John and Katie Russell have known each other since a mutual interest in art at an Indiana middle school and high school started them on a life-long friendship. That journey has led them to the Byzantine Catholic Church and a marriage that has produced two beautiful children. Recently, the couple visited the Seminary as John is discerning a call to seek a Masters Degree in Theology to prepare him to teach high school and undergraduate theology
John (29) and Katie (28) share a passion for art and their faith. John manages a custom picture framing shop in Indianapolis and attended Wabash College where he majored in art and religion. Katie was trained as a dental technician and Certified Nurse Assistant and attended the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore. Now, she devotes her time to being a wife, full-time mom to John Elias (3) and Mary Eve (1½), and an artist, painter and ceramist.
John and Katie have been members of St. Athanasius Byzantine Catholic Parish in Indianapolis since changing ritual church in 2004. Prior to that, John was a Roman Catholic and Katie an Evangelical Protestant before becoming a Roman Catholic.
“The Byzantine Church really reflects who we are,” said John. “We are moved by the form and structure of the Liturgy and the rich and abundant expression of the sacraments. As a student of medieval art, I am deeply moved by and can relate to iconography.”
When considering schools for graduate work, John recalled that his undergraduate coursework left him with the feeling that something was missing. He visited the Seminary in the hope of finding that missing element. “Knowledge without wisdom is incomplete,” said John. “We came to Pittsburgh to consider attending this Seminary that can provide an education from a faithful and prayerful perspective.”
During their visit, the couple was not only immersed in classroom activity, but participated in prayer and liturgy. They were guests at an integrative seminar on St. John Chrysostom’s writings on the priesthood conducted by Fr. Christopher Bender and attended Fr. George Gallaro’s canon law class and Fr. Julian Anthony’s class on the Pentateuch.
“You swung the doors wide open to us and showed us everything,” said John. “I found hospitable, impressive and prayerful teachers. Fr. Julian is a wealth of knowledge and his mastery of Hebrew brings a perspective to his subject that most people don’t have.”
“If John chooses to get his degree here, maybe I’ll take a cantor class at the Metropolitan Cantor Institute,” said Katie. “It’s inspiring to have this many brilliant minds together.”
The couple realizes that to achieve John’s goal, sacrifices will have to be made. “John is my best friend,” said Katie. “I know that he’s been thirsty for this kind of experience and I will do what it takes to help him.”
Moving a family to a new city is never easy, but if that is what God is calling them to do, the Russells shouldn’t be surprised to learn that they’ll have another family at the Seminary waiting to welcome and support them.