History of St. Stephen’s Church Armenian Apostolic Church
(last updated on the occasion of the 50th Anniversary of the Church, 2008)
The division in the Armenian Apostolic Church in America took place in 1933. The many attempts at reconciliation were utterly futile. The lawful Executive Council of the church with its lay faction focused its attention on strengthening the prelacy with its own churches. In 1933, a rented church building on Berkeley Street in Boston was used for church services, Divine Liturgy, and sacraments until 1942, when the owner of the building, a bank, decided to sell it. At that time, due to financial difficulties it was not possible for the Armenian community to buy that church building.
A special committee was formed to find a suitable church in the Greater Boston area. The members of this committee were Haroutiun Tashjian, Vahram Felegian, Hrach Tarbassian, Sarkis Chuchian, Aharon Nanian, Shavarsh Bedrosian, Siragan Bengoian, Haroutiun Sahagian, Megerdich Haroutunian and John Kasparian. This committee conducted an extensive search for a suitable church building, and although finding some churches, none of them had the needed facilities. The committee submitted its report to an advisory meeting held in the presence of Mr. Aram Nalbandian, chairman of the Prelacy’s Central Executive Council. The advisory meeting elected a general oversight committee, which was empowered to find a suitable location to erect a church. The members of this committee were Aharon Nanian, Sarkis Chutchian, Vahram Felegian, Vahram Der Parseghian, Shavarsh Bedrosian, Siragan Bengoian, Manoog Yavanian, Nishan Keljikian, Kaloust Eynatian, Levon Tufenkjian, Khachadour Yeghiazarian, Vahrij Sanasarian, Garabed Nahigian and Megerdich Haroutunian. They made their report to the membership meeting of April 23, 1953, which decided to buy two plots of land on Elton Avenue in the heavily Armenian populated town of Watertown, for $33,000. The church’s address later became Artsakh Street. The news of the land purchase electrified the freedom-loving Armenian faction, which had been denied the provision of spiritual nourishment. For them, the dream of having their own church was soon to be a reality.
It is important to note that the first support for the work of procuring a church emanated from the Central Committee of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation of the United States of America. In a special communiqué issued to all its local committees, the Central Committee urged them to strongly support this endeavor because: “Boston, one of the
major urban centers in America and also the heart of the Armenian American population, must have a church that is appropriate for its name and position. The building of the church will enliven us for we know that through the church our efforts for preservation of our Armenian ethos against the dissimilating forces that threaten our children and
us, will become more effective. The church will become our protector.”
The second organization that stood firmly behind this endeavor was the Armenian Relief Society, which in a special communiqué directed to its regional chapters, advised them to participate in the labors of building the church saying: “Since the Church is one of the foremost of the important proponents of the defense of our existence, it behooves our
members to be of even greater assistance to this noble undertaking”.
The Armenian language Hairenik Daily newspaper wrote the following: “We have a senior generation who is church loving and misses the church, and we have a new generation who, fortunately is interested in and works for the church. We have a people whose national character and tradition we must keep strong. The church which is to be
built is called to satisfy these important demands.”
To further the progress of the project, the general oversight committee elected a Building Committee with the following membership Dr. Levon Daghlian, Mihran Ayvazian, Haigaz Ghazarian, Sarkis Dedekian, Garabed Nahigian, Hagop Tevekelian, Kevork Kadehjian and Attorney Samuel Kalemian. A Fundraising Committee was also formed consisting of Dr. Levon Daghlian, Mihran Ayvazian, Kaloust Eynatian, Hamo Paraghamian, Khatchadour Yeghiazarian, Mihran Guzelian and Haygaz Megerdichian.
On September 29, 1953, the church Ladies’ Guild was formed. The first executive consisted of Mrs. Makrouhi Guzelian, Chairlady, Margaret Nahabedian, Clara Russian, Margaret Kaloosdian, Araxie Chorbajian-Ayvazian, Mary Piroomian, and Anahid Changelian.
