Fr. Stepanos Doudoukjian, newly-appointed Director of Youth and VocationsSt. Nersess Seminary's efforts to cultivate greater numbers of seminarians and prospective priests expands greatly with the appointment of Rev. Fr. Stepanos Doudoukjian as the Seminary's full-time Director of Youth and Vocations. For ten years Fr. Stepanos, a St. Nersess graduate himself, has been directing the Seminary's youth conferences and the past two assisting with recruitment efforts on a part-time basis. In his new position, which officially began on July 1, he will be fully devoted to youth and recruitment work for St. Nersess.
"In recent years, I have had to balance recruitment work with my many other responsibilities," said Fr. Daniel Findikyan, Seminary dean. "To be effective, we need someone out there full-time to work with our youth and support those who are considering coming to Seminary. Fr. Stepanos is the right person for this job."
In his new position Fr. Stepanos will work primarily to build relationships between St. Nersess and young men who are considering the priesthood as a vocation. "The young men we seek to be our future seminarians and clergy are bright, dedicated, and talented, and they have a range of career options open to them," said Fr. Doudoukjian. "The Seminary needs to reach out to them and support them in the difficult process of deciding to come to Seminary, and that is what I will spend a good deal of my time doing," he said.
There Are Many More
Fr. Doudoukjian will also spend a good deal of time on the road, visiting church parishes, ACYOA groups, summer camps, universities and virtually any other venue where Armenian-American youth are gathered. When asked recently if there are Armenian-American youth that would be willing to become clergy he answered, "I know for a fact that there are many young men who are thinking about the priesthood because I am in contact with a good number of them. I strongly believe that there are many more that we don't know about."
Among other goals for the short term Fr. Stepanos emphasized eliciting the collaboration of clergy and lay leaders at the parish level. "Our clergy are the real seminary recruiters," he said. "It is their example of dedication, leadership and love that will be far more successful at attracting future seminarians than any speech or brochure I might make."
On the Front Lines
He added, "Priests, deacons, choir members, Sunday School and Armenian School teachers, parish council members and all Armenians of good conscience--they are the ones on the front lines. I look forward to building relationships with them, empowering them to cooperate in securing the next generation of church leaders."
Experienced Pastor and Youth Minister
From 1994-1995 he served as Youth Director at the Armenian Church of the Holy Martyrs (Bayside, NY) and in the Department of Youth Ministry of the Eastern Diocese, where his focus was college ministry. Ordained a priest in 1995, he served as Pastor of St. Peter Armenian Church (Watervliet, NY) for over eleven years.
Fr. Stepanos is in every way a product of St. Nersess Seminary. His history with the Seminary goes back to 1981 when he first participated in a High School Conference as a somewhat rebellious teen. "I was a thug in those days," he recalls, smiling. "Since that time I have missed only four years as either a participant or a counselor. He eventually served as an instructor, Assistant Director and finally, for the past ten years as Director.
A Taste of What It's Like to Serve the Church
The St. Nersess youth conferences are an integral piece of the recruiting puzzle for the Seminary. "At St. Nersess we try to expose our youth to the very best of the Armenian Church," Fr. Stepanos said. "Through the conferences young people meet clergy and theologically-trained lay leaders in an informal and loving atmosphere. They get a taste of what it's like to serve the church. God's Spirit is truly at work on the 9 acres of property at 150 Stratton Road in New Rochelle."
Most of the 32 clergy alumni of St. Nersess are products of the St. Nersess youth conferences.
Fr. Stepanos is married to Yeretzgin Paulette, originally from Selma, California. "I remember I was 21 and attending a St. Nersess Winter Conference when I met my wife Paulette," he said. "We have been married since 1994. Every summer we come back to St. Nersess, and it is a joy coming back home. Even our two children Jonah and Gloria feel the magic of St. Nersess. All year long they talk about their experiences and the friendships they have created here at the Seminary."
Fulfilling, Adventurous, Meaningful, Exciting
"Being a priest of the Armenian Church for the past eleven years, my pastorate has been fulfilling, adventurous, meaningful and exciting," says Fr. Stepanos. "It is these sentiments and attitudes that I would like to pass along to those prospective seminarians who are thinking of the priesthood or other ministries in the Armenian Church."