Archive for the ‘Diocesan Programs’ Category

Visiting the Armenian Quarter of Jerusalem

June 11th, 2015    |    No Comments »

On Wednesday, we visited the Armenian Quarter of Jerusalem. As we walked the narrow streets and alleys, we saw history written all over the walls and our faith embedded in each rock.

At Sts. James Cathedral in the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem, we marveled at the beautiful rows of hanging lanterns. We reflected on how blessed we are, as Armenians, to have our own historic quarter in the holy city of Jerusalem.

A special part of our visit was the baptism of one of our pilgrims at Sts. James Cathedral. Fr. Hovsep Karapetyan served as the “godfather” of the baptism, and we all raised our voices in singing the Lord’s Prayer in this magnificent sanctuary.

—Aline Grigorian and Nicole Kashian are among the pilgrims on the 2015 Youth Leadership Pilgrimage to the Holy Land.

Fr. Hovsep Karapetyan takes pilgrims on a tour of the Armenian Quarter.

Fr. Hovsep Karapetyan takes pilgrims on a tour of the Armenian Quarter.

A Summer at the Diocese

August 14th, 2013    |    No Comments »

Thanks to the Diocese’s Summer Internship Program and the AGBU New York Summer Internship Program, this summer has definitely been a memorable one.

From day one, I felt welcomed by all the staff at the Diocesan Center.  From my supervisors to the people I worked with every day, the camaraderie was so warm that it felt like a family.  For someone who enjoys being around other Armenians so much, I couldn’t think of a better way to transition from spending my summers at Armenian camps to joining the “real world.”

As an economics major at Binghamton University, I was assigned to the finance department. The team at the Diocese was very friendly and helpful in familiarizing me with the Diocese’s financial operations. I also learned more about my faith and heritage through weekly Bible study and services at St. Vartan Cathedral.

One of the highlights of my time here was taking a ride with Archbishop Khajag Barsamian, Diocesan Primate, to St. Vartan Camp in upstate New York. During our two-and-half-hour car ride we shared a wonderful conversation about what it means to be Armenian, the future of the Armenian Church, and other topics. I then enjoyed spending a day with campers at the beautiful facility in Greenville, NY. I also went on a trip with my supervisor, Michael Guglielmo, to St. Nersess Seminary.

As part of the AGBU program, I spent the summer living with other Armenian interns at New York University. It’s been amazing to come in contact with such motivated young Armenians from all around the world. I met people my age from Armenia, Russia, Lebanon, Turkey, England, France, and different parts of the United States. Our group bonded through a number of events put together by our coordinators and director.

We enjoyed the city to the fullest by sightseeing whenever we got a chance. We had several professional lectures where established Armenians shared advice, and through mentoring sessions we met with Armenian professionals in our individual fields. We took a trip to the Armenian Old Age home in Flushing, where we put on a talent show and spent time with the residents.

It has been an amazing summer, and I have built many strong bonds with people from all parts of the globe. It’s been a privilege and a blessing for me to have had the opportunity to take part in such a remarkable program.

— Anthony Aram Antreasyan interned this summer at the Diocesan Center


Anthony Antreasyan reviews spreadsheets during his summer internship at the Diocesan Center.

Faith in Action

July 23rd, 2013    |    No Comments »

Sitting at the Holy Martyrs’ Sunday School wrap-up meeting discussing the past teaching year and those to come, I could not ignore my strong desire to be a greater part of the entity that makes it all happen. After discussing our ideas, concerns, and plans for our youth in the upcoming Sunday School year, my immediate reaction was to contact Elise Antreassian, the coordinator of Christian Education at the Eastern Diocese, to see if I could be of any help to the Department of Youth and Education over the summer. Today I write as the department’s Christian Education intern, reflecting on the first two weeks of my experience at the Diocese.

Under the mentorship and direction of Ms. Antreassian, the most pressing of my tasks has been the editing of the new curricula texts for grades two and seven. Set to hit the printers at the end of July, the bulk of my time thus far has encompassed checking references to biblical texts, ensuring lesson objectives have been met, and tying all loose strings to perfection. This assignment will be especially rewarding once the texts are completed and used in the fall.

