More than 100 friends and supporters of St. Nersess gathered at the Seminary on Saturday evening for the Fourth Annual Evening Under the Stars benefit reception. Although celestial stars were obscured by an early Autumn haze, the real Stars of the Seminary--future priests, church leaders, benefactors, faculty, alumni, and members of the Board of Directors--shined radiantly.
Theological Education for Fifty Years
The elegant reception featured delicious Armenian appetizers, roast beef and pork tenderloin carving stations, a pasta station and open bar. Guests mingled for hours under a graciously decorated tent off the main building's back patio. An eclectic music mix by D.J. Sayat provided a pleasant ambience for friends to reminisce and show their appreciation for the Seminary's wide-ranging contributions to the Armenain Church in America for 50 years.
Highlighting the evening was the culmination of an on-line auction of a variety of enticing offerings, including two exquisite necklaces, tickets to New York Giants and Rangers games, dinner for four with the Dean, a year's supply of Racine Kringle, and a magnificent Armenian rug.
In attendance were nine members of the Seminary's Board of Directors: Suzanne Akian, Raffi Balian, Michael Haratunian, Fr. Karekin Kasparian, Dr. Raffy Hovhanessian, Kevork Toroyan, Stephen Mekenian, Karen Dilimetin, and Nicole Vartanian.
Before dessert was served, Suzanne Akian, Stephen Mekenian, and Fr. Daniel Findikyan welcomed the guests and thanked them for their generous support. Brimming with enthusiasm, Akian acknowledged the team of volunteers who had once again lovingly labored to realize the reception.
Yeretzgin Paulette Doudoukjian oversaw every aspect of the soirée. A squad of college students and young professionals, all dressed in white shirts, served food and cocktails, provided valet parking, and assisted with setup and cleanup. All are past participants and staff of the Seminary's summer conferences for youth.
"I love St. Nersess, and I will always do whatever i can to support it," said Aram Babikyan, of Boston.
First Steps Toward A New Seminary Facility and Sound Financial Foundation
In a surprise announcement, Seminary Treasurer Stephen Mekenian disclosed that the Board of Directors had made a deposit, and was in contract negotiations to purchase a 5.5 acre property in Armonk, New York, about twenty minutes north, to be the future home of St. Nersess.
"If the plan succeeds--and we're still taking the very first steps--this would provide St. Nersess with a beautiful new Seminary facility, and, with income from the sale of the current New Rochelle property, a strong financial foundation for the Seminary to operate and grow for the next 50 years," Mekenian said.
With the announcement, three seminarians unveiled two large depictions of the prospective new facility, which features an impressive library-classroom facility to be dedicated to the memory of His Holiness Catholicos Karekin I; a small Armenian-style chapel, separate dormitories for bachelors and married students, and a dean's residence. In addition, an existing 200-year old barn on the property will be preserved and converted into a large refectory and multi-function space.
Preparing Priests, Lifting Up Youth, Educating Clergy
In his remarks, Fr. Daniel introduced this year's full-time seminarians: Saro Kalayjian and Eric Vozzy, preparing to serve as priests in the Eastern Diocese; and Deacon Christopher Sheklian, a doctoral candidate from the University of Chicago, who is studying Armenian language and Armenian Church history and theology at the Seminary this year to supplement his studies in Chicago.
Fr. Findikyan also listed a whole range of educational and spiritual programs organized by the Seminary in the coming months: a young adults' retreat on October 1; a two-day clergy continuing education workshop on youth ministry on October 21-22; and a weekend training workshop for altar servers and deacons on November 11-13.
"With your continued prayerful and financial support, St. Nersess Seminary--wherever its home may be--will continue to work tirelessly for the building up of our holy church, and especially our young people," he said.