New Rochelle, NY – On the eve of Pentecost, 50 days after Christ’s resurrection, the 12 disciples were gathered in the Upper Room when the Holy Spirit came upon them, filling them with the Divine grace to do God’s work among the people throughout the world. What an appropriate day to also graduate four St. Nersess seminarians, who are all preparing to serve the people of the Eastern Diocese through priestly ordination.
“A perfectly wonderful, exciting and memorable evening” is how many have described the commencement celebration held on Saturday, May 22 on the grounds of the Seminary in New Rochelle, and presided over by Archbishop Khajag Barsamian, Primate of the Eastern Diocese.
After introductions of the graduates – Justin Avedis Ajamian, Vahagn Azizyan, Dn. Leon Khoja-Eynatyan, and Benjamin Rith-Najarian – along with their families, clergy, faculty and Seminary Board of Directors, the Very Rev. Fr. Daniel Findikyan, dean and professor of liturgical studies, welcomed nearly 200 guests to this significant day.
He then expressed how he feels like a proud father, “Because like my colleagues, we have all worked so closely with these four outstanding young men.” Speaking directly to the graduates, he continued, “You have not been trained to go out and preserve anything. The Armenian Church must no longer see itself in ‘survival mode.’ You are not going out to keep the doors of our churches open. You are going out to build and to lift up people and communities with the joy and hope that comes from knowing almighty God through his Son, Jesus Christ.”
Suzanne Akian addressed the audience on behalf of the Board of Directors, sharing her absolute joy at the graduation of four students. She touched upon the importance of St. Nersess, particularly the summer conferences where historically many seminarians have been inspired by God’s call to pursue a vocational career in the church.
Justin Ajamian offered remarks on behalf of the graduating class, while current seminarian, Deacon Mkrtich Ksachikyan, expressed good wishes on behalf of the remaining students.
Also during the program, the Seminary’s core of Guardians and Shepherds in attendance were presented with antiqued bronze and pewter medallions, bearing the St. Nersess logo, in appreciation for their ongoing commitment to support the works of the Seminary. Board member Hagop Kouyoumdjian is the founder of the “Guardians of St. Nersess” program and was the first to sign up for this annual pledge initiative.
In Kouyoumdjian’s remarks, he reminded the graduates of Jesus' words to his apostles according to Matthew 4:19: “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.” He told them that they must go out and fish for the many Armenians and their families who have no connection with the church. He said that they have been given the finest fishing poles, their education at St. Nersess; and finest bait, the promise of salvation in Jesus Christ.
Guests then feasted on a lavish reception by Anahid Krichian of Krichian Catering. The celebration went on into the late evening as guests enjoyed music by the Merlin Virtuosi featuring Sami Merdinain, Karen Ouzounian and Angela Pickett. Solange Merdinian offered exquisite solos during the program earlier in the evening.
On Sunday, during the Pentecost Divine Liturgy at St. Vartan Cathedral in New York City, graduates Justin and Vahagn were ordained to the rank of diaconate by Archbishop Barsamian. The Rev. Fr. Mardiros Chevian celebrated the Divine Liturgy with the participation of all the St. Nersess seminarians, several alumni and two incoming students.
Click here for more photos of Commencement.