His Eminence Abp. Khajag Barsamian, Primate of the Eastern Diocese of the Armenian Church of America and President of the Board of Directors of St. Nersess Seminary paid a visit to the seminary on Thursday evening, September 23. It has become a tradition that the Primate visits the Seminary at the start of each semester.
Present to greet him were the dean, V. Rev. Fr. Daniel Findikyan, and eight of this year's twelve seminarians. Present as well was Rev. Fr. Daniel Karadjian, an ordained priest from Plovdiv, Bulgaria, who is pursuing a special one-year course of studies at St. Nersess concentrating on practical and pastoral ministry. Seminary administrator Mr. John Aslanian was also present.
His Eminence joined the seminarians in their evening prayer (Yeregoyan Zhamerkutyoon). Thursday being the commemoration of the early fourth-century holy fathers Saints Barlaam, Anthimus and Irenaeus, the seminarians sang the beautiful hymn appointed for the day,Hantisatsyalks.
The seminarians and dean then led Srpazan into the dining room, where a delectable Armenian meal was waiting for them, courtesy of the seminary's devoted chef, Mr. Noray Ohanian.
Addressing him in Armenian, the dean officially welcomed His Eminence back to St. Nersess, thanking him for his unrelenting support and leadership of the Seminary and its mission, not to mention his ever enthusiastic encouragement of the seminarians.
In his remarks to the seminarians, Srpazan focused on the theme of love and respect, which he called the pillars of church ministry. "St. Paul has taught us very clearly," the Archbishop said, referring to the exquisite discourse on love in 1Corinthians 13, "That no matter what achievements an individual or an institution may make, if they are not rooted in love, they are worthless."
An animated discussion ensued, as Srpazan invited the seminarians to ask questions, or simply share their thoughts and concerns.
First-year seminarian Ara Karamanian, of Erie, Pennsylvania, asked the Primate to comment on the reorganization of the ministries and departments within the Eastern Diocese and their potential impact on Christian Education. Srpazan responded that with the hiring of a college-ministry facilitator (Jason Demerjian, who is also studying at St. Nersess in preparation for the priesthood), more human resources were devoted to youth and education. He added that he was counting on St. Nersess to prepare more worthy men and women to assume positions in Christian Education and youth ministry at the Dicoese.
Dn. Sebuh Oscherician then spoke of his own experience as pastoral intern at St. Leon Armenian Church (Fair Lawn, NJ), where he and the Pastor, St. Nersess alumnus Rev. Fr. Diran Bohajian, are struggling to be able to assist the many immigrants who are in desperate need of assistance in finding housing, work, health care, and other basic services. "We cannot reach out adequately to all the people that need our help," he said poignantly.
In response, the Primate recalled that several years ago the Diocese retained a full-time social worker to assist the parishes in meeting the needs of recent immigrants and others in need of basic social services. While budget cuts necessitated the elimination of that position, he expressed hope that funding could be made available to revive it. "In the meantime," he said, "I encourage each parish to organize committees of lay people, making use especially of specialists in this field and related fields. We have numerous parishes where such committees are doing wonderful work, truly reaching out to people in need, and at the same time building up the parish."
Following his closing prayer, the Archbishop spent almost two hours meeting privately with each seminarian.