St. Nersess Armenian Seminary in New Rochelle, NY, commenced its 1999 Fall Semester with a weekend retreat in Manahawkin, NJ. Residing members of the faculty joined the students of the seminary during the weekend of September 10-12 for a time of prayer, meditation and discussion of the mission of the seminary and their role in that mission. The retreat was an opportunity for new seminarians to get to know the student body as well as some of the members of the faculty of the Seminary. It was a forum for all to reaffirm the responsibilities of the seminarians not only to themselves but also to each other, to their academic and social communities and ultimately to the Lord.
On Friday evening, September 10, 1999, the retreat began with the introductory remarks of Fr. Vahan Hovhanessian, Dean. In his remarks, Fr. Vahan explained the objective of the retreat and defined his views of the life and mission of the Seminary. He emphasized that seminarians are called to be imitators of Christ. Seminary life, therefore, is a period of formation and transformation. "The seminary, first and foremost," emphasized Fr. Vahan, "should be truly a community of disciples of Christ. This has to be reflected in the seminarians' discipline, way of living and interactions with each other and with the rest of the world."
Following dinner, the faculty joined the students for a Bible Study session. The session focused on the biblical definition of the Church. Seminarians were invited to explore how the Bible defines the Church and the earliest Christian communities. The students were challenged to compare the state of the Armenian Church today to that of the Biblical definition and discuss the role that the Seminary and the seminarians can play in supporting the mission of the Armenian Church.
The morning session on Saturday was designated as a "business" session. During this session some members of the faculty joined the dean in presenting to the seminarians the rules and regulations of the Seminary life in all its aspects, be it spiritually, academically, liturgically as well as socially. The seminarians were reminded that being a seminarian means willingness to dedicate their life to Christ and follow Him. Thus, they must be ready to bear and accept, with humility and love, the responsibilities and the duties that come as consequences of following the Lord in this world.
Saturday afternoon all gathered for an audio-visual presentation discussing priestly vocation. This presentation served as a forum for the seminarians to discuss the dynamics and the demands of the seminary life and the challenges of the vocation. Later in the evening Fr. Vahan offered a second Bible Study session, the theme of which was "Discipleship." An anthology of biblical passages helped the students explore the biblical interpretation of discipleship and the meaning of being a follower of the Lord. This encouraged the seminarians to examine their own vocation and calling to emulate the apostles of Christ in the Bible and to become witnesses to Christ's love and gospel in their own communities.
The retreat concluded on Sunday morning with the celebration of the Divine Liturgy at St. Stepanos Armenian Church in Elberon, NJ. The seminarians joined the Pastor of the Church, Fr. Diran Bohajian, himself an alumnus of St. Nersess Seminary, in the celebration of the Divine Liturgy. Following the Church services Fr. Vahan introduced the seminarians to the community during an elaborate social hour that was organized to welcome the seminarians. This gave the seminarians as well as the parishioners an opportunity to meet and intermingle with each other.
Faculty members present at the retreat were Rev. Dr. Vahan Hovhanessian, Professor Abraham Terian, Associate Dean of Academics and Professor of Armenian Patristics, Rev. Dr. Daniel Findikyan, Professor of Liturgy. This year's student body consists of Dn. Tigran Karapetyan of Yerevan, Armenia, Dn. Patrick Kaprelian of Ridgewood, New Jersey, Dn. Mitchell Muradjian of Providence, Rhode Island, Dn. Hrach Kasaryan of Englewood, New Jesrey, Sdn. Ara Kadehjian of Queens, New York, Sdn. Anushavan Margaryan of Yerevan, Armenia, Sdn. Arman Galstyan of Yerevan, Armenia.
The semester officially began in the Chapel of the Seminary on Monday night, September 13, with a solemn requiem service in memory of Archbishop Tiran Nersoyan. The late Archbishop was the founder of the Seminary who had served the seminary also in his capacities as the Vice President of its Board of Directors, Dean, Professor, and a beloved spiritual father to many students, faculty members and administrators.
May the Lord be with the students, faculty and administration of St. Nersess seminary as they continue their mission carrying their crosses and following Christ. May they be found worthy for the glorious honor of being disciples and witnesses of Christ.