History of St. Nersess Armenian Seminary (cont.)
Since shortly after the seminary’s move to New Rochelle, the Board of Directors has persistently considered options for ensuring that the seminary has adequate facilities to fulfill its mission. An ambitious plan to construct an Armenian-style chapel, dormitories and classrooms on the Stratton Road grounds was abruptly halted late in 1988 in the wake of the devastating earthquake in Armenia. In 2004, a significant donation was made to St. Nersess by Mr. and Mrs. Haig and Elza Didizian of London, England, and their families for the construction of a chapel and classroom/library complex in memory of His Holiness Catholicos Karekin I. An initial plan was abandoned due to excessive costs.
A New Campus
In 2012, the Board of Directors approved the purchase of a 5.5 acre of land in Armonk, NY, to build a new St. Nersess campus that would support its expanded student body and mission. Mr. and Mrs. Haig and Elza Didizian graciously donated the land as well as a new 8,400 sqft Chapel and Karekin I Theological Center, which is currently under construction on the new property. When completed, this center will include an extensive library, classrooms, offices, and a chapel built in Armenian-style architecture.
In addition, four existing buildings on the property have been renovated through the generosity of many donors to allow for separate single and married and faculty residences, a dining facility, a dean's residence, and recreation complex. Donations are still being accepted to complete the project.
Consolidated Program of Studies
By 2007, twenty-five years had passed since the formalization of the joint Master of Divinity curriculum with St. Vladimir’s Seminary. A complete revision of the program was carried out that year by St. Nersess seminary’s resident faculty, collaborating with the new dean and chancellor of St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary. The revised “consolidated” M.Div. program streamlined the curriculum by removing redundancies in coursework, assigning full academic credit to all courses in Armenian Church Studies, and placing an emphasis on pastoral skills. The result is a program that far better prepares St. Nersess seminarians for ministry in the Armenian Church in North America.
Recognizing the need to intensify efforts to recruit future seminarians from among the parishes of the Armenian Church in North America, in 2007 the Board of Directors appointed the Rev. Fr. Stepanos Doudoukjian as Director of Youth and Vocations. Fr. Stepanos, a St. Nersess alumnus, experienced pastor and long-time Director of the Summer Conferences, was charged with promoting Armenian Church vocations, especially priesthood, to American-Armenian youth throughout the three North American dioceses, and assisting young men who are discerning their vocation.
In 2012, the Rev. Fr. Mardiros Chevian was appointed seminary dean for a second time by the St. Nersess Board of Directors. Fr. Mardiros is working diligently with parish priests in both the Eastern and Western Dioceses to help recruit young men who are seeking the priesthood. He is also directing and increasing the number of seminarians as well as overseeing the St. Nersess expansion of mission on the new Armonk campus, which includes an Acculturation Program that further prepares Armenian clergy from abroad in pastoral care, American culture and traditions, ecumenical and inter-church relations, youth ministry, and administrative practices of our parishes in the United States.
Fruits of the Seminary
With 50+ years since its establishment, St. Nersess Armenian Seminary has solidified its place at the heart of the Armenian Church in North America and as the gateway to its bright future.
St. Nersess has given 43 priests, including four primates, and many lay ministers who are serving the Armenian Church today. The hierarchs include His Eminence Archbishop Avak Assadourian, Primate of the Diocese of the Armenian Church of Iraq; His Grace Bishop Vahan Hovhanessian, Primate of the Diocese of the Armenian Church of France; His Grace Bishop Nareg Berberian, Primate of the Diocese of the Armenian Church of Brazil; and Bishop Daniel Findikyan, Primate of the Eastern Diocese of the Armenian Church of America. A large number of the clergy of the North American Dioceses have studied at St. Nersess, of whom several are the pastors of the largest parishes within these dioceses. Most of the clergy in the Eastern Diocese have studied at St. Nersess. The priests of the six largest Armenian Church parishes in the United States are St. Nersess alumni. Another unique aspect of the seminary’s program of study is that it offers theological education to lay people as well. Many share the conviction of the former President of the Board of Directors and Primate of the Eastern Diocese, His Eminence Abp. Khajag Barsamian, that “There is no future for the Armenian Church in America without St. Nersess Seminary.”
St. Nersess Seminary recognizes that it cannot succeed in its mission without the ancient Hierarchical Sees of the Armenian Church. The seminary considers itself a junior partner in the consortium of our Armenian Church seminaries, most especially the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin and the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem, from where it draws its inspiration.
St. Nersess Seminary
Archbishop Tiran Nersoyan (1961-1966)
Rev. Fr. Karekin Kasparian (1967-1978)
V. Rev. Fr. Arshen Aivazian (1982-1984)
Rev. Fr. Mardiros Chevian (1984-1991)
Dn. Hratch Tchilingiran (1991-1993)
Rev. Fr. Arakel Aljalian (1993-1999)
V. Rev. Fr. Vahan Hovhanessian (1999-2000)
V. Rev. Fr. Daniel Findikyan (2000—2012)
Rev. Fr. Mardiros Chevian