“We do not need just a professional school in which a few people will go to school for their priestly services - people that will be able to serve services and perform routine duties...We need a school of prophets, spiritual and intellectual athletes, who will be capable and who will desire to go into the world and take with them true knowledge, true understanding, a fiery faith and the power of homilies.....”.
Protopresbyter Georges Florovsky
"On the responsibility of the Orthodox in America", St. Vladimir's Seminary, 1949
Founded in 1986 by his holiness patriarch GERMAN of blessed memory, and the Holy Synod of the Serbian Orthodox Church, the seminary and school of theology opened its doors to students in 1987, following the approval by the State of Illinois’ Board of Higher Education. St. Sava’s has since educated and graduated almost two hundred students, most of whom became ordained clergy and serve today across the world: from Americas, across Europe, all the way to Australia.
Our humble beginnings were on the grounds of Saint Sava's monastery in Libertyville, Illinois, which is where the primary school residence and building is still at. Since 2015, as a temporary solution, the School building is located on the grounds of New Gracanica monastery, just a few miles north-west.
The most intelligent Serbian woman of the twentieth century, Isidora Sekulic, left us as a stimulant, but also a warning, the words she dedicated to Bishop Rade–Petar Petrovic Njegos, writing: „Blessed is that nation which has people with vision as their leaders”. The history of our people does not lack in people with vision, but truth be told, not all visionaries succeeded to embody their visions. One of the rare visionaries among Serbian spiritual fathers of the twentieth century who succeeded to begin and lay the foundation of an unbelievable far-reaching vision, on the cochlea of the Serbian people, but also the entire fullness of Orthodoxy, in America, was Bishop of Sumadija, Bishop Dr. Sava (Vukovic), of blessed memory.
Pastoring the Serbian Orthodox Diocese of Eastern America and Canada for ten years, Bishop Sava already at the end of the 1960’s saw the essential need for Serbs on this continent to have their own School of Theology on the highest level, where young Serbs from Serbia, together with Serbs born in America and Canada, would be prepared for their pastoral work. The other hierarchs also realized the necessity of the existence of such an academic institution, and so the Holy Assembly of Bishops, at its regular meeting in 1986, under the wise presidency of Serbian Patriarch German of blessed repose, decided that for the needs of our Church in the American-Canadian diaspora a Theological School be established at the St. Sava's monastery in Libertyville.
At the very beginning (1986-1988), our School of Theology acted as a department of the Theological Faculty of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Belgrade. From 1988-1996, the School in Libertyville was under the academic wing of the Lutheran Theological College of the University of Chicago, and from 1988 to this day it acts as an independent institution of higher education.
Over time, the number of teaching staff grew steadily, and today we have 14, divided between full- and part-time professors and lecturers. Same was true of the number of students who enrolled: it went from two to three per year, to a stable seven or eight.
When in1991, then Bishop of Eastern America, His Grace Christopher (Kovacevic), was elected as the first Metropolitan of Midwestern America, with his see at St. Sava monastery in Libertyville, he was also elected and appointed as the new dean of the School of Theology. Metropolitan Christopher of blessed memory completed his duties as dean with much dedication until his repose August of 2010.
In his tenure, of many accomplishments, we will list two most significant ones: recognition of the School by the Illinois Commission on Higher Education, and securing, by generosity of late Dragomir Nikolic, stability for the School's operation to present day.
At the first meeting of the teaching staff, after the repose of Metropolitan Christopher, Bishop Mitrophan (Kodic), then of Eastern America, and now of Canada, a long-time professor of New Testament and Liturgics at the School, was unanimously elected as the new Dean.
Since the founding of the School in 1986, through present day, 158 seminarians graduated. Of that number, 112 are ordained clergy. We are also proud that five of our graduates who pursued further education at other institutions, have now been added to the ranks of our faculty. Among the graduates, 50+ are serving as clergy in the United States and Canada, and 40+ in Serbia and across Europe.
The words of Fr. Florovsky, with which we began this journey into the history of our School, are current today, perhaps even at a greater level than over seventy years ago when they were spoken. Those words can be applied to every theological school on this continent. In the measure that our brothers and sisters, the Orthodox: Serbs, Russians, Greeks, Romanians, Americans, Georgians, Bulgarians, Arabs and many others, and each from their standpoint of the seemingly “ordinary” layperson, are truly the details of the name of Christ and the firm witnesses of faith in the crucified and resurrected Lord. In that same measure, all the orthodox theological schools on this continent: St. Vladimir's Academy, Holy Cross Academy in Boston, Holy Trinity Seminary in Jordanville, and our St. Sava School of Theology in Libertyville, as well as others - have truly become, if not schools of prophets, then at least, if we can say, schools of prophetic students.
Full article on the history of the School, written by our professor, Very Rev. Dr. Milos M. Vesin, can be found here.