In the meeting of April 28, 1953, the Fundraising Committee decided to hold a banquet at the Musical Life hall in downtown Boston. This event took place on September 23, 1953 with the participation of 223 persons. $21,000.00 was raised at this event. In order to make up the difference for the land that was bought for $33,000.00, the following
men offered loans to the church in addition to their own generous contributions: Mihran Guzelian, Manoug Davidian, Garabed Nahigian, Levon Tufenkjian and Khatchadour Yeghiazarian.
On February 16, 1954, it was decided to incorporate the church. The church was named the Armenian Apostolic Church of Greater Boston. At that time, the following were elected to the Board of Directors: Prof. H. Chakmakjian, Dr. Levon Daghlian, Attorney Samuel Kalemian, Haygaz Ghazarian, Mihran Ayvazian, Kevork Kadehjian, Mihran Guzelian, Garabed Nahigian and Hovsep Barsoomian.
At the Church’s Annual Assembly held on October 7, 1954, the new Board of Trustees was elected as follows: Levon Tufenkjian, Mihran Guzelian, Kaloust Eynatian, Paul Nahabedian, Vahrij Sanasarian, Shavarsh Bedrosian, Hovsep Barsoomian, Vahram Der Parseghian, Barooyr Der Manuelian, Siragan Bengoian.
Groundbreaking for the new church took place on June 6, 1956 and on Saturday, June 9, the blessing of the foundation was performed by Rev. Archpriest (later Very Rev.) Nishan Papazian, Rev. Archpriest Movses Shrikian and Rev. Fr. Nerses Shahinian. Present at this ceremony were the distinguished President of the Massachusetts State Senate, Senator Richard Furbush, political leaders, representatives and a large number of other invited guests. Attorney Samuel Kalemian was able to negotiate a $150,000.00 loan with Shawmut Bank at 5% interest. On March 27, 1957 a fundraising banquet was held at the Sheraton Boston Hotel with the participation of 750 guests. Also present at the banquet were Mr. & Mrs. George Mardigian and officials of American lending institutions. Pledges were
made at this fundraising banquet totaling $45,000.00. The well-known architect A.G. Manaselian prepared the general design of the church.
Before the consecration of the church, a significant event took place at the St. Illuminators Cathedral in New York City during the period of February 22-24, 1957, when the National Representative Assembly, taking into account the condition of the diocese, unanimously decided to petition the Great House of Cilicia to accept within its jurisdiction the churches, clergy and people of the Prelacy. His Holiness Zareh I of Blessed Memory along with the Central Executive Council of the Holy See, decided to grant the request of the Prelacy and sent His Eminence Archbishop Khoren Paroyian of Blessed Memory, at that time the Prelate of Lebanon, to the United States as Catholicossal Legate. His Eminence arrived in Boston by air on October 17, 1957 and was greeted by the various church organizations.
The solemn service of the consecration of the church, which was performed on October 20, 1957 by Archbishop (Later Catholicos) Khoren remains an unforgettably glorious day in the annals of our community. Many hundreds of faithful followed the spiritually moving services with tears in their eyes. The Godfathers of the church were Bedros Asadourian, Mihran Guzelian and Garabed Nahigian. October 20,1957 was not only a day of religious celebration. It also became an historic date in a national sense as well, for on that day a new era began for the large Armenian community of greater Boston whether for national, cultural, athletic, political or civic endeavors. In a word, the community’s activities were greatly enhanced.
St. Stephen’s did not only open its doors to our traditionally religious and pious parishioners, but also offered the use of its facilities for many different national, cultural and charitable functions. Thus, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation, Armenian Youth Federation chapters, Armenian Relief Society, Komitas Choral Society, Hamazkayin Cultural Association and various compatriotic and philanthropic organizations have often held functions in the church hall and marked national celebrations keeping the
community’s spirit healthy, fresh and vigorous.
