St. Nersess Armenian Seminary will take the first dramatic step in the long-awaited construction of a library and chapel complex on Saturday, June 12, 2004 with the traditional ceremony of Blessing the Ground. Hundreds of alumni, clergy, friends, youth and supporters of the Seminary are expected to attend the 1:00 PM ceremony and the reception to follow. Both will take place on the Seminary grounds in New Rochelle, New York.
St. Nersess is the only Armenian Seminary in the western hemisphere.
The ceremony will be conducted by a number of church dignitaries, headed by His Eminence Abp. Khajag Barsamian, Primate of the Eastern Diocese of the Armenian Church of America and President of the Seminary Board of Directors. Ecumenical representatives as well as civic and other dignitaries will also be on hand.
The New Rochelle City Planning Board approved the Seminary's Master Plan last November. The plan calls for an 11,000 sq. ft. library complex to house the Abp. Tiran Nersoyan Library, a vast collection of priceless Armenian books, historical documents and manuscripts bequeathed to the Seminary by the late Abp. Nersoyan, who founded the Seminary in 1961. Since the Archbishop's death in 1989, many of these books have remained in storage due to lack of adequate space.
The new complex will also include a high-tech lecture hall, seminar rooms, and offices. The library will be attached to an intimate Armenian-style chapel where the seminarians will gather morning and evening to conduct the traditional worship services of the Armenian Church. The chapel will incorporate elements of classic Armenian design with architectural components compatible with the elegant Tudor style of the existing buildings.
The complex has been designed by Armand P. Avakian and Associates of Ramsey, New Jersey.
A single benefactor,as yet anonymous--has underwritten the entire cost of the library portion of the complex. He will be introduced and honored at the Ground-Blessing Ceremony, when the official name of the new complex is also revealed. Others have made significant pledges for the construction of the chapel. They include members of the Seminary's Board of Directors, and not a few grateful parents, whose children have rediscovered their Christian faith and Armenian identity as a result of their participation in the legendary St. Nersess Summer Conferences for youth.
"We are confident that other benefactors will come forward to serve as godfathers for the Seminary chapel," said V. Rev. Fr. Daniel Findikyan, the Seminary's dean. "The chapel will surely become the heart of St. Nersess Seminary and an elegant jewel of the Armenian Church in America," he added.
St. Nersess has witnessed remarkable growth during the past five years, with increasing enrollment of new students, a growing full-time faculty, an in-house publishing operation, and a full spectrum of graduate course offerings in Modern and Classical Armenian language, Sacred Music, Liturgy, Theology, History, and Literature. St. Nersess currently offers more graduate-level courses in Armenian Studies than any educational institution outside Armenia.
Two alumni of St. Nersess were recently ordained priests by Abp. Barsamian: Rev. Hovsep Karapetyan, Pastor of St. James Armenian Church, Richmond, VA; and V. Rev. Aren Jebejian, Pastor of St. Gregory Armenian Church in Chicago, IL. This brings to 35 the number of St. Nersess graduates currently serving the Armenian Church as clergy.
"Extensive site work will begin as soon as the ground is blessed," said Antranig Ouzoonian, chairman of the Seminary's Building Committee. "We should begin the actual building construction toward the end of the summer, with completion of the buildings anticipated in October, 2005."
"This will be a historic day in the history of St. Nersess Seminary," said Fr. Daniel Findikyan, Dean. "I hope that all of our friends will be with us on June 12 to celebrate this event."