On Saturday May 8th the pastor, Fr. Shnork Souin, and the Parish Council of St. Mary Armenian Church in Livingston New Jersey held their annual Parish Council retreat at the Ouzoonian House of St. Nersess Armenian Seminary from 9:00am to 1:00pm. The retreat was led by Fr. Shnork along with the dean of the seminary, the V. Rev. Dr. Daniel Findikyan. The theme was Vocations.
The retreat, attended by Parish Council members and some heads of other church organizations, began with a matins service in the seminary chapel, following breakfast. After viewing the now very popular Diocesan video production, Vocations-A Call to Serve, a lively and thoughtful discussion ensued, led by Fr. Daniel, concerning the role of the laity in encouraging Vocations in the parish.
Fr. Shnork directed a Bible Study based on the story of the Annunciation of Gabriel whereby St. Mary the Mother of God responded to her very high calling to become the handmaiden and thus the Birthgiver of God.
Fr. Shnork, the first and only Canadian-born priest of the Armenian Church, grew up in the church but only ventured on the path leading to priesthood after working several years in business, marrying and starting a family. Part of his training took place at St. Nersess Seminary.
The retreat was an inspiring and meaningful investment of time for all who attended. Bonds of faith and friendship, the spirit of harmony and community were nurtured among the stewards of the parish along with their pastor.
“Everyone walked away with a renewed understanding of the importance of cultivating a parish environment where vocations can be nurtured not only by pastors, but by parish leadership and families,” St. Mary's Pastor said.
Many of those who attended were visitors to St. Nersess for the first time. They went away with a sense of “ownership” and pride for the seminary and her most important mission of preparing clergy for the Armenin Church in North America.
At the conclusion of the retreat, Fr. Shnork stated that this was perhaps the best of the annual Parish Council retreats in that it brought us to a “home away from home” where “we all now feel far more connected with the mission and purpose of our seminary.”
“I’d love to encourage other parishes to do likewise and see the Seminary as a very viable place to conduct parish visitations and spiritual retreats,” Fr. Shnork said.