In late August, the seminary welcomed Julia Hintlian, a doctoral student in the History of Christianity at Harvard University, who is studying at the seminary during the fall semester. And in mid-September, Ani Shahinian, a D.Phil. Candidate in History and Theology at the University of Oxford in England, arrived at St. Nersess.
Ani connected remotely last spring with Dr. Roberta Ervine to read medieval texts in Classical Armenian, which led to an opportunity to live at the seminary for a month this fall. During the short four weeks, Dr. Ervine assisted Ani in translating and interpreting the writing of medieval philosopher Yovhan Orotnec'i's (1315-1386), which is an important piece of her doctoral thesis titled: Christian Martyrdom in the Lake Van Region, Armenia in the Context of Late Medieval (1378-1425) Political and Ecclesiastical History. She also took classes with Bishop Daniel Findikyan and sat in other various classes at both St. Nersess and St. Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary.
As a result of her conversations with Dr. Ervine and the guidance she received, Ani wrote a paper that will be published at the Banber Matenadarani (an international journal for Armenian studies put out by Matenadaran in Armenia) titled "Philosophy and Martyrdom: Contextualizing «Անձնիշխանութիւն» in the Martyrology of Tamar Mokac'i (1398)," which engages with Orotnec'i's philosophy.
"During my time at St. Nersess, I spent many hours at the prayer garden, at the gym, in the chapel, and in the classroom. As I sat in the garden and reflected on all of Christ's goodness, love, and provision for me, I was struck by the fact that the men and women who made the seminary possible, and who contributed to the prayer garden, may never learn of what it did for a woman like me," exclaimed Ani.
"It was truly a place where God's work (the green nature) and human effort (the parameters of the prayer garden) were bridged for me. It inspired me to do good acts, because even if we may never see the fruit of our good deeds, we can trust and know that someone, somewhere will one day benefit from our small seed of faith and trust; and they too will be rejuvenated to do good works. I believe this is the Christian story," she continued.
Ani Shahinian has since returned to the University of Oxford to continue her research on eminent Armenian theologians, philosophers, and vartabeds of the 14th-15th centuries to address the question of Christian martyrdom in the context of Christian-Muslim relations in the Late Medieval period, and more broadly Christian martyrdom narratives in the Armenian history and literature. She hopes to ultimately bring this information to the non-academic world for all to know and learn.
Ms. Shahinian holds an M.A. degree in Near Eastern and Languages and Cultures - Armenian Studies from UCLA, and graduate certificates in Philosophy and Theology from the University of Oxford. She received her B.A. in Philosophy, Ethics, and Professional Writing from the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB).
Prior to her graduate studies, Ani worked at the United States Department of Justice (DOJ), assisting with investigations and prosecutions of human trafficking cases and criminal civil rights abuses. While working at the DOJ, she detected parallels between contemporary and historic human rights violations. Her career at the DOJ connected her journey of investigation and discovery of her identity as an Orthodox Christian Armenian-American with her research interests in the field of Eastern Christian Studies.
St. Nersess Seminary offers graduate level courses and degrees to students seeking to become ordained clergy or lay ministers in the Armenian Church and diplomas in diaconal ministry and music ministry.