The most challenging of my assignments has been the creation of the first of a series of Bible studies focused on “Living the Gospel of Christ,” this year’s Diocesan theme. The first study has required extensive reflection and research on the message Christ gave His disciples as part of the Sermon on the Mount. Understanding our Lord’s teachings—which call on us to seek humility in attitude and action—is essential to “Living the Gospel of Christ.” God willing, the Bible studies will be helpful to many!

Even though I am just two weeks new, I have already found my internship rewarding, challenging, and fun. Connecting with Anthony Antreasyan and Alex Calikyan, my fellow Holy Martyrs interns, at weekly Bible studies has only enhanced the experience. All in all, my Diocesan internship has been a rewarding experience, and I know as the summer progresses it will continue to be so.

—Heather Skolnick is a summer intern in the Diocese’s Department of Youth and Education


Heather Skolnick prepares a Bible study.

Pilgrimage Journal: The Jordan River

June 11th, 2013    |    No Comments »

On Monday, we visited the Armenian Chapel of St. Polyeuctos, where we viewed a beautiful Armenian mosaic dated from the 5th–6th century. The mosaic inscription reads: “To the memory and salvation of the souls of all Armenians, whose names are known to God alone.” (St. Polyeuctos was a Roman officer who converted to Christianity and was martyred in Malatya, in historic Armenia, in the 3rd century.)

Our next stop was on the banks of the Jordan River, the site of Christ’s baptism. Here Archbishop Khajag Barsamian and Fr. Mardiros Chevian performed the “Blessing of Water” ceremony. The olivewood crosses that were used during the ceremony were presented to pilgrims Crystal Densmore, of St. Mesrob Church of Racine, WI, and Marcus Dalakian, of St. Mary Church of Livingston, NJ. From the Jordan River we traveled to the Mount of Temptation, just as Christ did after he was baptized in order to prepare for his ministry.

We continued on to the town of Jericho, strolling through its central streets and observing vendors laying out fresh bread and meats at the market. Here we also enjoyed a delicious lunch. Our day concluded with a visit to the Dead Sea. On our approach, we saw the Qumran Caves, where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered. We then enjoyed a relaxing afternoon on the Dead Sea.

–Kathryn Ashbahian is a participant in this year’s Young Adult Pilgrimage


The Mount of Temptation.


Archbishop Barsamian performs the “Blessing of Water” ceremony at the Jordan River.


Pilgrims Marcus Dalakian and Crystal Densmore at the Jordan River.

Pilgrimage Journal: The Empty Tomb of Christ

June 10th, 2013    |    No Comments »

On Saturday morning, we visited the Armenian Seminary of Jerusalem, where we met with local clergy and youth for a discussion on the ways we can live out the teachings of the Gospels. The conversations were particularly interesting given that our Diocesan theme for this year is “Living the Gospel of Christ.”

Later in the afternoon, we visited the Upper Room, where Jesus and his disciples shared their Last Supper together. After attending the evening service at Sts. James Cathedral, we returned to the hotel to prepare for our early morning “Badarak” at the Church of the Holy Seplucher the next day.

Rising before 4 a.m. on Sunday, we made our way through the Old City to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. In the silence of the undisturbed morning, we winded our way through the empty streets and prepared our hearts to take Holy Communion at the empty tomb of Christ.

Following services, we toured the Holy Sepulcher. We kneeled to kiss the Stone of Unction, touched the rock of Golgotha, and saw the underground Armenian chapel.

In the afternoon, we gazed upon the magnificent structure of the Dome of the Rock, also known as the Temple Mount. It is said that Armenians handcrafted the elaborate and colorful tiles that cover the Dome.

While at the Pool of Bethesda, we had a Bible study on Jesus healing the crippled man at the site, and spoke about times in our lives when we’ve needed healing. It was encouraging to share our personal experiences with each other, and to offer each other words of support. Then we came together and sang “Der Voghormya” at the nearby St. Anne Church.

We closed the day by going to the Wailing Wall and leaving written prayers in the crevices of the old structure.

–Kathryn Ashbahian is a participant in this year’s Young Adult Pilgrimage


Pilgrims at the Dome of the Rock.


Taking part in the Divine Liturgy at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.


