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TOP STORY                                                          December 22, 2011

St. Joseph

Archbishop Barsamian's Christmas Message

Despite the warm, peaceful feelings Christmas evokes, the story of Christ's birth could have ended in tragedy—cut off before it had barely begun.

In his annual Christmas Message, Diocesan Primate Archbishop Khajag Barsamian reminds us that "it was one man's calling to lift the Nativity story out of tragedy," and "allow the warmth and sweetness of Christmas to prevail."

That man was Joseph the Carpenter: the husband of Mary, and the earthly father who raised and instructed Jesus. Understanding Joseph's indispensable role in the first Christmas is our first step in approaching Jesus, and in understanding the consequence of our own ministry.

Read the entire 2012 Christmas Message in English and Armenian

Scripture of the Week

Is 41:4-14
Heb 7:11-25
Lk 19:12-28

Prayer of the Week

Son of God, true God, who descended from the bosom of the Father and took flesh of the holy Virgin Mary for our salvation, who was crucified, buried, and arose from the dead, and ascended with glory to the Father.

Grant forgiveness to me a sinner, for since my birth at the holy font until this day I have sinned before your Godhead with my senses and with all the members of my body.

Have mercy upon your creatures, and upon me, a great sinner.

Upcoming Saints & Feasts

24 December: St. David the Prophet-King and the Holy Apostle James, Brother of the Lord

26 December: St. Stephen the Protodeacon and First Martyr

27 December: Holy Apostles Peter and Paul

29 December: Holy Apostles James and John, "Sons of Thunder"; Barekendan of the Fast of Nativity


St. Stephanos Church in Bulgaria
The newly built St. Stepanos Armenian Church in Pazardzhik, Bulgaria.

New Armenian Church Built in Bulgaria

On Sunday, December 18, the Armenian community of Pazardzhik, Bulgaria, participated in the celebration of the first Divine Liturgy at the city’s newly built St. Stepanos Armenian Church. The Divine Liturgy was celebrated by the Very Rev. Fr. Abgar Hovakimian, the Vicar General of the Diocese of Bulgaria.

Construction of the new house of worship began in 2005, and was completed thanks to the support of local and diasporan Armenians. Previously the city was home to an Armenian church which was destroyed by the Communist regime in 1969.

Also taking part in Sunday’s celebration was Armenia’s Ambassador to Bulgaria Arsen Shoyan, Mayor of Pazardzhik Todor Popov, and other government officials. A blessing of madagh and a musical program and celebration followed services.

Armenians have been living in what is now Bulgaria since the Byzantine era. The present-day community is estimated at 20,000 people.


Archbishop Vicken Aykazian
Archbishop Vicken Aykazian in Cuba earlier this month.

Ecumenical Director Visits Cuba with NCC Delegation

Archbishop Vicken Aykazian, Ecumenical Director of the Eastern Diocese, joined a delegation of U.S. church leaders on a visit to Cuba last month, where the group met with a U.S. political prisoner, local religious figures, and government officials.

Archbishop Aykazian and National Council of Churches Secretary Michael Kinnamon met with Alan Gross, an American subcontractor who was arrested and sentenced in Cuba for community work he was carrying out through the United States Agency for International Development in 2009.

Archbishop Aykazian said the NCC pressed Cuban authorities to release Mr. Gross and to ensure his safe passage home. Back in Washington, D.C., this month, Archbishop Aykazian said he met with Mr. Gross’s wife and updated her on the visit and on her husband’s health.

Also during the NCC-organized visit, which took place from November 22 to December 2, the delegation met with religious leaders and visited Greek and Orthodox churches in the country. They were received by government officials, with whom they discussed the need to normalize relations between the United States and Cuba.

Together the NCC and the Council of Churches of Cuba released a statement urging President Barack Obama to revisit U.S. policies toward Cuba, which originated during the Kennedy Administration half a century ago.

“We have no doubt that it is in the best interest of both Cuba and the U.S. to initiate the sort of normalized relations appropriate to sovereign and neighboring countries,” the statement said, adding that a review of the current situation would also need to take into account a number of humanitarian issues.


