Conversation with Dr. Kyriaki Fitzgerald, co-founder and Executive Director of SCV





Educating Our Children in the Image of God, After the Likeness of Christ

Conversation with members of Saint Catherine's Vision as an organization of Orthodox women and men who work together building up the Body of Christ


Cultivating and Sharing a Charism of Education, Dialogue and Service

            Saint Catherine's Vision or SCV is an international, pan-Orthodox, non-profit organization of women theologians, together with ordained and lay servant-leaders addressing contemporary concerns from an Orthodox Christian perspective.  Founded in 2001, we are an endorsed organization of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States of America.  SCV is guided by a board of directors who govern general affairs and a larger advisory board (or advisory council), who, together comprise the bulk of a “prayer-based think tank…that also acts.”  From our first conversations we realized for the sake of “the building up of the body of Christ” (Eph. 4:12) that every project or service we initiated we commit to submit to a discipline simultaneously prioritizing three objectives.  These are:

Spiritual Renewal

            Through the application of this foundational, yet dynamic discipline, over the years we gradually began to reach out to many persons through our books, conferences, consultations, discussions, retreats, other expressions of education and spiritually based, relationship building.  These efforts have been an on-going labor of love.

            Building on this foundation, during the spring of 2012 we discerned a deeper and richer appreciation regarding the central importance of Divine Compassion (the “mercy” or “eleos” of God, theion eleos).  Divine Compassion is a fundamental, yet largely overlooked dimension of Christian ecclesiological and spiritual life. There is no Christian “story”: no incarnation, no gospel, no Pentecost, no Church, without the extension, application and reception of Thrice-Holy Love from outside of creation from the God who loves us first (cf. 1 John 4:19).

            The practical ramifications of this essential theological principle are too many to count.  With inexpressible gratitude and joy, our commitment to cultivate Orthodox Christian appreciation for A Theology of Divine Compassion (theion eleos) for Today,” has been pervading all of our efforts ever since we came to this discernment. In very short order, our discussions related to Divine Compassion sparked the realization that from our very first explorations[1] Saint Catherine’s Vision has been striving to receive and share a charism of Education, Dialogue and Service.  These developments in our discerning process have implemented our growth fostering new relationships both in North America and worldwide, including through:

1) consulting with clergy, theologians and parishes on issues especially related to ministry and the laity,

2) offering theological conferences and lectureships (co-sponsored with Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology and the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Boston),

3) authoring and publishing SCV’s international Call for the Rejuvenation of the Ministry of the Ordained Deaconess,[2]

4) responding to lecture and speaking invitations,

5) facilitating and promoting the work of young scholars, [3]

6) continuing to build our social media outreach and witness,[4] as well as

7) collaboratively co-authoring our third book: Encountering Women of Faith: The Saint Catherine’s Vision Collection, Volume III  (to be published by Holy Cross Orthodox Press).[5]

            During spring 2015, we announced our first public Outreach Ministry (diakonima) initiative.  We have committed ourselves to cultivating on-going dialogue, learning and strategic action regarding: “Divine Compassion and Human Trafficking”. While no one person or agency alone can stop the commodification of human persons; we believe that by virtue of the Lord’s own ineffable eleos, greater numbers of prepared and proactive persons collaborating together can make a difference by “lighting a Candle in the darkness”.  Our first step has been to call attention to the vital importance of Orthodox Christian theological teaching regarding the human person,  created in the “image and likeness” of God, to serve at the foundation of building a contemporary, more complete and cohesive pan-Orthodox witness and response to this devastating human crisis. [6] [7]  Today, as the Compassionate Lord blesses, we look forward to deepening relationships with appropriate parties who wish to explore, build and support ways to collaborate, educate, coordinate and move forward regarding this endeavor.

            As our focus concerns the Lord’s will for His Church and not our own, we believe that SCV is still in the process of discerning and cultivating our charism.  Practically speaking, our overall commitment is:

  1. To develop and implement initiatives especially supporting women's ministries in the Orthodox Church through prayer, education, research, training, mentoring, and other related programming related to theology and ministry.
  1. To promote spiritually and theologically sound approaches that facilitate the education, witness and service of men and women in a manner which fully supports the participation of women.

III. To create and direct endeavors serving Orthodox Christian theology and ministry (or orthopraxia) "for the building up of the body of Christ" (Ephesians 4:12) which is His Church and share the light of Christ in today's world. [8]

[1] These explorations began in the late 1980’s  by co-founders Clara Nickolson, of blessed memory, and Dr. Kyriaki FitzGerald, who worked with the Boston Theological Institute (BTI) under the auspices  of BTI, President,  Sister Mary Hennessy, Ph.D. , to create a proposal for an Orthodox Women’s Studies Program at Hellenic College-Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology (HCHC).  After a hiatus, a revised proposal was submitted during the 2000-2001 academic year to the new president of HCHC, Fr. Nicholas Triantafilou, who was highly enthusiastic regarding the proposal, yet deeply saddened that funds could not be made available to support this initiative.  The co-founders, after much discussion, prayer and the blessing from their spiritual fathers, proceeded to actualize the smallest components of the proposal “for the building up of the body of Christ” (Eph. 4:12) which, by the grace of God, has led us to SCV today.

[2] Greek Orthodox Theological Review, 59:1-4, 2014,  pp. 231-258;   and  http://saintcatherinesvision.org/assets/files/December%20SCV%20Call.pdf.

[6] We are profoundly grateful to H.E. Metropolitan Kallistos (Ware) of Diokleia who has been generously encouraging the work of SCV.  In addition to keynoting the previous year for our second inter-national Divine Compassion conference on  Divine Compassion and Women of the Church: Theological Perspectives,  he kindly accepted our invitation to offer the keynote address for our inaugural Divine Compassion Distinguished Lectureship held at Hellenic College-Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology June 20, 2015 as a way to assist with SCV’s first “diakonima”.  He spoke on “Divine Compassion and the Restoration of the Human Icon”.  For audio-visual recordings from these and other related events, see: http://www.saintcatherinesvision.org/media/video-gallery. 

[8] “In all things and for all things, we praise and thank the thrice-holy, living God of love Who made this (i.e. SCV) possible…”  Michael E. Karidoyanes, July 25, 2007.