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TOP STORY                                                         July 8, 2016

St. Sandukht

Beginnings of the Christian Faith in Armenia 

On Saturday, July 9, the Armenian Church will observe the Feast of St. Thaddeus the Apostle and St. Sandukht the Virgin. The story of these two saints sheds light on the early days of Christianity in Armenia.

Imagine a time of great political and military conflict; a pagan kingdom ruled by a powerful royal family: this was Armenia in the first century. The kingdom held strongly to its inherited pagan practices—until a strange man ventured to Armenia.

His name was Thaddeus, and he was one of the apostles of Jesus Christ. He preached in people’s homes, in hidden underground chambers, in marketplaces, and in the streets. People listened intently, and moved by the Good News, many converted to Christianity.

Rumors of this unusual man reached a young girl named Sandukht, the daughter of Armenia’s king Sanatrouk. The Christian faith made such an impact on Sandukht’s life that she declared her belief in Christ and was baptized. But when the king’s spies reported the news to her father, Sandukht was sentenced to jail.

The king asked his daughter to choose between the crown and the sword—either she would renounce Christianity and serve as a pagan princess or face death. Sandukht chose the sword, and became Armenia’s first Christian martyr. Shortly after Sandukht’s death, Thaddeus was also executed by the king. Their sacrifices planted the seeds of the Christian faith in Armenia—a faith that 300 years later would become the foundation on which Christian Armenia was to be built.

Click here to read more about these saints on our blog.


Ordinations to the Priesthood

Two Deacons to be Ordained as Priests  

The Eastern Diocese will be blessed by two priestly ordinations this month.
Deacon Vahe Bagdasarian and Deacon Saro Kalayjian will be ordained together by the hand of Diocesan Primate Archbishop Khajag Barsamian, in services on Saturday and Sunday, July 23 and 24.
The Saturday evening Service of Calling will take place at St. Leon Church in Fair Lawn, NJ. On Sunday morning, the Divine Liturgy and Ordinations will take place at St. Vartan Cathedral in New York City.
Our faithful are encouraged to attend these spiritually uplifting events. Click here to download a flyer with information on the services.
Also, please note that reservations are being accepted for a celebratory banquet that will follow the ordinations on Sunday, July 24. Click here for details about reserving a place at the Sunday banquet.
Provisions are being made for a livestream broadcast of the Sunday ordination service, so that people beyond the New York-New Jersey region can share in this stirring event. Details on that broadcast will follow shortly.
Fr. Mardiros Chevian and Mr. Krikor Kucukyan will serve as the sponsoring priest and godfather for Dn. Vahe. For Dn. Saro, those roles will be taken up by Fr. Vasken Kouzouian and Dr. Zaven Kalayjian.
Following their ordinations, both new priests will spend their 40-day seclusion period at St. Nersess Armenian Seminary, in Armonk, NY.  Subsequently, they will go to their new assignments as parish pastors. Fr. Bagdasarian will serve as pastor of the Soorp Haroutiun Church in Orlando, FL, effective September 1. Fr. Kalayjian will serve as pastor of the St. Mesrob Church in Racine, WI, where he has been serving as deacon-in-charge since July 1.
May our Lord bless Dn. Vahe and Dn. Saro, as they take up his ministry among our people.

Scripture of the Week

Is 3:16-4:1
1 Cor 1:25-30
Mt 18:10-14

Prayer of the Week

Open to us, O Lord, the door of your mercy, and make us worthy of your dwellings of light together with your saints. Receive us also, O Savior, into your mansions prepared for your saints, and inscribe our names in the Book of Life. O formidable judge, when you sit in the judgment seat, spare your creatures through the intercession and prayers of the holy ascetics. Amen.