Bishop Haigazoun Najarian
Bishop Haigazoun Najarian met with Archbishop Barsamian and Diocesan staff during a visit on December 22.

Bishop Haigazoun Najarian Visits Diocesan Center

The Diocesan Center in New York was pleased to welcome a dear friend and former colleague, the newly-consecrated His Grace Bishop Haigazoun Najarian. 

The former Diocesan Vicar, who was appointed in 2010 by His Holiness Karekin II, the Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians, to serve as the Pontifical Legate for Central Europe and Sweden, visited the center on December 22. He met with Archbishop Khajag Barsamian, Diocesan Primate, and Diocesan staff members.

Bishop Najarian was one of six clergymen elevated to the episcopate by the Catholicos in early November. In his capacity as Pontifical Legate of Central Europe, Bishop Najarian is based in Vienna, Austria, and oversees the spiritual needs of the Armenian communities in more than a dozen European countries. Administratively aided by vicars in Sweden and Prague (Czech Republic), he is primarily in charge of Eastern Europe’s broadly dispersed clergy, and Armenian communities in varying levels of development.

Europe’s Armenian communities contrast in many ways with their counterparts in America, according to Bishop Najarian. While many of the former are much older than anything in America (some dating back to the Middle Ages), the communities are not as tightly organized, and in places the church plays a less dominant role in community affairs. Nevertheless, he sees among his new flock a great potential for development, and a thirst for the authentic faith of the Armenian Christian heritage.

Bishop Najarian will be visiting the United States through the New Year.


Christmas Servicese at St. Vartan Armenian Cathderal

Christmas Services at St. Vartan Cathedral in New York

The Feast of the Nativity and Baptism of Jesus Christ will be observed at New York's St. Vartan Armenian Cathedral on Thursday and Friday, January 5 and 6. Click here to view the special liturgical schedule for these "Armenian Christmas" services.

Following services and the Blessing of Water ceremony on January 6, a Home Blessing service and Christmas reception will be held in Haik and Alice Kavookjian Auditorium. The Akh'tamar Dance Ensemble of the St. Thomas Church of Tenafly, NJ, will perform during the reception, which is free and open to the public.

Concurrent with the Armenian Christmas observances, an art exhibit will be on display in Guild Hall and Yerevan Hall of the cathedral complex. In "Armenian Christmas and the Legacy of Armenian Artists," curator Vicki Shoghag Hovanessian has assembled works by prominent Yerevan-based painters and by prolific American-Armenian artists. Click here for more information about the exhibit.


Diocesan Council meeting

Diocesan Council Meets in Boston

The Diocesan Council met on Saturday, December 17, at Holy Trinity Church in Cambridge, MA. Members reviewed the results to date of the Annual Appeal and received a report from development team members Dr. Sam Mikaelian and Sandra Shahinian Leitner about activities planned for the coming months, particularly in connection with the endowment fund that is being established in honor of the Primate’s 40th ordination anniversary, which will be used to support Diocesan youth programs.  

The council also received and discussed reports from the Diocesan vicar, executive director, and treasurer. A portion of the meeting was devoted to a brainstorming session in which all council members discussed the mission of the Armenian Church and the meaning of our faith and church in the lives of parishioners.

After the meeting, council members met with clergy and parish council leaders from the New England region and discussed the Diocese's lay ministry theme and how it is being implemented in the parishes. Participants shared many inspiring examples of their local lay ministry initiatives and activities.  

On Sunday, December 18, council members attended the 80th anniversary celebration at St. James Church in Watertown, MA.


Annual Appeal
Archbishop Barsamian speaks with Edward and Janet Mardigian during the Annual Appeal reception at St. John Church.

Annual Appeal Receptions Held in Detroit, Boston

Receptions were held in Detroit and Boston last week for the 2011 Annual Appeal—the only Diocesan-wide fundraiser conducted each year to help the Diocese provide the many ministries, programs, and resources that enrich life in our local parishes.

