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TOP STORY                                                       December 10, 2015

Mourners hold candles during a vigil at San Manuel Stadium in San Bernardino, CA.

Prayer for Peace

The year has reached its final weeks—traditionally a time of tranquility and fellow-feeling, as we await the celebration of our Lord’s birth. Yet the past month has been disfigured by acts of violence that are deeply troubling to peace-loving people. These include another massacre in Paris, and a grotesque act of terror in California. Threading through the period is the ongoing tragedy involving warfare and persecution in the Middle East—which affects our own people, our sister Christian communities, and other religious minorities in the region.
How dispiriting it is, at the close of this 100th year since the Armenian Genocide, to be reminded yet again that inhumanity still reigns in this world, despite the superficial advances of the past century.
There are very few words of wisdom or consolation to offer in the face of such dreadful episodes—except for the assurance that our risen Lord knows the sufferings of his children, and will remember them when he establishes his kingdom, where true peace and justice will finally prevail.
It is to him we pray—today and in the days to come—for the souls of the departed, and for an end to the afflictions tormenting our world. In the immortal words of our liturgy: Ungal, getso, yev voghormya; Receive our prayers, save your people, and have mercy.


Scripture of the Week

Is 38:1-8
Heb 1:1-14
Lk 17:1-10

Prayer of the Week

Dear Lord, you parted the Red Sea and the Jordan River as your people journeyed to the Promised Land. Lift away those things that keep us from you today as we continue the journey. We ask this in your name, and with the Father and the Holy Spirit, Amen.

Upcoming Saints & Feasts

12 December: St. James Bishop of Nisibis



Assyrian Christians
Mideast Christian refugees. 

Advocating for Mideast Christians

The United Nations’ 1948 Genocide Convention defines “genocide” as (among other things) deliberately inflicting, on a religious or ethnic group, conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction. Tragically, this is happening today to several religious minorities in the Middle East. Christians as well as Yazidis are being driven from their homes, having their property seized, and are being killed in horrifying ways. Yet the U.S. Department of State has been reluctant to use the legal term “genocide” to refer to the persecution of Iraqi and Syrian Christians.
Last week, a distinguished group of Christian leaders, human rights advocates, and scholars sent a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry asking for a meeting to discuss this issue.
Among the signers is Archbishop Vicken Aykazian, Ecumenical Director and Legate of the Eastern Diocese, who has long been a forceful advocate on behalf of the Mideast’s beleaguered Christian communities. The letter is a first step to persuade Secretary Kerry (who, at this writing, has yet to respond) that Iraqi and Syrian Christians, along with Yazidis, should be included under any designation of genocide.
Click on the following links to read the letter, and to read a supportive article in USA Today.


A Frank Appreciation 

Throughout the ages, Armenians have always been a musical people. The sharagans of our liturgy; our timeless folksongs; our church choirs, operatic and orchestral virtuosi, and the divine Komitas himself, all attest to this distinctive genius of the Armenian people. With such a history, we know how to appreciate, and properly recognize, musical excellence when it appears, all too rarely, on the world stage.
For most of the past century, the music of Frank Sinatra was just such an example of excellence.  Early on he was known simply as The Voice. But as age and experience matured his talent, it became clear that he was more than a mere vocalist. His choice of material and arrangement, his dramatic phrasing of lyrics, his effortless theatricality, all combined to reveal Sinatra as a true, and complete, artist. In an astonishing career he assembled a repertoire of popular American songs that could speak to people of every background, accompanying them as they journeyed through all the seasons of life.
His way could be brassy and swaggering. But his great theme was always love: its enduring tenderness; its knowing comedy; its deep ability to grace even the most ordinary life with purpose and meaning. In Sinatra’s company we felt, or re-felt, the excitement of love’s first anticipation; the ache of longing; the nullity of loss; the regret—and acceptance—of retrospection.
Eighteen years after Sinatra’s death, his songs still have the power to make us feel so young (or at least, young at heart); they still get under our skin. No doubt they will continue to do so—night and day, come rain or come shine, from here to eternity.
This Saturday, December 12, will mark the centennial anniversary of Francis Albert Sinatra’s birth. To Frank’s memory—and to the people in our own lives who teach us the truth behind his greatest songs—we offer our humble gratitude. We love you—all the way.

2016 Liturgical Calendar

Download the 2016 Oratsouyts

The 2016 Oratsouyts (Liturgical Calendar) issued by the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin is now available as a PDF document. Click here to download the Oratsouyts.

