earned undergraduate and graduate degrees. Fr. Anthony worked as a math teacher for nine years, first at a therapeutic boarding school, then in public school. Bethany worked as a counselor at a private practice.

Fr. Anthony and Bethany were chrismated on Holy Saturday in 2010, at Holy Ascension Orthodox Church, in Albion, MI. The Saunders have been active participants in parish life: helping with the services, teaching church school, supporting the local OCF, and serving on parish council.

Fr. Anthony and Bethany both come from ministry-oriented families, who first taught them to continually offer their whole lives to God. In 2019, the Saunders moved to St. Tikhon’s Seminary, in South Canaan, PA. Fr. Anthony is expected to graduate in 2022. Father and Bethany have two young girls, Anna and Adelaide.

Andrew Prather

Home Parish: St. Nicholas Mission, Pella, IA

Seminary: St. Vladimir’s Seminary

Year & Program: 2nd year M.Div.

Andrew grew up United Methodist in the Des Moines, Iowa metro area. He attended Central College in Pella, Iowa, double majoring in Religion and Computer Science. While at Central, he discovered the Orthodox Church and started attending St. Nicholas Mission. He became a catechumen in 2010 and was chrismated in 2012. After college, he worked for 9 years in Healthcare IT, specializing in PACs. In late 2019, he felt a call to leave his home of 14 years, for seminary at St. Vladimir’s, enrolling in the Master of Arts program in the fall of 2020. He transferred to the Master of Divinity program in December 2020. Andrew is engaged to Amber Bennett of St. Elizabeth Orthodox Church (OCA), Poulsbo, WA.

Jared Ries

Home Parish: St. Innocent Church Olmsted, OH

Seminary: St. Vladimir’s Seminary

Year & Program: 1st year M.Div.

Jared was born in Kentucky before moving to Cleveland, Ohio at a young age. He was raised Protestant before converting to Orthodoxy with his family in 2008, when he was 10 years old. At his home parish of St. Innocent in Olmsted Township, OH, Jared served as parish sacristan for 4 years. He attended Cleveland State University, attaining a BA in Psychology. Jared was then
in the field of social work for 2 years, where he worked in mental health case management, servicing individuals with severe mental health diagnoses. When the time came for him to consider options for graduate study, Jared felt called to seminary and the possibility of vocational service to the Church. He enrolled in St. Vladimir’s Master of Divinity program, starting his seminary journey in the Fall of 2021.

Deacon Joseph Whittaker

Home Parish: St. Andrew Orthodox Church, East Lansing, MI

Seminary: St. Tikhon’s Seminary

Year & Program: 2nd year M.Div.

Joseph and Julianna were born and raised near Lansing, Michigan. Joseph attended Great Lakes Christian College where he earned a Bachelor’s degree in Theology. Julianna attended Michigan State University, earning a Bachelor’s degree in Social Work. Upon graduation, Joseph and Julianna married and became involved in a local Reformed church where Joseph was a pastoral intern. It was at that time that they began to read more from the writings of the early Church which eventually led to them entering the Catechumenate at St. Andrews Orthodox Church in East Lansing, Michigan. After one year as Catechumens, Joseph and Julianna were received into the Orthodox Church in October of 2016.

They have three children: Juniper (5), Genevieve (3), and Ephraim (1) and will soon welcome their fourth, a baby girl. The Whittaker family moved to South Canaan, Pennsylvania in the fall of 2020 to attend St. Tikhon’s Seminary. Joseph is expected to Graduate with a Masters of Divinity in 2023.

Jonathan York

Home Parish: Christ the Savior Orthodox Church, Chicago, IL

Seminary: St. Tikhon’s Seminary

Year & Program: 1st year M.Div.

Jonathan and Karina originally met as students at Duke University, where they completed their undergraduate education. After graduation, Jonathan moved to Chicago, IL where he completed a graduate degree in New Testament at the University of Chicago, and Karina moved to Atlanta, GA, where she earned a degree in nursing from Emory University. Around that time, Jonathan’s studies in early Christianity led him to begin attending Christ the Savior Orthodox Church in Chicago, and he was received into the Church on Lazarus Saturday, 2016. Karina was Chrismated the following year on the Eve of Theophany. Upon finishing their respective graduate programs, Jonathan and Karina were married at Christ the Savior parish in 2018.

Jonathan worked for four years as the Assistant to the Dean of Annunciation Greek Orthodox Cathedral of Chicago, where he gained a broad experience in ecclesial and pastoral work – from helping couples plan their weddings, to filing baptism paperwork, to handling the day-to-day affairs of the Cathedral. Karina worked as a pediatric nurse at Shriner’s Hospital for Children. The Yorks were also increasingly active in the life of their parish: serving on parish council, supporting the parish’s outreach ministries, and serving in the altar.

In the Fall of 2021, the York family left their home in Chicago and moved to South Canaan, Pennsylvania to begin their time at St Tikhon’s Seminary, where Jonathan is expected to graduate in 2024. Jonathan and Karina have two young daughters: Genevieve and Emilia, who ensure their home never has a dull moment.

Jacob Zawatski

Home Parish: St. Joseph Church, Wheaton, IL

Seminary: St. Tikhon’s Seminary

Year & Program: 1st year M.Div.

Jacob was born in a small coal town in Northeastern Pennsylvania to a very loving, faith centered, and ethnic Polish and Ukrainian family. Having been raised in the Roman Catholic Church, he was an active parishioner in any way that he saw possible. Since a very young age, he had always felt a calling and desire to serve God and His Church. 

Jacob attended Temple University in Philadelphia to pursue studies in Business/Finance and Russian Language. He continued his education through Penn State University, first in Hazleton, Pennsylvania and eventually to the main campus in State College, Pennsylvania. During his time at the Hazleton campus, he attended St. John the Baptist Russian Orthodox Cathedral in Mayfield, Pennsylvania. After much prayer and study, he made the decision to be received into Orthodoxy into the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia and my Chrismation took place in April of 2013.

In 2015, Jacob moved to Chicago, Illinois, and begin to study to work as a funeral director. He graduated in March of 2016 from Worsham College of Mortuary Science in Wheeling, Illinois and obtained his Associates Degree in Mortuary Science and an Illinois License for Funeral Directing and Embalming.

Jacob met his wife playing accordion with the Polish polka bands in 2018. His vocation to serve the Holy Church would continue to blossom when my wife and I discovered St. Joseph Orthodox Church in Wheaton, Illinois under the spiritual care of V. Rev. Joseph Kopka.

Support our Seminarians!

Use the links below to donate to the respective seminaries. You can make a note on your donation about which of our seminarians that you would like your donation to go to.

Are you interested in attending seminary?

Seminary is not just for clergy, it is for anyone who takes their Orthodox Christian faith seriously and wants to offer that desire to the Lord in service to His Church.

The process for applying is simple, but very personal. Begin by praying, then speak with your parish priest today about your desire to attend seminary. If it is blessed, he will bring your desire to the bishop at an appropriate time and the Lord will take care of the rest.

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