On Thursday, December 15, about 100 people gathered at St. John Church of Southfield, MI, for the Detroit-area reception. Archbishop Khajag Barsamian, Diocesan Primate, spoke about the Diocese’s focus on lay ministry and extended his appreciation to the local parish for their support of Diocesan initiatives and for their active involvement in the life of the Armenian Church.

Diocesan Council member Howard Atesian gave an overview of the appeal and its importance in supporting Diocesan programming. The Rev. Fr. Garabed Kochakian, parish pastor, spoke about Archbishop Barsamian’s leadership of the Eastern Diocese and his pastoral ministry.

The reception was sponsored by Mr. and Mrs. Howard and Catherine Atesian and Mr. and Mrs. Edward and Janet Mardigian.

On Saturday, December 17, the Guleserian family hosted more than 120 people for the Boston-area reception at the Sheraton Commander Hotel. Sandra Shahinian Leitner spoke about the goals of the 2011 Annual Appeal. The Rev. Fr. Vasken Kouzouian, pastor of Holy Trinity Church of Cambridge, MA, spoke about Archbishop Barsamian’s 40 years of service to the Armenian Church.  

This year’s appeal honors the 40th anniversary of Archbishop Khajag Barsamian's ordination into the holy priesthood of the Armenian Church. The first $700,000 raised will fund the Diocese's operating budget; but all funds raised beyond that amount will be used to establish a special endowment in the Primate's honor.

Click here
to donate to the appeal.


Living the Armenian Church Year

New Online Publication from the Diocese

A new resource from the Diocese’s Department of Youth and Education guides readers on a journey through the sacred calendar of Armenian Christian tradition. Living the Armenian Church Year surveys the vital, uplifting commemorations of the Armenian Church, as they progress through the "academic year" from September through August.

Geared for Christian educators, the manual is a resource for all people interested in the daily observances and milestones of our church, and how these can instruct and enrich the spiritual lives of Armenian Christians—from ancient times to the present day.

Brief historical essays on the saints and feasts are accompanied by lessons which—while ideal for Sunday School assemblies or classes—will also allow general readers a wonderful opportunity for reflection and inspiration.

Click here to learn more and to access this free publication.



The Armenian Church in the Palm of Your Hand

Since the launch of Vemkar last spring, hundreds of users from the Eastern Diocese and beyond have downloaded the app on their mobile phones. Available on both iPhone and Android platforms, the free app offers daily Scripture readings, spiritual and folk music, videos, and much more.

Click here
to view a brief animation about the app, and check back in the coming weeks for new Christmas hymns, videos, and other updates.


Fund for Armenian Relief
GTech graduate Suren Gharagyozyan assists a high school teacher during recent computer training sessions in Armenia.

GTech Graduates Lead Computer Training Program  

The Fund for Armenian Relief’s Gyumri Information Technology Center (GTech) recently concluded a computer training program for high school teachers in Armenia’s Lori and Tavush regions. GTech graduates taught advanced computer operating and programming skills to 18 teachers over the course of two months.

The Armenian Educational Foundation, a California-based NGO that promotes education in Armenia, sponsored the training project. The aim of the training was to provide the high school teachers with the latest IT and Internet knowledge, and to offer them new methods for teaching IT to their students.

GTech is proud to see its graduates giving back to their communities by enhancing IT skills of educators in Armenia. GTech was established in 2005 by FAR, in partnership with U.S. and Armenian technology companies, and with strong support from FAR’s Young Professional alumni community. The goal of the center is to strengthen the information technology skills of young Armenians and to expand employment and business opportunities in the region for young professionals. GTech also helps to bolster development by providing an incubator space for new start-up IT businesses.

Click here
to visit FAR’s blog and to read more.



Visit our Blog for Daily Advent Reflections

Last month marked the beginning of the Advent season. Advent means “coming”—the coming of Christ. In Armenian it is called Hisnag, from the word for “fifty.”

Advent is the 50-day period during which we prepare to celebrate the Nativity and Theophany of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is a time to reflect on our relationship with God and to rededicate ourselves to Christ through our actions, thoughts, and prayers. Advent can also be an occasion to discover God’s gifts all around us.

