New Rochelle, NY: In a packed chapel at St. Nersess Seminary, New Rochelle, New York, His Eminence Archbishop Khajag Barsamian presided over the services of the installation of Fr. Vahan Hovhanessian as the new Dean of St. Nersess Armenian Seminary. The inauguration took place in the Seminary Chapel during the Evening Vespers on Tuesday, November 9, 1999.
The installation ceremonies began with a traditional Armenian vespers at the Chapel of the Seminary. During the service, one of the seminarians presented an oil lamp from the ancient city of Ani to Fr. Vahan to be blessed and lit. The lamp then was used to light all the candles of the main and side altars. Following the main prayer of the evening service and the singing of the Trisagion, Soorp Asdvadz, everyone joined the seminarians singing the Hymn Ourakh Ler, "Rejoice, O Holy Church," while Fr. Vahan knelt in front of the Archbishop facing the altar. The Archbishop then blessed Fr. Vahan, installing him the new Dean of the Seminary. In his blessing, the Archbishop asked God to make Fr. Vahan "a wise and faithful steward of the flock" and to "adorn him with all virtues, so that through his own deeds he may offer a good example to all within and without the gates of the Seminary." "Make this your servant, Vahan Vartabed, whom you have been graciously pleased to set over this seminary as its Dean," added the Archbishop, "worthy of your goodness and blessings." Assisting the Archbishop during the service were Fr. Daniel Findikyan, Professor of Liturgy, Fr. Simeon Odabashian, Director of the Department of Mission of the Diocese, and Fr. Mamigon Kiledjian, Instructor of Liturgical Music, who directed the Seminary Choir.
Following the chapel services, Professor Abraham Terian, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, welcomed all present. In his remarks, Professor Terian congratulated Fr. Vahan and welcomed him to the Seminary as its new Dean. He explained the beautiful symbolism in lighting the lamp from he ruins of the city of Ani, at St. Nersess Seminary on this occasion. He elaborated on the concept of Light being a symbol of faith as well as academic pursuit, which are the main objectives of the mission of St. Nersess Seminary. At the conclusion of his remarks, Professor Terian invited Fr. Daniel Findikyan to share reminiscences about his colleague and long time brother in Christ Fr. Vahan. Fr. Daniel recalled the seminary years when the two clerics were roommates and classmates. He highlighted Fr. Vahan's passionate love for his faith and his zealot determination for academic pursuit. He attested to the successful ministry that God granted Fr. Vahan during the past nine years of his service as an ordained priest of the Armenian Church. Following Fr. Daniel's remarks the Seminary Choir offered an anthology of three beautiful Armenian Hymns. Deacon Tigran Karapetyan, one of the senior seminarians, introduced that segment of the program and offered it on behalf of the seminarians as a token of love and appreciation to their new Dean.
Fr. Vahan in turn thanked His Eminence Archbishop Khajag Barsamian for appointing and installing him as the Dean of the Seminary and for his continuous support for the Seminary. He elaborated on the "transfiguring" role that St. Nersess Seminary has played in his life as a seminarian. He thanked the faculties of St. Nersess and St. Vladimir's Seminaries, his fellow clergy and members of the Armenian Church in general and especially those present at the service for their continuous support of the Seminary and for acknowledging the essential role of the Seminary in the ministry of the Armenian Church. At the conclusion of the short program, His Eminence Archbishop Khajag Barsamian congratulated Fr. Vahan. He acknowledged Fr. Vahan's talents and fruitful ministry in the vineyard of the Diocese. He described Fr. Vahan as a spiritual warrior who has continuously fought the good fight for his faith and for the Armenian Church.
Following the chapel services all were invited to a reception in honor of the installation of the new Dean. Present at the services and the reception were Fr. Haigazoun Melkonian, Pastor of Holy Martyrs Armenian Church, NY, Fr. Mamigon Kiledjian, Fr. Simeon Odabashian, Fr. Daniel Findikyan, Fr. Arten Ashjian, Fr. Carnig Hallajian, Fr. Karekin Kasparian, Pastor of St. Gregory Armenian Church, NY, Fr. Stepanos Doudoukjian, Pastor of St. Peter Armenian Church, Archpriest John Meno, representing the Syrian Archdiocese of New York, members of the faculties of St. Nersess and St. Vladimir's Seminaries, members of the Board of Directors of the St. Nersess Seminary, and family members and friends of Fr. Vahan.
Returning to the US, Fr. Vahan served as the Pastor of Holy Cross Armenian Church in Manhattan, New York (1990-1992), the Acting Canon Sacrist of the Cathedral of St. Vartan in Manhattan, New York (1992-1993), and the Pastor of St. Leon Armenian Church in Fair Lawn, New Jersey (1993-99). In 1994 Fr. Vahan was elevated to the dignity of Vartabed of the Armenian Church by His Eminence Archbishop Khajag Barsamian, Primate of the Diocese of the Armenian Church of America.
His pastoral duties notwithstanding, in 1991 Fr. Vahan began his doctoral research in Biblical Studies at Fordham Univeristy, Bronx, New York. In 1998 he completed his research and successfully defended his dissertation, "Third Corinthians: Reclaiming Paul for Christian Orthodoxy" and received the Ph.D. degree in Biblical Studies.
Fr. Vahan has lectured extensively in the fields of Armenian Church and Biblical Studies. Among his publications are: his doctoral dissertation, Third Corinthians: Reclaiming Paul for Christian Orthodoxy, forthcoming by Peter Lang Publishing, Inc., New York; "Third Corinthians and the Acts of Paul," St. Nersess Theological Review, 2/1 (1998) 81-87; and "Introduction: The Breath of God," in Holy Bible: Armenian Church Edition. New York: American Bible Society, 1995, pp. 5-11.
St. Nersess chappel packed with the faithful participating in the service of the Installation
The Seminarians Presenting an Anthology of Armenian Hymns
The Dean joining members of the faculty and students in singing
religious songs following the reception