It must also be stressed that the church has had and continues to have its own affiliated organizations:
a. The Ladies’ Guild, which was organized four years before the church’s consecration, has from the very first day of its inception worked tirelessly for the benefit of the church with total dedication and deep faith. It has organized lectures, lotteries, Lenten dinners, memorial dinners, bazaars and many other wonderful activities throughout the years. The Ladies’ Guild is truly the backbone of our Church!
b. The Couples Club was originally organized as the Men’s Club in 1955. The Men’s Club first chairman was Albert Derian. In 1957, the Men’s Club focused its attention on the Sunday School and undertook its sponsorship. It also sponsored Boy Scout troop 222, which later dissolved when the Homenetmen scouts were established in the Greater Boston area. The Couples Club, at one time one of the more important organizations of the Greater Boston Armenian Community, continued to support the church morally and financially until its dissolution in 2001.
c. The Church Choir was formed when, before the church’s consecration, an appeal was made to renowned composer, musician and director, the late Maestro Rouben Gregorian to undertake the task of organizing such a choir. Thanks to the efforts of this worthy musician and director, who gathered about him a fine group of singers and musicologists accredited by American universities, the choir, in a few short months, was organized and ready to sing at the church’s consecration. On that day, in beautiful harmony the choir sang the rich and beautiful liturgy of Komitas, astonishing and inspiring the faithful who were in attendance. St. Stephen’s remains to this day the only church within the Eastern Prelacy that sings the Komitas liturgy on a weekly basis, remembering always the great
musician and director Maestro Rouben Gregorian.
The Church’s second choirmaster, Mr. Vartan Seraderian, graduated from the Armenian Theological Seminary in Antelias. For nearly 70 years, he served as a choirmaster, first in Syria and Lebanon, then serving 26 of those years in our church. Mr. Seraderian, totally immersed in the musicology of the Armenian Church, is also one of the foremost Armenian hymnologists. In 2005 Mr. Seraderian retired and was given a testimonial by the Board of Trustees. He was also honored by His Holiness Aram I, Catholicos of the Great House of Cilicia with the coveted Mesrob Mashdots Medal for his contributions to Armenian education and the propagation of Armenian culture. Currently the church choir has approximately 25 members and is directed by Mrs. Karen Aykanian- Demirjian, a long- time member of St. Stephen’s Church Choir and assistant organist. Mrs. Aykanian-Demirjian, who also founded and directed several youth choruses in the Greater Boston area, has brought a youthful vigor to the choir and has expanded its ranks with young new talent.
Church soloists have been Evelyn Kazanjian Artinian, Anahid Changelian, Ashod Jelalian, Maro Partamian, Armen Dilan, Karen Aykanian-Demirjian, Karoun Demirjian, Nancy Tutunjian, Ardemis Minassian, Anahid Nakashian, Sabine Chooljian, Dr. David Boyajian, Alice (Tchobanian) Baljian, Vanessa Ovian and Tamar Kanarian. Ms. Shake Aghoyan served as organist for four decades (also serving as interim Choir Director), and upon her retirement in 1997, she was replaced by Mrs. Mary Ann Kazanjian, who presently serves in this capacity.
During the past fifty years the following have served in our church as ordained deacons: Deacons Vartan Artinian, Hrayr Deukmajian, Hrayr Kalenderian, Aram Stepanian (now Fr. Aram, pastor of St. Asdvadzadzin Church of Whitinsville), Professor Michael Connolly, Thomas Fitzgerald, Garo Ishkhanian (Now Archpriest Armen, pastor emeritus of St. Hagop Church of Montreal), John Doursounian, Abraham Bardakjian, Zareh Melkonian, Nishan M. Baljian (now our pastor, Archpriest Antranig), Megerdich Megerdichian, Setrag Panian and Nishan V. Baljian (first as a layman, and now as Pastoral Assistant and candidate for ordination to the Holy Priesthood).
On April 1, 2007 four faithful young men who had served on the Holy Altar for many years were ordained to the subdiaconate by H.E. Abp. Oshagan Choloyan. The four young men, Ara Barsoumian, Gerard Barsoumian, Jiro Eskanderian and Albert Barsoumian had previously undergone a special training course prepared by Deacon Nishan Baljian.
d. The Armenian Saturday School: For several years prior to the consecration of St. Stephen’s Armenian Apostolic Church, the Armenian Relief Society had organized and supervised the teaching of the Armenian language within large and small communities throughout America. In 1956, the ARS transferred the Armenian Schools to the Armenian Prelacy, but continued to cooperate within the new framework as an equal partner in the Armenian National Education Council. In the beginning, the school only had three grade levels locally, in Watertown. Because of their distance from Watertown, Needham and Newton had their own Saturday Schools. For the past fifty years St. Stephen’s Armenian Saturday School has had its committed and dedicated principals and teachers.