Upcoming Saints & Feasts

9 July: Sts. Thaddeus the Apostle and Sandukht the Virgin

11 July: St. Cyprian the Bishop



Two Visions

It was only two weeks ago that we thrilled to a majestic vision of humanity and peace; of humility and brotherly love; of respect and caring across nations and cultures. Such was the vision we received when we witnessed Pope Francis and Catholicos Karekin II striding side-by-side among the people of our homeland. When the Pope’s visit concluded, many of us closed our eyes with a deep hope that the world could be a better place under the gentle ministry of our Lord and Savior.
Two weeks later, we seem to have awakened in a very different world. This has been a week of social disorder and the arrogance of power, of injustice and violence—culminating in the horrifying massacre of police officers in Dallas, Texas.
At this writing, the public has only the barest details of what occurred on the night of July 7—and no final clarity on any of the deadly encounters of the week: whether they were tragically mistaken judgments or acts of malice.
What is sadly evident, however, is the hate, the rage, the eagerness to cast blame and use this chaotic moment to demonize opponents. Equally evident by its absence is that sense of fellow feeling and common purpose which, in the best case, could unite a citizenry in moments of tragedy, lifting us up from despair and self-absorption.
Obscured in all of this is the personal loss of human beings, the grief of families and loved ones—none of it warranted, none of it deserved, whatever the circumstances. As Armenian Christians, we are not unfamiliar with such pain, and we cry out from the depths of our experience in prayerful solidarity with the victims.
The issues involved in the events of this week will not recede when we close our eyes. The fearful visions of an unwinding society will still be with us tomorrow. But we must affirm that this is not the only vision available to mankind. The followers of Jesus Christ hold to a different vision: of peace and humanity, of love and mutual respect. Against the storm of violence, our Lord calls each of us to reveal this tranquil vision to the world. May his will be done.


Supreme Spiritual Council

Supreme Spiritual Council Meets at Holy Etchmiadzin

The Supreme Spiritual Council met at Holy Etchmiadzin from June 25 to 30, with His Holiness Karekin II, the Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians, presiding. Archbishop Khajag Barsamian, Primate of the Eastern Diocese, co-chaired the meeting with Archbishop Barkev Martirossian, Primate of the Diocese of Artsakh, and Bishop Haigazoun Najarian, Primate of the Diocese of Australia and New Zealand. James Kalustian, who chairs the Eastern Diocese’s Council and also serves on the Supreme Spiritual Council, was among the lay members present.

The Supreme Spiritual Council reflected on the visit of Pope Francis to Armenia last month and expressed its gratitude to all those who worked on the various committees to prepare for the historic event. They discussed the project underway in the Holy Land to restore Christ’s Tomb at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, and agreed to raise funds across the worldwide Armenian dioceses to help the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem support this effort.
Other agenda items included discussions relating to ecumenical efforts, Artsakh relief, and the Armenian Church Representative Assembly. Click here to read more.


Anahid Ajemian
The violinist Anahid Ajemian with her sister Maro.

In Memoriam: Anahid Ajemian (1924-2016)

The Eastern Diocese was grieved by the passing of Anahid Ajemian Avakian: world-class violinist, sister and performance partner of the late pianist Maro Ajemian, and wife of the great record producer George Avakian. She passed away on June 13 at the age of 92.
During funeral services at New York’s St. Vartan Cathedral, Diocesan Primate Archbishop Khajag Barsamian recalled the depth of Anahid Ajemian’s talent and character: “Anahid was a truly unique and rare individual—as anyone who met her immediately understood. An artist and a patron of the arts, a beloved teacher with a deep concern for the future generation, a woman of great integrity and sterling character—she was all these things; but she was something more, as well.
“Another artist blessed with such native talent, who had achieved such standing in the world, might have felt justified to remain distant from others. But Anahid’s character was just the opposite. She relished helping others. Her fame and success as a musician did not diminish, but rather enlarged her generosity of heart, which she graciously extended to everyone. It would be correct to say that she took as much joy in teaching a promising young student, as she did in performing before a whole audience of dignitaries.”
This week the New York Times ran an obituary for Anahid Ajemian Avakian, which details her remarkable achievements as an artist (click here to read it). People throughout the Armenian community were blessed to have known her as a remarkable human being, as well.


Holy Land Pilgrimage 2016

Pilgrims Learn Life Lessons in the Holy Land

A group of 29 young adults from parishes across the Eastern Diocese traveled to the Holy Land from June 6 to June 14. The sixth annual Youth Leadership Pilgrimage to the Holy Land was led by the Rev. Fr. Hovsep Karapetyan, pastor of St. Mary Church of Washington, DC, and Arpi Nakashian, a recent graduate of St. Nersess Armenian Seminary and a Jerusalem native.

The pilgrims visited the Church of the Nativity of Christ in Bethlehem, the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem, the Jordan River, Sea of Galilee, and other holy sites. They learned about the Armenian presence in the Holy Land, and explored ways to strengthen their leadership roles at the parish and Diocesan levels.
Click on the following links to read more and to view photos.

Essay contest winners recognized in Tavush, Armenia.