The Armenian-language publication is a daily guide to scripture readings, hymns, and feast days of the Armenian Church. It has been continuously published by Holy Etchmiadzin for the past 150 years.

The 2016 edition was prepared by Bishop Mikael Ajapahian, Primate of the Diocese of Shirak in Armenia. 



Diocesan Council Meets
Diocesan Council member Thomas Ashbahian.

Diocesan Council Reviews Syrian Relief Effort

Meeting at the Diocesan Center on Wednesday, December 9, members of the Diocesan Council reviewed the progress of the Diocese’s Syrian Relief effort. They also discussed plans to support Syrian Armenian refugees who have resettled in Armenia.
The Diocese is still collecting funds for Syrian Relief; donations can be made online through our secure website. (Please note: In the online information entry form, select the option “Syrian Relief” in the dropdown menu bar.)
Also at Wednesday’s meeting, the council discussed plans for the 2016 Diocesan Assembly and Clergy Conference, finalized the next set of initiatives on the Diocese’s Strategic Plan, and received an update on the Diocese’s 2015 Annual Appeal.


The Standing Conference of Oriental Orthodox Churches.

Oriental Orthodox Leaders Gather

The biannual meeting of the Standing Conference of Oriental Orthodox Churches was held on Tuesday, December 8, at the Mor Aphrem Syriac Orthodox Center in Paramus, NJ. Archbishop Vicken Aykazian, Ecumenical Director and Legate of the Eastern Diocese, chaired the meeting.
Participants discussed the Oriental Orthodox campus ministry, the annual Divine Liturgy concelebration, Oriental Orthodox youth conference, and the Roman Catholic-Oriental Orthodox international and local dialogues. They also spoke about the possibility of resuming joint programming with Eastern Orthodox churches. Guest speaker Fr. Nathanael Symeonides of the Greek Archdiocese presented the structure and mission of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops and its goal of establishing dialogue with Oriental Orthodox churches.
Other hierarchs in attendance at this week’s meeting included Archbishop Mor Dionysius Jean Kawak of the Syriac Church; Bishop Makarios of the Eritrean Tewahdo Church; Bishop David and Bishop Karas of the Coptic Church; Archbishop Mor Silvanos Ayub and Archbishop Mor Titus Yeldho of the Malankara-Syriac Church. Other clergy representing the Armenian Church were the Very Fr. Daniel Findikyan, Very Rev. Fr. Simeon Odabashian, and Rev. Fr. Diran Bohajian.

NKR Independence Celebration in Washington, DC
Congresswoman Katherine Clark greets Fr. Karapetyan and Archbishop Aykazian.

Karabagh Day on Capitol Hill

The Armenian Assembly of America joined the Congressional Caucus on Armenian Issues in co-hosting the annual Nagorno-Karabagh independence celebration on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, on Wednesday, December 9.
Titled “Freedom and Democracy of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic,” the event marked the 24th anniversary of independence. Nagorno-Karabakh Foreign Minister Karen Mirzoyan gave the keynote address. Ambassador Tigran Sargsyan, Armenia's Ambassador to the United States, and Robert Avetisyan, Nagorno-Karabakh’s Representative to the United States, were in attendance.  
Archbishop Vicken Aykazian, Ecumenical Director and Legate of the Eastern Diocese, and the Rev. Fr. Hovsep Karapetyan, pastor of St. Mary Church of Washington, DC, gave the invocation and benediction.


United Nations

UN Program for Human Dignity

On Wednesday, December 9, the United Nations observed the first “International Day of Commemoration and Dignity for the Victims of the Crime of Genocide and of the Prevention of this Crime,” which was established last September at the urging of the government of the Republic of Armenia. The inaugural observance was organized by the Office of the President of the UN General Assembly, the UN Office of Genocide Prevention, and Armenia’s Permanent Mission to the UN.
Held at the UN headquarters in New York, the program included a performance by the UN symphony orchestra and a minute of silence in honor of those who perished through the crime of genocide. Adama Dieng, UN Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, gave the keynote address. Remarks were also made by Ambassador Zohrab Mnatsakanyan, Permanent Representative of Armenia to the United Nations. The Very Rev. Fr. Mamigon Kiledjian, Dean of St. Vartan Armenian Cathedral, represented Diocesan Primate Archbishop Khajag Barsamian at the event.
Click here to read more on the United Nations website.

The Didizians
Mr. and Mrs. Haig and Elza Didizian.

