Abp. Hovnan Derderian, Primate of the Western Diocese, gestures during a discussion with St. Nersess seminarians
Shortly after his arrival, Srpazan was escorted to St. Vladimir's Orthodox Seminary in nearby Crestwood, New York, where he was greeted by the Academic Dean, Dr. John Barnet, and by Prof. Albert Rossi. Welcoming the Archbishop in the impressive Rangos Building, which houses the Seminary's vast library and academic offices. St. Nersess and St. Vladimir's have enjoyed a close institutional and academic relationship for nearly four decades.
Fr. Daniel Findikyan Introduces the Dean and Chancelor of St. Vladimir's Seminary to Hovnan Srpazan
No one at St. Nersess can remember when a member of the Board of Directors has spent an entire day and night at St. Nersess, much less the Primate of the Western Diocese of the Armenian Church of North America.
Abp. Hovnan Derderian, Vice-President of the Board, visited the Seminary on Friday, February 8, 2008. He met with the Dean and faculty, presided over chapel services, sat in on a class, and steered an informal but wide-ranging discussion with the community late in the night.
"I Care About You"
"I have been to St. Nersess many times," said Hovnan Srpazan. "But I really wanted to create an occasion where I could spend quality time with the faculty and students. I want to encourage you. I want you to know that I care about you," he said.
Two seminarians, Deacon Ryan Tellalian and Deacon Mkrtich Ksachikyan are students of the Western Diocese, who, upon graduation, will return there to serve as priests under Abp. Derderian's supervision.
Seminarians serving the Western Diocese surround Hovnan Srpazan (L-R) Deacons Mkrtich Ksachikyan and Ryan Tellalian
Still later, as evening gave way to night, Srpazan gathered the seminarians around him for a open discussion, in which the Primate shared experiences and vignettes from his own life as a pastor. "Don't look at me as an Archbishop right now," Srpazan said. "I want you to open up and share with me your thoughts, hopes, and fears as future priests of the Armenian Church," Srpazan said.
Keep Calling Your People
Again and again he returned to the theme of pastoring the flock. He recounted his own efforts, as the newly-appointed young priest in Toronto years ago, to build up the community and draw in new members.
"Don't give up. Keep calling your people. Show them you're interested in them. Let them know that you care about them. And most of all, keep praying," he said.
Abp. Hovnan has made recruitment of future seminarians a priority within his growing Diocese. He recently invited the St. Nersess Dean, Fr. Daniel Findikyan, to address a gathering of all of the Western Diocese clergy at St. John Armenian Church (Hollywood, CA) to introduce them to St. Nersess, and to speak about strategies for recruiting young men to aspire to the priesthood.
Preparing Effective Clergy
The Primate has instituted a range of initiatives within the Western Diocese, to be announced soon, to cultivate prospective seminarians and to make St. Nersess more visible in the Western Diocese.
"St. Nersess graduates are among my most effective priests," Srpazan said recently.
The Primate's visit concluded with a few moments of prayer and hymnody in the seminary chapel.