FAR Hosts Essay Contest for Students in Tavush

The Fund for Armenian Relief, through its “Breaking the Cycle of Poverty" program, organized an essay contest for school students in Armenia’s Tavush province earlier this year. Themed “My Homeland,” the contest encouraged young people to reflect on what their homeland means to them and how they see themselves helping to build it up in the future.
Twelve-year-old Erik Gabrielyan is among the 15 winners named in the contest. Click here to read excerpts from his essay on growing up in Tavush.
The “Breaking the Cycle of Poverty" program was established by the Mardigian Family Foundation through the largest-ever contribution made to FAR. The five-year project addresses malnutrition, unemployment, poverty, and infrastructure weaknesses in Armenia’s northeastern Tavush province.


Fr. Oshagan
Fr. Oshagan Gulgulian greets His Beatitude Bechara Boutros Rai.

Fr. Gulgulian Greets Maronite Patriarch

The Very Rev. Fr. Oshagan Gulgulian, pastor of the St. Sahag and St. Mesrob Church of Wynnewood, PA, attended a luncheon honoring His Beatitude Bechara Boutros Rai, the Maronite Patriarch of Antioch and a Cardinal in the Roman Catholic Church, on June 27.
The visiting Patriarch Rai is the 77th Maronite patriarch of Antioch (Syria), a native of Lebanon who served for many years among the Syrian Catholics of Byblos. Pope Benedict XVI elevated him to the College of Cardinals in 2012.
The Catholic Near East Welfare Association had invited leaders of various Eastern and Western churches to meet with Patriarch Rai at Manhattan’s Cardinal Cook Center. Fr. Gulgulian was the official representative of Diocesan Primate Archbishop Khajag Barsamian.

St. Stepanos Church, Elberon, NJ
Kids at the Bible Adventure Camp.

Bible Adventure Camp in Elberon

On Saturday, June 25, St. Stepanos Church of Elberon, NJ, hosted a Bible Adventure Camp for families with young children. During the day participants enjoyed arts and crafts, games, and swimming at the Breakwater Beach Club. In the evening, they camped on church grounds, where they heard the story of Noah and viewed an educational film on the biblical flood.
The next morning, the campers helped set up for the annual St. Stepanos Church picnic. Parishioners gathered after services for a fun day of Armenian food and activities for children. Click here to view photos. 


Tenafly, NJ

Tenafly's Kirikian Armenian School Holds Year-End Program

The Kirikian Armenian School of St. Thomas Church of Tenafly, NJ, celebrated the end of the year with a special program on Sunday, June 12.
This year's hantes featured 135 students performing traditional Armenian songs and dances, reciting poetry, and sharing reflections. Principal Ani Capan and teachers thanked all the students and congratulated this year’s graduates. The Very Rev. Fr. Papken Anoushian, pastor of St. Thomas Church, commended the teachers and parents for their dedication to the academic program. 
Click on the following links to read more and to view photos.


Armenian Church in Worcester

A Talent Show in Worcester

The Church of Our Saviour of Worcester, MA, hosted a variety show on Saturday, June 25, titled "Armenians Got Talent." Held at the church’s cultural center, the program featured parishioners of all ages singing, dancing, and giving instrumental performances. 
More than 200 people gathered for the festivities, followed by a buffet of Armenian and international foods.


ASP 2016

Armenia Service Program Begins in Yerevan

On Sunday, July 3, young people taking part in this year’s ACYOA Armenia Service Program arrived in Armenia for two weeks of travel, service, and worship in the homeland. The group is led by the Rev. Fr. Tadeos Barseghyan, pastor of St. Sahag Church of St. Paul, MN.
Participants will work with children at a summer camp, visit the Fund for Armenian Relief's Children’s Center, and take part in other service projects. The group is also visiting religious and cultural sites throughout Armenia, including Yerevan, Etchmiadzin, Geghard, and Sevan.
Click here to follow their adventures on Facebook.


Summer Camp

Follow Summer Camp Photos and Updates Online

St. Vartan Camp began its summer season last month at the Ararat Center in upstate New York. Campers have been active in sports and swimming, as well as daily classes in religion, arts and crafts, culture and Armenian language.  
Space is still available for Session “C” of St. Vartan Camp. Visit to learn more, and click here to view photo highlights from Session “A.”


Mixer on the Plaza

An Evening on the Plaza of St. Vartan Cathedral

St. Vartan Armenian Cathedral will host a “mixer” on the plaza on Thursday, July 21, beginning at 6 p.m. Enjoy Armenian music while networking and socializing with friends and fellow young professionals. Click here to view a flyer for information.