One of the most exciting developments at St. Nersess in recent years is the revival of the Mission Trip Program. Initiated decades ago by Fr. Karekin Kasparian, the program brings clergy, seminarians and youth to Armenian Church parishes in the Eastern Diocese for a few days of Christian ministry with a uniquely Armenian flavor. Ultimately they are an opportunity to highlight the beauty and richness of the Armenian Church to our young people, while providing service in Armenian communities. During the past two years, the Seminary has conducted mission trips to the following communities: St. Paul Armenian Church in Syracuse, NY; St. George Armenian Church in Waukegan, IL; St Garabed Armenian Church in New Orleans, LA, and now recently, the St. Sarkis Armenian Church in Niagara Falls, NY.
Raw Parish Ministry
Fr. Stepanos Doudoukjian, the Seminary’s Director of Youth and Vocations and organizer of the mission trips, explains that there are two simple objectives to be met with each Mission Trip. “The first is to provide opportunities for young people to offer ministry to their fellow brothers and sisters of the Armenian Church, in other words, to serve one another and give them a sense of hope," he said. "The second objective is to visit an Armenian Church that has no priest and provide that community with pastoral and liturgical ministries.” These ministries include visiting the sick and shut-ins, conducting Bible studies, offering home blessings, teaching altar servers and choir members, preparing a dinner and discussion, and of course, celebrating the Divine Liturgy; all the while exposing young people to what might be called "raw parish ministry."
Three Mission Trips are already being planned for the coming New Year. The next group will travel to St. Sarkis Armenian Church in Dallas, TX, on the weekend of January 29-31, 2010.
An Autumn mission to St. Sarkis Armenian Church in Niagara Falls, NY was a moving experience. “I was surprised with the faith and dedication the St. Sarkis community had," said Justin Ajamian, a fourth-year St. Nersess seminarian who will be graduating in May. "Being located so far away from other Armenian communities, they have not lost their faith or heritage. Their dedication to the Armenian Church is something I have not seen in any other parish I have visited.”
Meher Torossian, of Holy Trinity Armenian Church in Toronto, Canada confessed that “At first I was a bit skeptical as to how a few college kids from across the country could have an impact on St. Sarkis Church. Yet, shortly after meeting the congregation, just one look in each parishioner’s hope-filled eyes gave me the answer I was searching for. It reminded them that the Armenian Church will continue through the young generation, and there is hope for each and every parish out there, regardless of its size and magnitude. The parable of the lost sheep comes to my mind; the shepherd left 99 sheep to pursue the one sheep that had strayed from its path. The goal of this mission is to divert all attention to that one sheep or parish that for its own reasons requires some extra love, and through love, our mission was complete.”
Reigniting our Passion for God, Our Church and Community
“The recent St. Nersess visitation to St. Sarkis Church in Niagara Falls, New York was so inspiring, said Ani Avdoian, the parish council chair. "Fr. Stepanos and the participants brought love and joy to our parish. Many of our parishioners commented that it was really lovely watching the youth of our global community embrace us in their love and devotion to God. They came with the torch of Christianity and helped reignite our passion for God, our church and community. St. Sarkis has a plan of action to continue with some activities that we did together that weekend. One example is offer follow up visits to the homeless shelter at the city mission where we volunteered time with St. Nersess. Our vision is set on St. Paul's words in his Letter to the Corinthians, ‘Christ is within us...’ We need these missions, especially small, vital churches like ours.”
Armin Mehrabi, a St. Sarkis parishioner added, "Your St. Nersess Mission brought light and life to our home and we will never forget it."
The St. Nersess Mission Trips are funded primarily from generous contributions. If you wish to make a tax-deductible donation towards future St. Nersess Mission Trips, contact the Seminary by email or phone: 914-636-2003. Parishes, especially those without a full-time priest, who would like to schedule a St. Nersess Mission to your community, should contact the seminary.