Celebrating St. Nersess

On Sunday, November 22, St. Nersess Armenian Seminary celebrated its new campus with a banquet at the Rockleigh Country Club in Rockleigh, NJ. The event paid tribute to the institution’s past and highlighted its vision for the next chapter of its history. Grand benefactors Mr. and Mrs. Haig and Elza Didizian were honored.
More than 300 people gathered for the evening program, which included remarks by Archbishop Khajag Barsamian, Primate of the Eastern Diocese and President of St. Nersess Seminary; the Rev. Fr. Mardiros Chevian, the seminary’s dean; members of the seminary’s Board of Directors; and Haig Didizian. Haig Ariyan served as the master of ceremonies.
Click on the following links to read more and to view a video about the legacy and future of St. Nersess Seminary.


A New Course at GTech 

The Fund for Armenian Relief is launching a new GTech curriculum that will offer free training in IT programming. Led by Enterprise Incubator Foundation with the support of FAR, Microsoft Innovation Center Armenia, and 3D Modeling Training Center, the program is independent from GTech’s two-year degree program.
“Taking into account that nowadays there is a great need for web and mobile developers throughout the world and specifically in Armenia, we decided to give an opportunity to those who seek further education and development,” said GTech executive director Amalya Yeghoyan. “Through our programs we have the opportunity to interact with our great partners, and these diverse perspectives allow us to explore innovative approaches to solving common issues.”
The program is open to students ages 17 to 30 who are interested in learning programming. Selection of the 150 course participants is now in its final round. Classes will start in February. Click here to read more on FAR’s blog.

Michael Aram

Annual Appeal Reception in New York 

The Eastern Diocese will host a special cocktail reception at the Michael Aram Flagship Store in New York City on Thursday, December 17, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. in support of its 2015 Diocesan Annual Appeal. 
Shop for the holidays from a beautiful selection of tableware, jewelry, and home decor while supporting the good cause of the Annual Appeal—the once-a-year fundraiser that helps the Diocese undertake the many ministries, programs, and resources that enrich life in our parishes.
If you are unable to attend in person, you may phone in your order (212-461-6903) with the item number from the Michael Aram website ( on the day of the event from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Michael Aram will graciously donate a percentage of the evening's sales to support the 2015 Diocesan Annual Appeal.
To RSVP (by December 12) e-mail the Development department at
For more information about the Eastern Diocese, please visit To view Michael Aram's items, please visit

Annual Appeal

Diocese's Annual Appeal Underway

The Eastern Diocese’s 2015 Annual Appeal is now underway. The Appeal is the only Diocesan-wide fundraiser conducted each year to help the Diocese undertake the many ministries, programs, and resources that enrich life in our parishes.

Year in and year out, the Eastern Diocese works to preserve the precious legacy we have inherited. And it is the generous support we receive from people like you that allows us to maintain and expand our vital ministries involving Christian education, Bible study, Armenian language, summer camps, youth outreach, mission parishes, and advanced technologies for communication and instruction, to name a few.

Please accept this invitation to strengthen our efforts. Your generous contribution to the 2015 Annual Appeal will help spread the good work of the Armenian Church across our local communities—and across the generations.
Follow this link to donate now to the 2015 Annual Appeal.


Walk Thru Bible
Instructor Ward Cushman and Walk Thru participants.

Wisconsin Walk Thru

On Saturday, December 5, some 60 parishioners from parishes in Wisconsin and Illinois gathered at St. Mesrob Church in Racine, WI, for a day of Bible study.
Sponsored by the Diocese’s Department of Christian Education and hosted by St. Mesrob Church, the “Walk Thru” program was the second offered in the region. Instructor Ward Cushman led participants in gestures, catch phrases, and group review that outlined major events and people of the New Testament.
“Walk Thru the Bible” is an international organization dedicated to teaching Scripture.


St. Sarkis Church, Charlotte, NC
Fr. Mampre Kouzouian and Fr. Samuel Rith-Najarian with altar servers at St. Sarkis Church. 

