The workshop was taught by four faculty members from the Villanova University School of Business (VSB) through its internationally recognized Center for Church Management and Business Ethics. The first of its kind in the nation, the center provides faith-based managerial education to church leaders to help in their parish administration and approach to temporal issues.
Sixteen participants, both newly ordained priests and those with some experience, attended five lectures with an interconnected range of topics over the three days. The subjects presented included: Organizational Management, Information Technology, Stewardship and Development, Strategic Pastoral Planning, and Safeguarding Your Parish.
One of the most popular lectures amongst the attendees was the topic of Stewardship and Development, which explored factors affecting individuals' decision to contribute time or money to their church; volunteer recruitment, training, and retention. Fr. Armash Bagdasarian from Soorp Haroutiun Armenian Church in Orlando, FL, reflected on the lecture, commenting that everyone has a talent to share with his/her church community. “I was reminded that stewardship comes from the Bible. We need to pledge to give ourselves spiritually to the church, that our life is a gift from God. And giving our ‘head, heart, and hand’ reflects giving back. It’s not just a financial commitment but a functional one.”
Adding his thoughts on that lecture, which also related to the Organizational Management session, was Fr. Vart Gyozalyan from the Armenian Church at Hye Point in Bradford, MA. “Stewardship is a lifestyle. A Christian community is made up of faith, prayer, charity and outreach. We must build better relationships in our communities and include more charity and outreach.”
“We need to do a better job of outreach and bringing parishioners into the church,” commented Fr. Khatchatur Kessablyan from Sts. Vartanantz Armenian Church in Chelmsford, MA. “Sharing Christ’s love with them and helping them feel needed both physically and spiritually is very important. Also, the material we learned in the Information Technology lecture reminded us that having an appealing website will help parishioners to better connect to the church.”
The technology session left an impression on Dn. Narek Garabedian, who will be heading to St. Gregory the Illuminator Armenian Church in Chicago, IL, the end of June for his pastoral assignment. “User friendly websites, skype, and texts can help us communicate with parishioners and share our knowledge of Jesus.”
As many of the lectures were also open discussions, Fr. Hakob Gevorgyan of Holy Trinity Armenian Church in Cheltenham, PA, remarked, “we need to invite everyone in the community all the time, not just one time. By listening to each other, we grow to love and respect each other.” He then added, “by asking a parishioner ‘what can the church do for you,’ we can then ask in return, ‘what can you do for the church’.”
While attending the workshops, the participants enjoyed lodging and meals at the seminary, as well as evening worship services. Fr. Simeon Odabashian, Diocesan Vicar, led an evening discussion with the parish priests about cooperative efforts between the pastor and parish councils. Three parish council members were invited to attend and contribute to the discussion: Alex Topakbashian, Sts. Sahag and Mesrob Armenian Church, Wynnewood, PA; Ann Daw, St. Gregory the Enlightener Armenian Church, White Plains, NY; and Lorig Chorluyan from St. Leon Armenian Church in Fair Lawn, NJ.
Participants also had time to socialize and spend quality time with each other. The clergy participants included: Fr. Armash Bagdasarian, Fr. Sevak Gabrielyan, Fr. Paren Galstyan, Dn. Narek Garabedian, Fr. Hakob Gevorgyan, Fr. Vart Gyozalyan, Fr. Mesrob Hovsepyan, Fr. Avedis Kalayjian, Fr. Khatchatur Kessablyan, Fr. Abraham Malkhasyan, Fr. Tadeos Parseghyan, Fr. Samuel Rith-Najarian, Fr. Hratch Sargsyan, Fr. Tatev Terteryan, Fr. Arakel Vardazaryan, and Fr. Gomidas Zohrabian.
"As part of our expanded mission of the seminary, we are excited to have teamed up with Villanova University to offer our first continuing education workshop, the topic being Parish Management," commented Fr. Mardiros Chevian, Dean. "We plan to offer more workshops in the future on topics such as Preaching, Marriage Counseling, and other subjects. In 2014, we rolled out an Acculturation Program for priests from abroad which has proven effective for preparing these new priests for parish ministry," he added.
Reflecting on the three-day workshop, Fr. Khatchatur added, “I am thankful to the Primate, Abp. Khajag Barsamian, Fr. Mardiros Chevian and the St. Nersess staff, and the faculty members from Villanova University for the Armenian hospitality and the opportunity to learn with my brothers in Christ.”