Fr. Mardiros Chevian leads a Bible study at the Pool of Bethesda.

Pilgrimage Journal: Armenian Patriarchate

June 10th, 2013    |    No Comments »

On Friday, we spent our day at the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem. Our visit began at the Patriarchate cemetery, where we held a requiem service and remembered the leadership of past Patriarchs.

Later we were welcomed by His Beatitude Archbishop Nourhan Manougian, the 97th Armenian Patriarch of Jerusalem. The ACYOA Central Council presented Archbishop Manougian with a check for $1,000, as part of the organization’s annual contribution to the Armenian Patriarchate.

We visited local Armenian stores and enjoyed lunch with several members of the Sts. James Brotherhood. Following evening service at Sts. James Cathedral, we received a formal tour of the Patriarchate from the Very Rev. Fr. Samuel Aghoyan. We had the opportunity to learn more about Sts. James Cathedral, the Calouste Gulbenkian Library, and the Sts. Tarkmanchatz School.

In the evening, we enjoyed social time with local Armenian youth at Sts. Tarkmanchatz School. They shared with us their experiences growing up in Jerusalem and we engaged in a lively game of volleyball.

–Kathryn Ashbahian is a participant in this year’s Young Adult Pilgrimage

A requiem service at the cemetery of the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem.

A requiem service at the cemetery of the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem.

Pilgrims pose for a group photo with Archbishop Nourhan Manougian at the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem.

Pilgrims pose for a group photo with Archbishop Nourhan Manougian at the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem.

Lunch with members of the Sts. James Brotherhood.

Lunch with members of the St. James Brotherhood.

Local youth welcome the pilgrims for a social evening.

Local youth welcome the pilgrims for a social evening.

Young people dancing together at Sts. Tarkmanchantz School.

Young people dancing together at Sts. Tarkmanchantz School.

ASP Participants Arrive in Gyumri

July 9th, 2012    |    No Comments »

Last week we departed from Yerevan and headed toward Gyumri for the service portion of our trip.

We left Thursday afternoon, and on the way stopped at the 13th-century Hovanavank monastery. Dedicated to St. John the Baptist, the monastery is home to unique khachkars and other stone carvings. During our tour, we learned how the Armenian religious art of the period may have been influenced by the Mongol invasions of the 13th century.

Our next stop was the Fortress of Amberd—a stronghold captured and destroyed by the Mongols in 1236—followed by the Sourp Asdvadsatsin Church on Mount Aragats. The narrow, rocky roads leading up to these sites frightened a few of us, but posed no problem for our skilled bus driver. After a prayer and walk around the grounds, some of our group members climbed the ruins, while others returned to the bus for a boxed lunch of “khorovats” and lavash sandwiches.

Arriving in Gyumri, we checked into the Nane Hotel and met with Bishop Mikayel Ajapahian, Primate of the Shirak Diocese. Marina Bazayeva, a Fund for Armenian Relief staff member, led us to the Octet School of Music, where our group will assist with construction this week.

Students at the school performed their final concert in the present building, which will be demolished this summer to make room for a new facility. As each young musician took to the stage, the members of our group became increasingly moved by the talent on display. Students played the duduk, kanun, santur, violin, saxophone, and guitar. “The concert was impressive,” said ASP participant Valerie Gideon.

We returned to the site the following morning—this time with hard hats on for our first day’s work. Our initial task was to dismantle the building’s porch in order to extract a baby grand piano from the school. Energized by this activity, we spent the rest of the morning carrying out other instruments and removing sheet metal from the exterior of the building. We also had an opportunity to socialize with the local youth.

-Jacqueline Baydar is serving as the assistant leader on this year’s Armenia Service Program

The ASP group by the Sourp Asdvadsatsin Church, with the Fortress of Amberd in the background.

Marcus Dalakian dismantles an old porch at the Octet Music School in Gyumri.

ASP Group Visits Noravank Monastery

July 5th, 2012    |    No Comments »

On Wednesday the ASP group visited Noravank, a 13th-century monastery surrounded by towering red cliffs. Climbing the narrow stone staircase at the monastery’s Sourp Astvatsatsin Church, the participants took in breathtaking vistas of the gorge.