Charlotte Marks Milestones

On Sunday, December 6, St. Sarkis Church of Charlotte, NC, marked the 10th anniversary of the church’s consecration. The Rev. Fr. Mampre Kouzouian and the Very Rev. Fr. Daniel Findikyan, a former visiting pastor of St. Sarkis Church, joined current pastor the Rev. Fr. Samuel Rith-Najarian in celebrating the occasion with the community.
Fr. Kouzouian celebrated the Divine Liturgy and Fr. Findikyan delivered the sermon, calling the community’s attention to the “big plans” God has for the Armenian Church in the Charlotte area for the next ten years and beyond—these include expanding the parish’s ministries and reaching out to new members to build up the church.
Following the Divine Liturgy, the parish gathered in Acopian Hall for a banquet and program. On behalf of Diocesan Primate Archjbishop Khajag Barsamian, Fr. Findikyan presented Lena Kupelian Neau with a certificate of appreciation for her many years of service to the community. Fr. Findikyan also presented parish council chair Charlie Diman with the Diocese’s “St. Vartan Award” for his dedicated service to St. Sarkis Church as a parish council member, building and rentals manager, and choir member.
This month also marks the first year anniversary of the ordination of Fr. Samuel Rith-Najarian to the holy priesthood (he was ordained on December 7, 2014 at St. Sarkis Church). “Fr. Samuel’s ordination service remains vivid and fresh in my memory, as a day of joy for Der Hayr, Yeretzgin Danielle, their loved ones, the people of this parish, and indeed for the entire Armenian Church,” Archbishop Barsamian wrote in a message. “In this first year of his ministry, Der Samuel has truly grown as both a pastor and leader of our community. On this anniversary I send my warmest good wishes to him for many, many more years of faithful service in the vineyard of our Lord.”

Click here to view photos.

St. John Church, Detroit, MI
Diramayr Virginia Melkonian, her daughter Jacqueline ElChemmas, and great granddaughter Taline Muskat.

Advent by Candlelight in Detroit

The Women’s Guild of St. John Church of Detroit, MI, hosted its “Advent by Candlelight” event earlier this month. Guests enjoyed beautifully decorated tables, fruit and desserts, and fellowship.
Later in the evening, a special program in the church sanctuary focused on the topics of love, hope, peace, and joy. Lisa Asadoorian, Yerchanig Callan, Julia Papiyants, and Cathy Zwinck reflected on these topics; other community members gave vocal and instrumental performances. The evening concluded with the singing of “Silent Night” and the lighting of candles.
This year’s event was co-chaired by Sara Andonian and Belinda Kabodian. The Very Rev. Fr. Aren Jebejian, parish pastor, was in attendance. Click here to read more.

St. Mary Church, FL
Fr. Vartan Joulfayan and Fr. Simeon Odabashian with altar servers.

St. Mary Church Marks Anniversary

The Very Rev. Fr. Simeon Odabashian, Diocesan Vicar, visited St. Mary Church of Hollywood, FL, as the parish marked the 17th anniversary of the church’s consecration. He celebrated the Divine Liturgy and delivered the sermon.
At a banquet following services, remarks were made by Fr. Odabashian and the Rev. Fr. Vartan Joulfayan, parish pastor. A musical program was prepared by the parishioners.

Click here to view photos.

Christmas in Hartford
Sunday School students with residents at the Avery Heights Assisted Living Center.

Hartford Sunday School Spreads Christmas Cheer

On Saturday, December 5, the Sunday School students of St. George Church of Hartford, CT, brought Christmas cheer to the elderly at a local senior center. Six of the residents at Avery Heights Assisted Living Center in Hartford are St. George parishioners, which makes this annual visit even more meaningful for the Sunday School.
Standing before the beautifully adorned Christmas tree, the students “made a joyful noise unto the Lord,” bringing smiles to the residents. Ranging in age from 4 to 15, the children sang and distributed poinsettia plants, candy canes, and cookies they had baked. The Sunday School group also spent time in fellowship with the elderly St. George Church parishioners at the center.
The students were accompanied by the Rev. Fr. Gomidas Zohrabian, parish pastor, and Sunday School staff.

Holy Trinity Church, Cheltenham, PA
Facilitators of a course on St. Gregory of Narek.

"Speaking with God" in Cheltenham

The Rev. Fr. Hakob Gevorgyan, pastor of the Holy Trinity Church of Cheltenham, PA, organized a four-week course on the life and work St. Gregory of Narek. The course paid particular attention to St. Gregory’s collection of mystical verse, Speaking with God from the Depths of the Heart.
Each of the four sessions was led by a different facilitator. Nancy Basmajian, the director of the parish’s Adult Christian Education ministry, took on the first session which included a brief biography of St. Gregory and a general introduction to the prayers; senior deacon Dr. Albert Keshgegian led participants through several prayers which focused on the saint’s theology; Brian Hoyle, a member of the parish council, examined the types of prayer contained in the work and defined Christian mysticism. Fr. Gevorgyan led the final session, sharing his personal connection to St. Gregory’s work. 
Click here to read more.


