On Friday, May 29, nearly 150 guests including friends, family and clergy celebrated the graduation of Deacon Vahe Bagdasarian, Kathryn Ashbahian, and Arpi Nakashian who received their diplomas from St. Nersess Seminary.
The event began with an Evening Service in the chapel. Following the service, Rev. Fr. Mardiros Chevian, Seminary Dean, opened the graduation ceremony by welcoming all who were present. Presiding at the event was Abp. Khajag Barsamian, Primate of the Eastern Diocese and President of the St. Nersess Board of Directors. Seminarian Levon Asdourian offered words of encouragement to the graduates and reflections as a current seminarian. Following, Garen Karamyan, who spoke on behalf of the St. Nersess faculty, reminded the graduates they have a challenging road ahead but a worthwhile one. In a surprising and touching moment, Rev. Fr. Karekin Kasparian bequeathed a cross of Abp. Tiran Nersoyan, the founder of St. Nersess Seminary, to the Very Rev. Fr. Daniel Findikyan, former student of Abp. Tiran Nersoyan and Prof. of Liturgical Studies at St. Nersess. Fr. Karekin received the cross from Abp. Tiran Nersoyan shortly before his passing and felt it was time to gift it a worthy individual. Then Prof. Mark Movsesian, who represented the St. Nersess Board of Directors, addressed the crowd and said how proud he is of the graduates and how they will serve as leaders of the Armenian Church. Representing St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary, Prof. Richard Schneider spoke of the longstanding relationship between St. Vladimir’s and St. Nersess. The Rev. Fr. Sarkis Petoyan, who represented the Western Diocese and is a St. Nersess graduate and board of directors member, reminded the graduates that the holy spirit will be with them always, from the tough days of mentoring parishioners who have lost a loved one to celebratory days as well.
Before receiving their diplomas from Abp. Khajag, each of the three graduates spoke to the audience about the personal path that led him or her to enroll as a seminarian at St. Nersess Seminary. Speaking in English, Kathryn Ashbahian said when she learned the importance of the meaning of her last name, “keeper of the right hand of St. Gregory,” from Prof. Roberta Ervine, she knew she was destined to follow the path of Christian education in the Armenian Church. Speaking in Armenian, Dn. Vahe Bagdasarian said how grateful he is to reach this point in his life to continue serving the Armenian Church, with the hope as a future priest, as he has been faithfully serving our church for most of his life in Istanbul. Finally, Arpi Nakashian expressed in English, “Our church carries treasures that our people deserve to know: what our faith is all about, what our church stands for, who Christ truly is and how He is present in our lives today. My endeavor, as a Christian Educator at the Eastern Diocese of the Armenian Church of America, is to pass on these treasures to our people to the best of my abilities and facilitate their discipleship to Christ in the 21st century.”
Khajag Srpazan then gave the closing message, reminding everyone that we are the legacy of our martyrs, and that we should focus on the miracle of our survival. “Before the genocide, there were over 6,000 Armenian clergy. A 100 years later, we now have 600. Let us focus on the miracle that we are growing, and continue to grow with our St. Nersess graduates.” Other honored guests in attendance were the Abp. Yeghishe Gizirian, spiritual father of St. Nersess Armenian Seminary, Very Rev. Simeon Odabashian, V. Rev. Fr. Mamigon Kiledjian, Rev. Fr. Yeprem Kelegian, Rev. Fr. Untzag Nalbandian, Rev. Fr. Mesrob Hovsepyan, Rev. Fr. Bedros Kadehjian, Rev. Fr. Abraham Malkhasyan, Rev. Fr. Arakel Vardazaryan, and St. Nersess alumni who serve as lay leaders in the Armenian Church.
Family and friends of the graduates enjoyed a dinner reception on the seminary grounds and had an opportunity to personally congratulate the graduates on their accomplishments. The Ashbahian family made a generous contribution towards the graduation expenses. The following day, Kathryn Ashbahian and Arpi Nakashian were amongst the 31 graduates at St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary where they received their Master of Arts degree.
photos by Diran Jebejian