The following have held the office of principal Rev. Archpriest Dikran Khoyian, Rev. Fr. Krikor Hairabedian, Rev. Archpriest Torkom Hagopian, Rev. Archpriest Antranig Baljian, Professor Arshalooys Simeoniantz, Alice Barsoomian, Melkon Yesaillian, Dzovig Hajian, Kohar Tololyan and Seta Kaleshian. The longest tenured principal of the school was Mrs. Agnes Ourfalian, who for 25 years as principal helped the school achieve a high level of success and effectiveness. The school’s current principal is Mrs. Mayda Melkonian.
An important milestone for the school was reached in 2002, when under the able direction of Mrs. Melkonian and School Committee Chairman Misak Barsoumian High School level grades were added over a period of four years making St. Stephen’s Armenian Saturday School the first and only one-day school in our Prelacy to extend through grade 12. In the 2006-2007 academic year there was an unprecedented enrollment of 150 students in the Saturday School.
e. Sunday School: Approximately two years before the construction of St. Stephen’s, in 1955, the Sunday School had already begun its labors with thirty-five students in the 4-5 year-old age range. The classes were held in the rooms of what is today’s parish house. In subsequent years, as the number of students rose so did the number of classrooms. In a relatively short period, the Sunday School grew to more than two hundred students from
kindergarten through High School.
The goal of the Sunday School was to teach religious and church related subjects and to make the church and its doctrines familiar to the youngsters through the teaching of its hymns and rites. In school, students learned to sing, pray and understand the Bible. In the early years the teaching staff prepared its own textbooks. Later the Prelacy saw fit to incorporate these books into the curriculum used in the Sunday Schools of all the Prelacy churches in the United States. The yeoman’s share of the work of preparing textbooks and other curricular materials was accomplished by Mrs. Virginia Tashjian, our very first Sunday School Director, whose service is greatly appreciated. Mrs. Tashjian served with distinction from 1955-1965.
Over the past fifty years, the Sunday School has prepared Sunday School teachers, acolytes, choir members and trustees who, in turn are continuing the sacred mission of educating the new generation. The very first faculty of the Sunday School consisted of Mrs. Virginia Tashjian, Director, Nancy Guzelian, Helen Baronian, Zabel Hajian, Peter Kevorkian, Rosemary Khachadoorian, Pauline Sanasarian and Nancy Derderian. The following have all been past directors: George Changelian, Vahe Der Manuelian, Hagop Garavanian, Margaret Hazerjian, Mona Talanian, and Margaret Stepanian. The current director is Mrs. Audrey Guzelian, who for 22 long years has done this difficult but God-pleasing work with great dedication and love. For many years Deacon Aram
Stepanian (now a priest) has been of great benefit to the Sunday School by teaching the students lessons from the Bible. Enrollment for the 2006-2007 academic years was 115 students with 14 teachers. A young, active and vibrant Parents’ Council has enhanced the Sunday School’s activities within the context of the life of the community and has also been a great help to the church in general.
f. The Armenian Cultural Center and the Day School: The Lebanese Civil war of 1975 and the political upheaval in Iran caused many new Armenian families to resettle in the United States and especially in the area of Watertown and its environs. The Church Hall was no longer sufficient for meetings, affairs, banquets and cultural programs. The Church Board of Trustees, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation and the Armenian Relief Society, meeting with affiliated organizations, decided to build the Armenian Cultural and Educational Center, which would meet the needs of the community and contain all of the facilities needed for an Armenian Day School.
