Thirteen graduates of the Seminary gathered together for a retreat at the Espousal Retreat Center in Waltham, MA on Monday and Tuesday, October 16-17. The alumni have made it a custom to gather in the Fall for a time of prayer, learning and fellowship.
More than 50 men and women have pursued all or part of their theological studies at St. Nersess Seminary and now serve the church as clergy and in non-ordained ministries throughout the United States.
The retreat convened at St. Demitrios Greek Orthodox Church in Weston, MA where the Armenian alumni joined hundreds of Orthodox faithful to hear the renowned theologian and prolific author Bishop Kallistos Ware speak on the topic, "Living the Orthodox Spiritual Life in the 21st Century." Bishop Kallistos gave an engaging presentation in which he stressed forcefully the necessity of creating periods of silence in our turbulent lives, from which we may hope to hear the gentle voice of the Lord.
"The most important moment is now, the bishop said. "It is only in the present moment that we can hope to encounter Christ, since the past cannot be recovered, and the future is beyond our reach."
Bishop Kallistos is the author of the classics of Orthodox theology, The Orthodox Church and The Orthodox Way.
The next day, the retreatants heard a captivating presentation by Rabbi Earl A Grollman, a renowned authority on ministry to the bereaved. In his opening remarks, Dr. Grollman spoke of his deep satisfaction in having the opportunity to speak to Armenian colleagues. Dr. Grollman wrote the foreword to Abraham Harutunian's famous book, Neither to Laugh Nor to Weep: A Memoir of the Armenian Genocide. He has spoken throughout the country on the pscyhological effects of the Genocide and the Holocaust on their Armenian and Jewish survivors.
Drawing on his decades of experience as a clergyman and specialist in the process of bereavement, Rabbi Grollman spoke poignantly about how ministers of the church can support and help people when they suffer the death of a loved one.
"Grief is nature's way of healing a broken heart," he said.
Discussion following Dr. Grollman's presentation veered into another area of his expertise: the spiritual and mental well-being of clergy in their own stress-filled lives and work.
Following the learning portion of their retreat, the alumni met to discuss issues of common interest and concern. Discussion was facilitated by the chairman, V. Rev. Fr. Aren Jebejian (St. Gregory, Chicago, IL); the Assistant Chairman, V. Rev. Fr. Simeon Odabashian (Sts. Sahag and Mesrob, Providence, RI); the Secretary, Mr. Daron Bolat (St. Mary, Washington, DC) and the Treasurer, Rev. Fr. Stepanos Doudoukjian (St. Peter Armenian Church, Watervliet, NY and St. Nersess Seminary).
Also participating in the rereat were: Fr. Karekin Kasparian, Past Dean and member of the Board of Directors (St. Gregory, White Plains, NY); Fr. Krikor Sabounjian (Holy Translators, Framingham, MA); Fr. Tavit Boyajian (Sts. Joachim and Anne, Palos Heights, IL); Deacon Nishan Baljian (St. Stephen, Watertown, MA); Fr. Arakel Aljalian (St. James, Watertown, MA); Fr. Daniel Karadjian (St. Sarkis, Charlotte, NC); Mrs. Shake Derderian (Sts. Sahag and Mesrob, Wynnewood, PA); Fr. Vazken Kouzouian (Holy Trinity, Cambridge, MA); and Fr. Daniel Findikyan (Dean, St. Nersess).