The group continued on to Khor Virab, a site of overwhelming historical and spiritual significance to the Armenian Church. There, at the church overlooking Armenia’s western frontier, the ASP members descended into the pit where St. Gregory the Illuminator was imprisoned for 13 years. In that spare, cramped environment, the young travelers prayed and contemplated the faith that allowed St. Gregory to endure in such a small, lightless space.

Afterwards, the group had the privilege and pleasure of being the guests of the family of Fr. Hakob Gevorgyan, pastor of the Holy Trinity Church of Cheltenham, Pa., and the guide for this year’s ASP trip. In true Armenian style, everyone enjoyed a delicious “khorovats” feast.

– Maral Firkatian Wozniak is interning with the Fund for Armenian Relief

At Khor Virab, ASP members descended into the pit where St. Gregory the Illuminator was imprisoned for 13 years.

ASP participants pose for a group photo on the way to Khor Virab monastery.

ASP members enjoyed a traditional Armenian meal at the home of Fr. Hakob Gevorgyan in Ararat.

Today on the Armenia Service Program

July 2nd, 2012    |    No Comments »

We arrived at New York’s Kennedy Airport on Friday, June 29, smiling and excited to start our journey as participants in the ACYOA Armenia Service Program. Our group this year includes young adults from New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Ohio, Illinois, Wisconsin, Louisiana, and California.

During our flight, participants shared what they hoped to learn from the three-week trip. Lilit DerKevorkian said it’s her goal to meet new people, create life-long friendships, make a difference, and gain a better understanding of her Armenian heritage and culture. Kareen Kaltakdjian joked that she looked forward to eating as much “khorovats” as possible.

Upon our arrival in Yerevan, our guide took us to visit St. Sarkis Church, City Hall, Republic Square, and the Opera House. We also saw the Noy and Ararat cognac factories before settling into the Guest House, where we will be staying while in the capital. Later in the afternoon, our group leader, the Rev. Fr. Hakob Gevorgyan, gave us an overview of the itinerary and we all enjoyed dinner at Square One, an American-style diner.

We continued on to Republic Square, where we watched the city’s beautiful dancing fountains rise and fall to Charles Aznavour’s “La Boheme.” Even though it began to rain, our group stayed in the square a bit longer to take in the famous landmark.

In the evening we met the owner of Guest House, Nobar Narsis, who shared with us stories from his youth.

– Jacqueline Baydar is serving as the assistant leader on this year’s Armenia Service Program

ASP participants with Nobar Narsis at the Guest House in Yerevan.

Today on the Young Adult Pilgrimage to the Holy Land

June 15th, 2012    |    No Comments »


Today we traveled two hours north of Jerusalem. As we passed Mount Tabor, we stopped the bus for a Scripture reading, and a moment of meditation about the Transfiguration of Christ. Our next stop was Nazareth, the town where Jesus was raised, where we viewed the remains of the house of St. Mary, located in the Basilica of the Annunciation.

Other sites in this vicinity included the town of Capernaum, which has a church built over a visible portion of the house of St. Peter; the town of Cana, where we read and reflected on the miracle Jesus performed at the wedding of Cana; and Tabgha, the site where Jesus multiplied the loaves and fishes. We then stopped at the Church of the Beatitudes, and had a Bible study where we discussed the Beatitudes as guides to being a disciple of Christ.

Our last stop of the day was the Sea of Galilee. Jesus spent a lot of time here during his ministry; it’s where he walked on water, and saved his disciple Peter from drowning. During a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee, Fr. Mardiros Chevian led a group meditation on the storms of life, and how faith can overcome doubt.

Witnessing the many places where Christ walked, ministered, and performed miracles has connected all of us more deeply—not only to Christ’s presence in the Scriptures, but also to his presence in our lives today.

– Eric Vozzy is a participant in this year’s Young Adult Pilgrimage

At the Basilica of the Annunciation, in Nazareth.

Aboard a boat on the Sea of Galilee, the pilgrims meditate on life's storms.

The dramatic landscape around the Sea of Galilee, unchanged since the time of Jesus.

The lush surroundings of the Sea of Galilee: the setting for several Gospel stories.