A Steering Committee was formed as follows: Rev. Archpriest Torkom Hagopian, President; Attorney Aram Kaloosdian, Chairman, with members Jack Der Avedisian, Dr. John Manuelian, Peter Felegian, Kenneth Kazanjian, Myron Khederian, Enoch Lachinian and Alice Barsoomian. A fundraising committee was also formed, consisting of Rev. Archpriest Torkom Hagopian, Mihran Guzelian, Paul Nahabedian, Boghos Kaloosdian, Haygaz Megerdichian and Shavarsh Bedrosian.
The land for the center was purchased on April 15, 1973. On November 6, 1977, the church’s pastor, Rev. Archpriest Torkom Hagopian, performed the blessing of the site. The first fundraising banquet was held in 1977 at the Chateau de Ville restaurant in Framingham under the auspices of the Prelate, His Eminence Archbishop Karekin Sarkissian (later Catholicos of Cilicia and of Etchmiadzin). Seven hundred fifty people were present. The pledges from the banquet totaled $650,000.00.
His Grace Bishop Datev Sarkissian, dean of the Antelias Seminary, His Grace Bishop Mesrob Ashjian, Prelate, Rev. Archpriest Torkom Hagopian and Rev. Fr. Oshin Kevorkian (visiting from Lebanon) blessed the Center’s foundation on July 16, 1978. The building was completed in 1980 with all the necessary facilities to house a day school. The opening ceremonies took place under the auspices of the Prelate His Eminence Archbishop Mesrob Ashjian. Now that the building and its facilities were completed, it was necessary to research the rules and regulations concerning the establishment of the school. The church Board of Trustees appointed a school board as follows: Rev. Archpriest Torkom Hagopian, President. Yervant Krafian, Jirayr Gharibian, Missak Barsoumian, Arpi Demirjian and Araxie Khanjian.
After receiving the proper licensing from the state, the dream of having an Armenian day school was realized when St. Stephen’s Board of Trustees in cooperation with the active political, charitable, athletic, educational and other organizations, opened the doors of St. Stephen’s Armenian Elementary School on September 4, 1984 in the newly built Armenian Cultural and Educational Center. The total number of students was eight. Paula Green was the director and the sole teacher was Maral Derderian. The first three years were an opportunity to gain experience. In 1988, the Board of Trustees, trusting in the good will of area Armenians toward the school and counting on their support, appointed a new school board consisting of Rev. Archpriest Torkom Hagopian, President, Astor Guzelian, Chairman, Kevork Donabedian, Vice-chairman, Yervant Krafian, Rouben Surenian, Garbis Zerdelian, Martiros Petrossian, Zareh Gregorian, Kohar Tololyan, Rosine Patterson, Jirayr Gharibian, Gregory Avedikian. From 1984- 1988, the following also served briefly as members of the School Board: Vazken Basmajian, Armine Chorbajian, Rosemary Khachadoorian, Maro Minassian.
Several years ago the School Board, taking into consideration the lack of adequate space at the A.C.E.C. decided to relocate the preschool to a building owned by the church, next to the parish house. After obtaining the proper permissions from the town, extensive renovations were undertaken to turn it into a preschool building. At the school’s official opening His Eminence Archbishop Oshagan Choloyan, after a brief prayer service cut the ribbon to the Afeyan Building.
The school’s current principal is Mrs. Houry Boyamian, a graduate of the Nishan Palandjian Academy in Beirut and the holder of graduate and postgraduate degrees in education from American universities. For the past 19 years, Mrs. Boyamian has led the school to excellence. The school’s faculty consists of 29 individuals.
The Church Board of Trustees has deemed it necessary over the past fifty years to undertake major renovation projects. The first made the dome and windows as they are today. The second saw the church entry reconstructed with a beautiful arched entry. A third major construction project also focused on the entry with building of a beautiful new façade and impressive new stairway with an elevator for handicapped parishioners. Renovations to the sanctuary include: the installation of air conditioning to make the church comfortable for all seasons; the padding of the church pews for their preservation and esthetic enhancement; the placement of a wooden arch above the altar with the biblical inscription “I am the way the truth and the life,” written in Armenian and English; the installation of new carpeting and the painting of the interior of the entire sanctuary. A “Khachkar” from Armenia was emplaced in the churchyard. Major renovations were made to the church hall, where air conditioning was also installed and the ceiling, walls and floors were totally remodeled. In 2006, following major damage to the church cupola by wind and lightning, a major reconstruction project was finished which replaced the damaged cupola with a new one that had been constructed and shipped from Texas.
