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Orthodox Christianity has always fascinated me.

For Westerners, Christian orthodoxy – whether Greek, Indian or another branch – may not be as familiar as Roman Catholicism or Protestantism.

Here in Kerala, the Indian Orthodox Church reigns supreme among Christians in this region, so I was pleased to spend time yesterday with several priests of the church. But the highlight of my day was spending time at the Old Orthodox Theological Seminary.

Rev. Dr. Jacob Kurien

The institution is more than 100 years old and was responsible for bringing literacy to Kerala. I don’t often get the opportunity to spend time with priests in training.

And in the Orthodox church, it’s even more interesting because the young men have to decide before they’re ordained whether they want to get married.

If they decide to remain celibate, they have the opportunity to raise to the position of bishop, which according to the seminary’s principal, the Rev. Dr. Jacob Kurien, only about 10 percent of seminarians will choose not to marry.

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While at the seminary, I met Chicago native Arun Modayil, 28, who’s a fourth-year student at the school.

His family is originally from Kerala, so he was pleased to move closer to family and obtain a masters level education for approximately $500 a year.

Modayil said he gradually decided to enter the priesthood, but it’s a decision he’s now convinced will take him back to the United States and allow him to better serve his community and God.

“I want to go back because there is more work to be done” in the United States, he said. “It’s not a physical reward. It’s being the caretaker of a community and not of physical things.”

Arun Modayil

Modayil said he’s already decided to get married, and, against the customs of India, his marriage will not be arranged.

Spending a few moments with young men so dedicated to serving God forced me to reflect on future generations of Christianity. I’m beginning to feel hopeful.

Until tomorrow, Victoria.

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