by Athanasia Papadimitriou
Qualities & Education
Qualities of a Priest’s Wife
According to Amilka S. Alivizatos, a twentieth century theologian in Greece, the ancient canons (rules) of the Church require that a woman, who, by the grace of God, will become a priest’s wife, must have spiritual virtues and gifts (charisms).The future priest’s wife must be a loving, caring, and kind individual with a deep faith and love for God. She must be a woman of good character. She must be willing to share and assist in the priest’s ministry. As Archbishop Christodoulos of Athens and all Greece says, to be a priest’s wife is to accept the following:
- blessing (eulogia),
- sacrifice (thysia),
- service (diakonia), and
- responsibility (euthyne).
Education of Priests’ Wives
Years ago, education was not an option for a priest’s wife or other women. Traditionally in many cultures, marriage and motherhood were considered enough for a woman to find fulfillment. Today, education is more widely available for women. Still today, people in society and the parish expect educated and working priests’ wives and other women to live up to the traditional roles and obligations of wives and mothers.
Priests’ wives can fulfill their role in their husbands’ ministries more effectively if they are better educated. For example, the priests’ wives can use their religious education to take a leading role to educate others, especially women, in the beliefs of the Orthodox Church. Priests’ wives can stand witness to the Orthodox faith at youth groups, women’s gatherings, and college campuses. They can also participate in and contribute to lay ministry as youth directors and lay assistants.
Many women, including the wives of seminarians and priests, attend theological schools because of their own personal interest in learning more about God, and therefore attain theological degrees from Orthodox seminaries and other universities. Some seminarians’ wives take theology courses while living on an Orthodox seminary campus, even without enrolling in a degree program. Other priests’ wives take courses at near-by colleges or universities.
Even if she does not have the time or finances to enroll in a degree program or take seminary or university theology courses, at a minimum, a priest’s wife can sit in on religious education classes to be familiar with the teachings and practices of the Orthodox faith. It will be helpful to her husband’s ministry if she knows enough to be able to answer basic questions that parishioners may have. She can refer difficult questions to the priest or another theologian when necessary, especially if the topic is controversial.
From A.:Papademetriou’s “Presbytera” The Life, Mission, and Service of the Priest’s Wife.” Ed. Somerset Hall Press, Boston, Massachusetts, 2004.