By Elise Antreassian-Bayizian
It was indeed a beautiful day for a drive north – bright fall leaves, clear blue sky (after a rainy Saturday), and mild weather. But the beautiful backdrop was just one of God’s gifts that morning to 14 students and 4 teachers who formed a small caravan to our “hidden treasure” in New Rochelle, NY – St. Nersess Armenian Seminary.
Erase this and place the image hereWrite Caption HereAmong the others: the miracle of everyone arriving early and on time; the good will of teachers (thanks to Arda Haratunian) to help get some of our girls to their basketball game later that afternoon; NO traffic either way (is the world coming to an end?); our students participating in and actually experiencing a Badarak from first minute to last in an hour and 15 minutes, including discussion and reflection; and the discovery of the Armenian Seminary very few of the students and staff had ever seen.
Fr. Stepanos Doudoukjian, Director of Youth and Vocations, and a number of seminarians (Deacon Haik Tigranyan, Stan Sheridan, as well as Deacon Ryan Tellalian and recent graduate Megan Jendian, who had been teaching last year at our Sunday School) warmly greeted them. Once inside the small, intimate Seminary chapel, students were joined by others in the community, including professors Abraham Terian and Edward Matthews, and liturgy began.
Brandon Ajamian and Hayk Matevosian were enlisted as acolytes (first time ever), Ashley Kechian read the epistle and Laura Ketigian and Julia Smaldone helped pass the Kiss of Peace. Fr. Stepanos talked to the teens about the “great I ams” of Jesus (I am the good shepherd; I am the vine; I am the gate; I am the bread of life) and asked the students to share a word or two about who they were (a uniquely personal moment during Divine Liturgy).
After Badarak, everyone gathered in the comfortable living room for an introduction to the Seminary’s history and program during which seminarians Stan Sheridan, Ryan Tellalian, and Hayk Tigranyan shared their reasons for coming to Seminary – an enlightening few moments for students so close to thinking of their own careers. After a get-to-know you chat, a wonderful lunch was served (prepared by Yn Paulette Doudoukjian and Zovig Ashjian) and kids got to work on decorating pumpkins “Christian-style.” With full-color pictures of saints and Christian motifs spread around the tables, everyone got creative with paints, buttons, assorted do-dads, moss (for hair), stickers, and, yes, glue guns (upon seeing the mischievous gleam in a few eyes, they were used under strict supervision). Seminarians had the challenge of judging, and while all were deemed “winners,” Nina Policano and Ashley Kechian won 2nd and 3rd prize respectively while 1st prize of a 50% discount to a St. Nersess summer conference went to Arianna Haviters.
Fr. Stepanos bid the students an affectionate goodbye, noting that “This was a great day. Seeing you discover the Seminary, where the life of the Armenian Church and one’s personal faith can come together so powerfully, was such a joy. I look forward to seeing you at our Summer Conferences next year.” Note: Brandon Ajamian and Ashley Kechian are Conference alums with plans to return (and maybe bring some Sunday School colleagues along…).
For those who haven’t yet seen this beautiful and exciting place, our 7th-11th graders heartily recommend a trip – maybe next time parents will come along to be educated and inspired.
Note: Did you know that 80% of our clergy in the United States studied at St. Nersess, most of them for a Master’s of Divinity? And that all youth and Christian education programming of the Eastern Diocese is directed by St. Nersess alumni? That right now, St. Nersess is the only place you can learn Classical Armenian (krapar) in all of North America?