Upcoming events

Upcoming Parish Events

Holy Trinity Church | Cambridge, MA
The Erevan Choral Society and Orchestra will present its "Christmas Holiday Concert" at Holy Trinity Church of Cambridge, MA, on Sunday, December 13, beginning at 7 p.m. Click here to read more. For information, contact the church at (617) 354-0632, or via e-mail at

St. George Church | Hartford, CT
The Women's Guild of St. George Church of Hartford, CT, has initiated its second annual Mitten & Coat Drive to benefit needy students at a local Hartford school. The drive collects new coats, mittens, gloves, hats and scarves for needy students at Kinsella Elementary School in Hartford. Last year's drive resulted in the collection of more than 125 items impacting more than 30 families. This year, the Women’s Guild hopes to exceed these results. The drive runs from November 1 through December 20. For information, or to contribute, contact the church at (860) 956-5647.

The ACYOA Juniors of St. George Church of Hartford, CT, will host a “Game Night and Dance Party” on Saturday, December 12, from 6 to 10 p.m. Click here to view a flyer for information.

St. Stepanos Church | Elberon, NJ
The Women’s Guild of St. Stepanos Church of Elberon, NJ, will host its annual bake sale on Saturday, December 12, and Sunday, December 13, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Enjoy Christmas choreg (sweet bread), cheese boreg (stuffed filo triangles), kibbie kuftah (meat and wheat patties), homemade cookie trays, traditional choreg, and filo pastry favorites like pakhlava, khadayif, and bourma. The church’s Sirvart and Kevork Hovnanian Hall will be transformed into a gourmet Christmas shop.

St. James Church | Watertown, MA
On Sunday, December 13, St. James Church of Watertown, MA, will host its 84th Anniversary Name Day Celebration and honor Raffi and Carol Yeghiayan as “Parishioners of the Year.” The Divine Liturgy begins at 10 a.m. The Name Day banquet will follow. Advance reservations are required for the banquet. Click here for reservation information.

Holy Resurrection Church | New Britain, CT
The New Britain High School Madrigal Singers will give a performance at the Church of the Holy Resurrection on Thursday, December 17, beginning at 7 p.m. The concert is sponsored by the Women’s Guild. For information, call the church at (860) 223-7875.

Hye Pointe Church | Haverhill, MA
The ACYOA of Hye Pointe Church of Haverhill, MA, will host its second annual Chocolate and Cookie Christmas Social on Sunday, December 20, from 1 to 3 p.m. Enjoy an interactive chocolate and cookie decorating demo with guest chef and fellow ACYOA member Nathan Kibarian. Click here for information.

St. Sarkis Church | Dallas, TX
St. Sarkis Church of Dallas, TX, is organizing a pilgrimage to the Holy Land from June 6 to June 16, 2016. The pilgrimage will include stops at the Armenian Patriarchate, the Old City, Bethlehem, the Sea of Galilee, the Jordan River, the Dead Sea, the Tomb of Christ, and more. Click here to view a flyer and itinerary. For more information, contact Fr. Ghevond Ajamian at or (201) 218-5045, or Nour Travels at or (610) 359-7521.


ACYOA Chaptor Workshop
ACYOA members at a chapter workshop in Florida.

Register for the ACYOA Seniors Chapter Workshop

The ACYOA Central Council will sponsor the ACYOA Seniors Chapter Workshop on January 22-24. This year’s workshop is open to all ACYOA members (and prospective members) 18 and older, and not just to those who hold leadership positions in their chapters.
Participants will stay at the Marriott Hotel in St. Petersburg, FL. The workshop sessions will be divided between the hotel and St. Hagop Church in Pinellas Park. Click on the following links to view a flyer and to register online.
For information, contact Lorie Odabashian, Youth and Young Adult Ministries coordinator, at, or (212) 293-1248.



Boston Heritage Park
Boston's Armenian Heritage Park.

A Peace Walk in Boston

Boston’s Armenian Heritage Park will host a “Candlelit Labyrinth Peace Walk” on Sunday, December 21, from 5 to 7 p.m. Following the candlelit walk, guests can tie a ribbon on the park’s Wishing Tree and enjoy a warm drink and fellowship.
Click here to read more.