This year the Department of Youth and Education is offering daily Advent reflections on our blog. Click here to view today's reflection, and come back every day to read and reflect on a new post.



St. James Armenian Church, Watertown, MA
From left: Ann Korian, Paul Korian, Archbishop Barsamian, and Fr. Arakel Aljalian. Paul Korian received the “St. Nersess Shnorhali Medal” and pontifical encyclical during Sunday’s celebration. 

Watertown, MA, Parish Marks 80 Years

St. James Church of Watertown, MA, hosted its 80th Anniversary Name Day Banquet on Sunday, December 18. Archbishop Khajag Barsamian, Diocesan Primate, celebrated the Divine Liturgy and spoke about this year’s Diocesan theme of “The Call to Serve: Ministry of the Faithful.”

Following services, the community gathered for a special program featuring remarks, musical performances, and a video presentation.

The parish honored Paul Korian as the 2011 Parishioner of the Year. Archbishop Barsamian presented Mr. Korian with the “St. Nersess Shnorhali Medal” and pontifical encyclical. Also recognized were outgoing Parish Council members Scott Kapilian and Sandy Raphalian.

Remarks were offered by the Rev. Fr. Arakel Aljalian, parish pastor; former longtime pastor the Rev. Fr. Dajad Davidian; and the Rev. Fr. Arten Ashjian. Jeniffer Carson served as the master of ceremonies. The gathering was also an opportunity to celebrate the church’s successful 75th Anniversary Capital Campaign, which raised funds for the renovation of the church and cultural center and the establishment of new programs for the parish.


genocide exhibit in Virginia
A traveling exhibit on the Armenian Genocide is currently on view at the Virginia Holocaust Museum.

Armenian Genocide Exhibit on View in Virginia

The Armenian Education Center of St. James Church (Richmond, VA) and the Virginia Holocaust Museum are working together to create a permanent exhibit on the Armenian Genocide at the Virginia Holocaust Museum. 

In the meantime, a traveling exhibit called "The Ongoing Armenian Genocide—Death, Denial & Desecration" is on display at the Virginia Holocaust Museum. The traveling exhibit is on loan from the Armenian Library and Museum of America of Watertown, MA. It will be on view at the Holocaust Museum through July 30, 2012, after which time it will move to the University of Richmond for an additional six months. 

The official opening and reception took place on Sunday, December 11. Guest speakers included Aram Arkun, a scholar of the genocide period, and Dr. Roger W. Smith, Professor Emeritus at the College of William and Mary. Members of the Virginia Holocaust Museum and the Armenian Education Center shared their vision for the development of a permanent Armenian Genocide exhibit. The Rev. Fr. Mesrob Hovsepyan, pastor of St. James Church of Richmond, offered a prayer.  

Click here
to view a video about the reception (advance to 5:34).


Fr. Simeon Odabashian visits Nashville community
Fr. Tateos Abdalian (left) and Fr. Simeon Odabashian with children at the Armenian Church of Nashville.

Vicar, Mission Parish Director Visit Nashville, TN

On Sunday, December 18, the Very Rev. Fr. Simeon Odabashian, Diocesan Vicar, celebrated the Divine Liturgy at the Armenian Church of Nashville mission parish. He was assisted at the altar by the Rev. Fr. Tateos Abdalian, the Diocese’s director of Mission Parishes.

During the fellowship hour, an open forum was led by Fr. Abdalian and Parish Council chair Sevada Badalian. The forum gave parishioners an opportunity to ask questions about the Armenian Church and to brainstorm ideas for increasing membership and participation at the parish level.

Also on Sunday, Fr. Abdalian baptized a child at the beginning of the Divine Liturgy, and Fr. Odabashian and Fr. Abdalian met with members of the Parish Council.  


St. James ACYOA Watertown, MA
ACYOA Juniors of Watertown, MA, wrap gifts for families in need.

ACYOA Juniors of Watertown, MA, Assist with Gift Drive

The ACYOA Juniors of St. James Church of Watertown, MA, hosted a “Giving Tree” drive to benefit My Brother’s Keeper—a local organization that provides furniture, food, and other assistance to families in need.

