In a humble response to the love of God for His people, St. Catherine's Vision grew out of proposals written in the late 1980's and late 1990's by Clara Nickolson, of blessed memory, and Dr. Kyriaki Karidoyanes FitzGerald seeking to establish an Orthodox Women's Studies Program at Hellenic College Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology.
It became clear to SCV's founders that while momentum for the deepening and widening of the witness, ministry and service of women in the life of the Church was building, it would be far more helpful to begin with smaller initiatives and projects, seeking to support "the building of the body of Christ" (Eph. 4:12).
After many phone calls and small meetings a request in the form of a petition was sent to the hierarchs of the Standing Conference of Orthodox Bishops (SCOBA, later to be re-constituted as the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in North and Central America) in 2001 requesting their blessing for a group of Pan-Orthodox women graduates of Orthodox theological schools to meet in order begin discussions and prepare other meetings and retreats for women who desire to serve within the life of the Church and have attended Orthodox theological seminary.
It was during these first written exchanges from 2001-2003 between the SCOBA hierarchs and office and the founders that the group was referred to as "women theologians". This honor of address was used solely by the bishops themselves to address the group, and not initiated by any of the SCV sisters themselves. It is only after years of being addressed in this manner by the bishops, that we have incorporated this phrase in our work.
From the beginning of our discussions we realized that faithful women graduates of Orthodox theological schools needed to be our first outreach as this population was generally an overlooked resource in a number of Orthodox contexts. At the same time, from the very beginning we knew that our vision and embrace had to include other sisters and brothers in Christ who desired to serve within the life of the Church.
During a retreat in February 2004 we discerned that the Lord's All-Beautiful Mother, Mary the Holy Theotokos was guiding us in some unexplainable manner and that our patron saint was Saint Catherine the Great-Martyr, patron saint of theologians, philosophers, educators, librarians, students, spinners and others. It was at this same retreat we discerned that we need to offer the Church a concrete witness regarding the many ways women serve within the life of the Church committing to write in a collaborative conciliar manner, volume one of theEncountering Book Series, Women of Faith.
In 2005 we sponsored the first Retreat for Women Graduates of Orthodox Theological Schools, and have since been blessed with opportunities which include writing by Volume 2 of the Encountering Book Series, edited Dr. Kyriaki Karidoyanes FitzGerald, developing retreats for women theologians and Orthodox parishes, initiating book discussion groups, facilitating events including co-facilitating the historic Women Disciples of the Lord Conference at St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary, Summer 2011, offering presentations and consulting with leaders across North America on issues that affect the laity, especially women.
While relying on Divine Compassion this past year, we also have been refining our vision and mission, preparing for our next phase. As we continue to reach out to female graduates of Orthodox theological schools, we now also seek to benefit involved women and men who are committed to serving Christ.
Our first Orthodox public event was a co-sponsored conference with Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology on Divine Compassion: Orthodox Christians in Service of ‘Perfect Love’ from November 14-16, 2013.
For June 2014, we have initiated plans for a sequel to the November conference on Divine Compassion and Women of the Church, other educational events, retreats, more collaborative book-writing, social media outreach and other publications.