Seminarian Matthew McDonald, Wife Christine
Home Parish: Saint Thomas the Apostle Church, Springfield, MO
Seminary: St. Tikhon’s
Matthew was born in 1981 in San Jose, CA. He was raised attending mostly Baptist and Pentecostal churches. He first encountered the Orthodox faith at college, when he was brought by a friend to a Vespers service. He did not begin attending the Church at that time, but a year later began to become more fixated on the idea of a historical Christianity. This led him back to St. Thomas, and he began attending at that time. After he was married, both he and his wife were baptized and Chrismated by Fr. Andrew Moore. Matthew and his wife, Christine, have two children.
Matthew and his family have attended St. Thomas the Apostle since 2005. Beginning in 2013, Matthew became more involved with serving behind the altar and reading in Church. His wife regularly sang in the choir.
Matthew attends St. Tikhon’s and is expected to graduate in 2021.
Seminarian Aaron Rutz
Home Parish: Holy Trinity Church, Parma, OH
Seminary: St. Vladimir’s
Aaron was born and raised in the Cincinnati area. He grew up surrounded by very committed Lutherans on both sides of his family, with strong ties to Germany and deep affection for liturgical music. He went to Sewanee: The University of the South (an Episcopalian school) for undergraduate studies. At Sewanee, Aaron was in the University Choir, singing Sunday services and Evensong and also took a few classes at the campus seminary. At the time, however, his professional goals revolved exclusively around work in theater. Aaron graduated with a B.A. in Theater Arts and Philosophy in 2012.
For the next year, Aaron traveled the world with funding from a Thomas J. Watson Fellowship in order to visit theater groups, especially in former communist countries. While in Eastern Europe, he ran right into the Orthodox Church. Having almost no previous exposure to Orthodoxy, he spent countless awestruck hours in churches in Serbia and Bulgaria. Aaron restructured some of his travel plans in the Spring in order to be in Kiev for Holy Week and then visited a monastery in the Fagaras Mountains of Romania during the Paschal season.
Exhilarated by these experiences, Aaron decided to visit Orthodox Parishes when returning to the USA. After regularly attending Liturgy for a few years and wrestling with doubts about converting, Aaron was received into the Orthodox Church by Chrismation at Holy Trinity Orthodox Church in Parma, OH. Aaron’s priest, Fr. Alexander Garklavs, soon started nudging him towards considering seminary. Aaron never imagined life in the Church could be as rich and full as it has been in Orthodoxy and is very grateful to be in the vibrant community of St. Vladimir’s and thankful that God put Orthodoxy right in the middle of his life path.
Seminarian Peter Simko, Wife Chelsea (Xenia)
Home Parish: Saint Gregory of Nyssa Church, Columbus, OH
Seminary: St. Tikhon’s
Peter hails from Canfield, Ohio, and he grew up worshiping at Saint John the Forerunner Greek Orthodox Church in Youngstown, Ohio. He served in the altar as a child, and was ordained a reader by now-retired Metropolitan MAXIMOS when he was ten years old. Peter attended Case Western Reserve University, where he graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in civil engineering and met Chelsea. Chelsea had been raised in the United Methodist Church in Houston, Texas. Both ended up becoming members of Campus Crusade and Orthodox Christian Fellowship, in which Peter eventually served on the national Student Advisory Board. Upon graduation, they both landed in Columbus, Ohio; Peter worked as a site civil engineer for several firms, and Chelsea worked as a social worker, eventually getting her Masters of Social Work from The Ohio State University.
In Columbus, the couple attended Saint Gregory of Nyssa, where Chelsea was Baptized and Chrismated in 2012, and where the two were married in January of 2014. Peter and Chelsea gradually became involved in a number of parish ministries, helping out with whatever they could. In December of 2017, after completing the Saint Macrina Institute coursework through the Diocese of the Midwest and the Diaconal Vocations Program, Peter was ordained to the subdiaconate by His Grace, Bishop Paul. Peter is attending Saint Tikhon’s.
Seminarian Ephraim Tauck, Wife Brittany
Home Parish: Theotokos “Unexpected Joy” Church, Ash Grove, MO
Seminary: St. Tikhon’s
Ephraim was born at Rapid City, SD, and raised on a sheep and cattle ranch in South Eastern Montana. Immediately after high school he served in the United Stated Coast Guard for 4 years. After many years of searching, the True Faith was given to him in 2011, at Ash Grove, MO, in the Church of the Mother of God, Unexpected Joy. He met his wife Brittany (Athanasia) in 2011, and they were married in 2013 at the Church of St. John the Theologian in Rapid City. After helping at that parish for a few years, they returned to Unexpected Joy, where Ephraim served as a Reader. In the meantime two delightful children, Lucia and Nikolai, came along for the ride. He is set to graduate in 2020.