On Friday evening, May 18, over 100 guests including friends and family of the graduates, clergy, board of directors, faculty, alumni, students, and supporters of the seminary celebrated the graduation of Dn. Alex Calikyan, Dn. Albert Hambardzumyan, and Johnny Chadoyan who received their diplomas from St. Nersess Seminary.
Officiating at the graduation was Bishop Daniel Findikyan, Primate of the Eastern Diocese and President of the St. Nersess Board of Directors, who began the ceremony with the consecration of two new icons in the St. Hagop Chapel. The recently installed icons, the Baptism of our Lord Jesus Christ and St. James of Nisibis with Marookeh the Hermit, were donated by an anonymous donor.
The Rev. Fr. Mardiros Chevian, Dean, opened the graduation program by welcoming the guests and recognizing Vardan Gasparyan, the artist who took up residency at the seminary for six weeks to paint the vivid depictions in the icons. Next, the Rev. Fr. Krikor Sabounjian, representing the Board of Directors, addressed the graduates. He reminded them to "remember St. Nersess Seminary is a part of your family forever."
The next speaker was the Very Rev. Dr. David Mezynski, Director of Residential Life and Admissions at St. Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary, who asked the graduates "to remember to pray for the seminarians and provide your time and talent to support the seminary."
Fr. Mardiros then introduced Arpi Nakashian, a 2015 St. Nersess graduate and chairperson of the alumni association. She briefly outlined the association's history and said that each member brings his or her own essence to the Body of Christ. "Our gifts are given to us by the Holy Spirit," she exclaimed.
Representing the faculty, the Rev. Fr. Karekin Kasparian recalled his time as a young deacon when the seminary opened its doors in Evanston, IL, and how he tried to find new students and faculty to carry out the vision of Archbishop Tiran Nersoyan. He went on to name each graduate and their individual attributes.
Speaking to the graduates as a fellow classmate was Armen Terjimanian. "You have been pushed and pulled in many directions...and now your work here is finished. This was the easy part!" Armen exclaimed. He reminded the graduates to take their lessons with them in their ministry.
Fr. Mardiros invited each graduate to address the attendees. The first to speak was Johnny Chadoyan, who recalled his first Armenian class with Fr. Karekin. "He told me three years ago that 'there is a long mountain to climb and we will do it together' as I Iearned to speak and read Armenian," Johnny shared. He thanked his St. Nersess family for all their support during his studies.
Dn. Alex Calikyan addressed the crowd in Armenian, saying the church rejoices in these kinds of celebrations when we are united in one voice and one mind. "These connections show that today is not just about me and my fellow graduates, but in the Body of Christ, we all share in the illumination of this day, and the warmth, joy, and excitement that radiate forth from it."
The final graduate to speak was Dn. Albert Hambardzumyan, who spoke about the diploma he received at the Theological Seminary of the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem five years ago. "God called me two years later to return to my studies at St. Nersess Seminary. Today I am grateful to all the people who helped me to get to this point."
Before handing out the diplomas, Bishop Daniel Findikyan offered personal reflections on each graduate. "Today brings me nothing but joy and pride to be here at my alma mater," he exclaimed. "Johnny, I have known you the longest, as a boy of 13 years old at the Deacons' Training Program. You recently passed your Deacon's exam with flying colors."
Daniel Srpazan continued, "Dn. Alex, I met you when you were 16 years old and you had many questions about the vocation. I am proud to have been your professor."
"And Dn. Albert. I met you in Jerusalem. It has been a great joy to observe what you have brought to St. Nersess. There is a critical connection between Jerusalem and St. Nersess," proclaimed Bishop Daniel.
He also recognized two former students, Dn. Narek Garabedian and Dn. Arman Galstyan, who he will ordain to the holy priesthood in June and July, respectively - his first ordinations as a newly ordained bishop.
Bishop Daniel concluded the ceremony by awarding each graduate with his diploma. Johnny received a Certificate of Studies while Dn. Alex and Dn. Albert completed the Armenian Church Studies Program. The following day, Dn. Alex and Dn. Albert were among the 14 graduates at St. Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary to receive a Master of Divinity degree.
The joyful guests moved from the chapel into the lobby of the Theological Center where they enjoyed a bountiful reception prepared by Wilma Petrossian, Manager of Food Services, and the family of Dn. Alex. The lavish dessert table was lovingly prepared and donated by Mary Stevoff of Chicago, the aunt of Yn. Diane Chevian. Everyone had an opportunity to personally congratulate the graduates on their accomplishments.
In the fall, Dn. Albert will begin a parish internship at St. Hagop Armenian Church in Pinellas Park, FL, while
Dn. Alex will further his higher education in pastoral work and enroll in a chaplaincy residency program. Johnny will continue with his studies at the University of Richmond in the Master of Liberal Arts Program with a concentration in Public History and will be ordained a deacon this summer.