A special meeting of the St. Nersess Board of Directors was convened on Friday, June 24th at the Diocesan headquarters in New York City under the chairmanship of His Eminence Abp. Khajag Barsamian, Primate of the Eastern Diocese and Board President, to explore the issues surrounding the expansion of St. Nersess Seminary " the only seminary uniquely equipped to train leaders for the specific needs of the Armenian Church in North America. The focus of discussion was how and where to expand this vital institution. His Eminence Abp. Hovnan Derderian, Primate of the Western Diocese and Board Vice-President, participated via teleconference for this important meeting.
"The dream of expanding the Seminary facilities to eventually contain a chapel, library, lecture hall, dormitory as well as an administration and classroom building was born 15 years ago, but today we are facing new challenges," explained Archbishop Barsamian. "We are blessed with the prospect of increasing enrollment and are preparing for the more sophisticated educational and infrastructure needs, but at the same time, we are confronting the reality of strict limitations on what can be done at our current site."
One year ago, the cornerstones were blessed with great ceremony for a facility on the present property to be known as the "Catholicos Karekin I Theological Center." While construction was due to begin early this spring, in the intervening year, as architectural plans were being drawn up, the City of New Rochelle placed many new restrictions on the construction, vastly increasing the cost to complete the project. In addition, significant limitations were placed on the future growth of the seminary.
The St. Nersess Board, which comprises clergy and lay people of diverse professions, including Seminary graduates, immediately began discussing the impact of these new developments. Guided by a committee of leading professionals in the construction, engineering, real estate and corporate development fields, Board members enthusiastically approved a plan to explore other properties that might be far better suited to the future plans, while still offering the convenience of proximity to Armenian churches, the Eastern Diocesan headquarters and a number of universities and seminaries.
During the special meeting, the V. Rev. Daniel Findikyan, Dean of St. Nersess Seminary, noted that interest in the Seminary by both full-time students and summer studies participants had grown significantly. Eleven seminarians are enrolled for next year, with an unprecedented six new students. He said that a part-time recruiter was now in place to take advantage of the increased interest. In addition, applications for this year's summer conferences were up sharply, resulting in the conferences being filled almost to capacity.
"The interest we're seeing in our various programs, and the quality of students and participants we're attracting are all very encouraging for the future of our Church," said Father Daniel. "Now is the time to plan for both the short- and long-term future of our Seminary so that the physical buildings can support the spiritual growth of our community for years to come."
At the special meeting, the Board unanimously decided to pursue further study pertaining to the expansion and possible relocation of St. Nersess. Next steps will include a strategy session and related needs assessment, as well as continued research by the ad hoc committee on alternative locations still in the metropolitan New York area.
In closing, Abp. Barsamian said, "We are delighted by the prospect of staying in the same geographic region, and excited by the enormous benefits of finding a location that will offer far greater advantages over our current site. We are grateful to our talented team of professionals who are volunteering their valuable time to help guide us through this process so that we make the wisest decision for our Church and our community."