As part of the project, a Christmas tree bearing gift suggestions was installed in the church hall, and parishioners were encouraged to fulfill the gift suggestions.
Once the gifts had been collected on December 12, the ACYOA Juniors—led by the Rev. Fr. Arakel Aljalian, parish pastor, and Maria Derderian, parish youth minister—visited My Brother’s Keeper to deliver the gifts and to assist in sorting and wrapping them.


Upcoming Parish Events 

St. Mark Church | Springfield, MA
St. Mark Church of Springfield, MA, will host its second annual Christmas Dinner and Concert on Friday, December 23, beginning at 6 p.m. Click here to view a flyer for more information. For reservations, contact  Elaine Devine at (413) 267-5306 or

Sts. Sahag and Mesrob Church | Providence, RI
The Cultural Committee of Sts. Sahag and Mesrob Church of Providence, RI, will host a Christmas Concert titled “Silent Night, Holy Night” on Wednesday, December 28, at  7 p.m. The concert will be held in the church sanctuary.

It will feature performances by the choir of the Saint Ephraim Syriac Orthodox Church, the Armenian Chorale of Rhode Island, and the Junior Choir of Sts. Sahag & Mesrob Church.

Click here to view a flyer for more information.

Soorp Haroutiun Church | Orlando, FL
Soorp Haroutiun Church of Orlando, FL, will host a New Year’s Eve dinner and dance on Saturday, December 31, beginning at 7:30 p.m.

Enjoy live Armenian music and a buffet dinner. The event will be held in the church hall (9274 Winter Garden Vineland Road in Orlando). Click here to view a flyer for more information.

St. Leon Church | Fair Lawn, NJ
St. Leon Church of Fair Lawn, NJ, will host its 5th annual Christmas Dance on Saturday, January 7, from 7 p.m. to midnight, in the church’s Community Center.

The evening will feature the Michael Gostanian Ensemble. Tickets are $35 for adults; $20 for students (ages 10-22). Click here to view a flyer for more information


Khrimian Lyceum
Khrimian Lyceum students sang Armenian songs during a recent visit to the New York Armenian Home.

Khrimian Lyceum Students Visit NY Armenian Home

On Saturday, December 17, students of the Diocese’s Khrimian Lyceum visited the New York Armenian Home in Flushing, NY, where they played music, sang, and danced for the elderly residents.

Maro Partamian conducted the choir and Florence Avakian accompanied on the piano. Also present were Berj Manukian, Gilda Kupelian (the Diocese’s Armenian Studies coordinator), other teachers, and parents. Khrimian Lyceum graduate Alex Calikyan also joined the group. Click here to view photos.  

The annual visit to the Armenian Home is part of the students’ internship program at the Khrimian Lyceum. In the coming weeks, they will serve in their local parishes during the Christmas Eve celebration. At their next session on January 21, they will host Dr. Anny Bakalian, who will give a presentation on historic Armenia.


St. David Armenian Church, FL

Register for the ACYOA Chapter Workshop 

The ACYOA Central Council will sponsor its 4th annual Chapter Workshop at St. David Church of Boca Raton, FL, from January 13-15. The workshop will focus on the basics of being an ACYOA leader and working together to build a vibrant and successful organization.

The Very Rev. Fr. Simeon Odabashian, Diocesan Vicar, will preside over the weekend’s program. The Very Rev. Fr. Nareg Berberian, pastor of St. David Church, will serve as chaplain.

The ACYOA Central Council strongly encourages all those who are currently in leadership positions in their respective chapters to attend the workshop. Representatives from parishes who lack organized chapters but have young people who are interested in establishing them are also welcome.

Participants will stay at the Hilton in Deerfield Beach, FL. All workshop sessions will take place at St. David Church, which has graciously volunteered to host the program again this year. The registration fee is $175. For more information, or to register, contact Nancy Basmajian, ACYOA executive secretary, at


The staff of the Eastern Diocese wish you and your loved ones a happy, healthy New Year and a Merry Christmas.

Click here to view our video card.