Among the dignitaries at the event were the Very Rev. Fr. Daniel Findikyan, new Primate of the Eastern Diocese and President of the St. Nersess Board of Directors, and His Eminence Archbishop Khajag Barsamian, who for nearly three decades led the Diocese and the Seminary as its Primate and President.
The program began with a vespers service in the St. Hagop Chapel. The Rev. Fr. Mardiros Chevian, Dean, welcomed the guests and introduced each speaker who addressed the graduates during the graduation ceremony. Dn. Albert Hambardzumyan, representing the St. Nersess student body, spoke to the graduates saying, "Remember your roots at St. Nersess and always remain faithful servants."
Fr. Mardiros then introduced Garen Karamyan, Instructor of Classical & Modern Armenian, who proclaimed on the eve of Pentecost, he chose to speak in Armenian. "Let it be Pentecost in your lives every day so that you may be able to speak in all the unique and various languages of our people in order to bring unity in your parishes as future priests of the Armenian Church," said Garen.
Speaking to the graduates next was Dr. Roberta Ervine, Professor of Armenian Studies, who also referenced Pentecost, citing the uncertainty that the disciples felt on that day and asking the new graduates, "How will you encounter others and how will they respond?"
This was followed by the President of St. Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary, the Very Rev. Dr. Chad Hatfield, who thanked St. Nersess for its long standing 50-year collaborative relationship. "We will celebrate our anniversary with a special symposium on October 5, 2019...save the date."
Next the graduates addressed the attendees, starting with Dn. Arman, who completed his studies in the St. Nersess the Great Program for Late Vocations and received a Diploma in Armenian Church Studies. "Sometimes when you look back at your choices in life, you are not always sure of your decision. But I am so happy to have attended St. Nersess and am at peace with my choice. It was not always easy," he explained, as he detailed how his wife and children in Canada supported his busy travel schedule to the seminary to complete his degree.
Both Dn. Arman and Dn. Michael expressed their gratitude to their instructors, and Khajag Srpazan and Der Mardiros for their unconditional support and love. "As I reflect on the last three years, I am able to say I am a better Christian and servant of the Armenian Church," exclaimed Dn. Michael, who received a diploma in Armenian Church Studies. "St. Nersess filled my head with knowledge as I explored the heart of our church traditions," said Dn. Michael.
Before Fr. Daniel presented the graduates with their diplomas, Archbishop Khajag Barsamian addressed the room with a heartfelt message. "Today is a celebration of progress for both St. Nersess and our graduates. I have worked hard to make the vision of Archbishop Tiran Nersoyan a reality. The mission of the Armenian Church now continues through our graduates, whom I have watched grow through the years. With Fr. Daniel as the new Primate - this is also progress - I am confident for the future of the seminary and the diocese," declared Khajag Srpazan. He also thanked Fr. Mardiros and the faculty for their dedication, as well as the board of directors and benefactors of the seminary.
Fr. Daniel concluded the ceremony, referencing Pentecost and the disciples who were able to speak eloquently and inspire others and fill them with hope. "The Holy Spirit takes the divine energy of God and makes things possible. The Holy Spirit took Dn. Michael and Dn. Arman and made them graduates of the seminary. What will the Holy Spirit do next with St. Nersess? We must set our eyes and vision beyond where it has been."
The joyful guests moved from the chapel into the lobby of the Theological Center where they enjoyed a bountiful reception prepared by Wilma Petrossian, Manager of Food Services, and had an opportunity to personally congratulate the graduates on their accomplishments. The lavish dessert table was lovingly prepared and donated by Mary Stevoff of Chicago, the aunt of Yn. Diane Chevian.
Earlier in the afternoon, Dn. Michael Sabounjian was among the 20 graduates at St. Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary where he received his Master of Divinity degree. Seminarian Timothy Aznavourian gave the salutatorian address, a first for a St. Nersess student.
This summer, Dn. Arman will continue his parish internship at St. Leon Armenian Church in Fair Lawn, NJ. Dn. Michael will be teaching at the Deacons' Training Program in June and in the fall, he will continue his studies at the Seminary of the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin for an academic year.
photos by Dn. Ryan Tellalian and Donna Sirounian