St. Nersess Seminary's 2005-2006 academic year opened on Thursday, September 8 with six new students, the largest incoming class the Seminary has ever admitted. Included among the new seminarians are two women and two students from the Western Diocese, demographic groups that have not been represented in the seminary's student body in recent years.
The school year was inaugurated with the celebration of the Divine Liturgy in the seminary chapel by the Dean, V. Rev. Fr. Daniel Findikyan. In his homily, Fr. Findikyan drew a parallel between the day's feast, the Birth of the Mary the Mother of God to Sts. Joachim and Anna, and the new paths on which the seminarians were setting out.
"The birth of the Mother of God represents the beginning of the story of our salvation in Jesus Christ," Fr. Findikyan said. "The hymns of our church call Mary's birth 'the first day of salvation'. Likewise each of you sets out today on a new year, a new life, a new vocation. Let us all commit ourselves to walking that path this year with Christ."
Later in the day the seminary community enjoyed a visit by the Seminary President, His Eminence Abp. Khajag Barsamian, Primate of the Eastern Diocese. As is his custom at the start of each school year, His Eminence joined the seminarians for traditional Evening Prayers (Yeregoyan Zham) and dinner. After this the Archbishop engaged the students in an animated discussion that included such topics as jurisdictional unity, the possible canonization of the Genocide martyrs, and new ideas for reaching out more effectively to our young people.
"To see such dedicated and talented men and women such as yourselves here at St. Nersess assures me that the Holy Spirit is at work in the Armenian Church in America," said the Archbishop. "But we still have much to do," he added.
This year's freshman class comprises four men and two women of obvious faith, dedication and talent.
"This trip was both a great opportunity to learn about the country from which my ancestors came and an opportunity to aid in serving others," says Ben.
"Jesus was calling me all my life, and I hope that I deserve to become His humble servant," Harry says. "I hope that I have the capacity to serve His Church and His people."
Maria Derderian is another Philadelphia-area native, and a life-long member of Sts. Sahag and Mesrob Armenian Church (Wynnewood, PA). Born into a church-going family, Maria grew up in the Church, participating in regular worship, Sunday School, Junior Choir, and ACYOA acitvities. Maria's mother Shake is a graduate of St. Nersess (1989), as is her maternal uncle, Vartan Ajamian (1988).
"I didn't really begin to explore my faith until my first St. Nersess Summer Conference in the summer of 1997," says Maria. "It was there that I began to really examine my personal relationship with God. With each passing year, within the walls of St. Nersess, my faith began to grow, and my desire to learn more about the Armenian Church grew...Applying to St. Nersess seems like a natural progression for me."
Maria will balance Seminary studies with her responsibilities as Chair of the ACYOA Central Council.
Within the Armenian Church and community Megan has been active in numerous youth programs including the ACYO and St. Nersess Summer Conferences, as well as the Western Diocese Camp. In 2000 she participated in a humanitarian work project in Armenia as part of the Armenian Diocese of Canada's CYMA group.
Returning to St. Nersess this year are seminarians Deacon Nishan Baljian, Jason Demerjian, and Daron Bolat, a 2005 graduate who will continue his studies in Classical Armenian and liturgy, while completing a full-time internship at the Diocese in New York. Four additional students will pursue coursework on a part-time basis.