Policy on Married Couples

The discipline in Eastern Churches of ordaining married men to the presbyterate impacts our Community of Priestly Formation.  Marriage is to be a firm foundation for ministry with the family giving witness as a modest, devoted, prayerful unit active in the life of the Church.  Husband and wife are equal in partnership but distinct in their charisms. The husband-seminarian benefits from a wife who can be his vocational cornerstone.

A reasonable assurance of marital and family stability must be a prerequisite before a married man is accepted into formation for holy orders.  While our Seminary works to support our couples, it is unable to take direct responsibility for the success or failure of thriving marital relationships.  It does not take formational responsibility for the wives of seminarians, and does not encumber wives with formational obligations.

It is understood that our seminarians will generally fall into one of the following states:  a single man intending to commit to celibacy; a husband in a long-term marriage; a husband in a young marriage; a man who is in a relationship with a woman with the intention of marriage; a man discerning marriage or celibacy.

If a married seminarian lives off campus, he is considered to be a “resident seminarian” and is required to fulfill all formational obligations like those who live on campus.  There is no lessening of requirements for the married seminarian.

Permission should be sought and is readily granted for a married seminarian to absent himself from a liturgical service at the Seminary for the sake of his children’s participation in the E.C.F. program (and liturgical service/s) of the Byzantine Catholic parish which the seminarian and his family has been attending.  The Seminary, to the degree possible and permissible by one’s hierarch, will maintain the same field education parish for the married seminarian with children in E.C.F. throughout his time in formation.  When infant children approach the holy mysteries of initiation, it is in the field education parish or one’s home parish where these are to be sought.

In the policies that follow, what applies to wives of seminarians will generally apply to the female partner in a recognized relationship with the intention of marriage.

The wife’s presence at all liturgical services is always welcome.

Meals at lunchtime are open to wives.  A lunch fee may be required.  The Saturday evening meal is generally open to all those who are in attendance at the preceding vespers service.  Wives and children are most certainly welcome.

Women are never permitted in the cloistered areas on the 2nd and 3rd floors when seminary formation is in session.

Wives and staff members, but generally not other women, are allowed in the basement recreation area, between 7 AM and 8 PM only.

Regarding liturgical services, meals, and social participation, children of a seminarian are welcome along with the wife.  All are expected to exhibit good manners in community by arriving for liturgical services and meals on time.  It is to be remembered that the Seminary, due to the sanctity and centrality of our liturgical and communal life, has a formational expectation that seminarian-father and mother are actively encouraging behavior in their children that reflects intentional and loving discipline.  The Seminary does not provide childcare and provides an environment consistent with those parish churches without crying rooms.  Minors must be accompanied at all times by a parent, adult relative, or legal guardian while in the Seminary complex.

Wives who choose to take theology courses for credit (either on-campus or online) may do so at a 10% discount after registering as either a non-matriculating or M.A.T. student.  If they choose to sit in on a class without participation, either occasionally or regularly, they may do so at no charge with the instructor’s permission.  No application process is required when wives audit courses on-campus.  However, for wives to audit online courses they must register and pay the tuition at a 10% discount.

Participation by wives in formational conferences is rare.

Meetings of the couple are to take place at least once per year with the Rector and, ideally, at least once per year with the seminarian’s personal formational advisor.

Wives and children with pastoral gifts (e.g. catechist, Bethany ministry), at the discretion of the Director of Pastoral Formation, may be directed to local parishes to share their gifts.  This is to not be at the expense of the seminarian’s pastoral responsibilities.

If a woman who is dating a seminarian visits the Seminary, no seminarians are permitted inside her assigned guest room.

Like those students discerning celibacy, dating couples (i.e. couples in a relationship recognized by each one’s family) must understand the importance of the monastic “reference point” for all the faithful.  Appropriate embrace of evangelical simplicity is to be encouraged in all.

While engaging in ordinary family life with wife (and children), the seminarian (as common with ordained men) does not generally dress in clerical clothing.  When dressed in clerical clothing, public displays of affection are to be avoided, with the possible exception of hand-holding.  Prudence dictates that when a father is holding his children in a non-Eastern Church environment that he not be wearing clerical clothing.  He must be careful about disciplining his children in public when dressed in clerical clothing.

Life skills education courses should be arranged and given for younger couples by mature married couples.  On-line programs are encouraged.

Conferences conducted by wives of clergy are to be scheduled for couples.  Other theology students who are wives are to be welcomed into these conferences as appropriate.  These groups will have access to Seminary facilities for these meetings.

Mutual support of wives and future wives through meetings facilitated both in person and through social media (e.g. “wise women”) are encouraged and organized by the Seminary.  Counseling to assist younger married couples in the development of communication to help navigate the pressures of formation and discernment is available when found advisable.

A Seminarians’ Wives Liaison is usually elected annually by the wives and girlfriends of seminarians to serve as a point-of-contact between the wives and girlfriends and the Seminary via the Prefect.  She is a wife of a current seminarian who has completed his first year of theology.  She is elected by the wives and girlfriends of current seminarians.  The job includes:

  • Communicating what scheduled activities may be attended;
  • Providing tours of the Seminary physical plant;
  • Facilitating support systems for wives and girlfriends as described above;
  • Assisting, as requested, in programs and/or processes to help a seminarian and his future wife prepare for marriage;
  • Canvassing periodically for any concerns/needs of wives and mothers;
  • Maintaining an up-to-date directory of seminarians’ wives and girlfriends.
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