The church has hosted five Prelacy National Representative Assemblies and Clergy Conferences. It publishes the quarterly “JRAK”, which is sent to approximately 1100 families, keeping them abreast of the church’s work and mission. A Sunday Program containing important announcements, requests for requiem services and the day’s
scripture readings in both Armenian and English is published weekly. The church has approximately 700 dues-payingmembers.
The current Board of Trustees consists of Rev. Archpriest Antranig Baljian, Pastor and President, Rouben Surenian, Chairman, Joshua Tevekelian, Vice-chairman, John Aharonian, Treasurer, Lucy Hoosian, Secretary, and members Richard Kanarian, Robert Najarian, Stephen Megerdichian, Raffi Manjikian, Rose Krikorian, Allan Tutunjian, and John Daghlian. The Church secretary is Mrs. Silva Bahlavouni. The current National Delegates are Rouben Surenian, Richard Kanarian, Robert Najarian, Anahid Najarian, Richard Piligian, Hovsep Melkeshian and Charles Keumurian. (for current list of Trustees, please visit our Executive Bodies page).
The Ladies’ Guild Executive members are Lucy Guzelian, Chairlady, Isabel Avedikian, Sona Iradian, Zabelle Hoosian, Treasurer, Deanne Nahabedian, Loren Elanjian-Baccari, and Mary Jelalian
The following is a list of Pastors of St. Stephen’s Armenian Apostolic Church over the past fifty years:
1. Rev. Archpriest Dikran Khoyan served as pastor from 1957-1959, after which the Prelacy Executive Council transferred him to Washington D.C. as pastor of Holy Cross Armenian Apostolic Church.
2. At the invitation of the Executive Council, Rev. Fr. Krikor Hairabedian, a graduate of the pastoral studies course at the Armenian Theological Seminary in Antelias, was appointed as the pastor of St. Stephen’s, where he served from 1959-1961. After tendering his resignation to the church Board of Trustees and the Prelacy Executive Council, Rev. Hairabedian continued his service to the Armenian Church as part of the Etchmiadzin Diocese.
3. In 1961, The Prelate and Executive Council decided to assign as temporary pastor the Rev. Archpriest Arsen Simeoniantz, retired pastor of St. Illuminator’s Armenian Apostolic Cathedral in New York City. Fr. Simeoniantz, a truly dedicated, 82-year old priest who throughout his life brought honor to the Armenian Church, moved from New York to Boston and served as pastor for eight months. Until his passing, Fr. Arsen came to church every Sunday and participated in the services. He fell asleep in the Lord in 1973 and was buried at Cambridge Mount Auburn cemetery.
4. In August of 1962, the Executive Council decided to invite Rev. Archpriest Torkom Hagopian to the Pastorate of St. Stephen’s. Fr. Hagopian was then serving as pastor of four communities in New York State: St. John the Baptist of Syracuse, Holy Cross of Troy, St. Hagop of Niagara Falls and the church community in Binghamton. Fr. Hagopian served as pastor of St. Stephen’s until 1995 when he wished to retire. His 33 years were fruitful ones
during which the Armenian Cultural and Educational Center was built and for the fundraising of which Fr. Hagopian did a great deal of work. Der Hayr’s greatest dream was that of having an Armenian day school. This was realized in 1984. In spite of his advanced years and delicate health, Fr. Torkom, as Pastor Emeritus, continues to remain involved in the life of the church. He is present at Sunday services, also sacraments, and funeral services when invited and as his health allows.
5. In 1994, the Prelacy Executive Council, responding to the request of the church Board of Trustees, appointed Rev. Archpriest Antranig Baljian, Pastor of St. Gregory Armenian Apostolic Church of Indian Orchard for more than 18 years. As the new pastor of St. Stephen’s Fr. Baljian, the first American-born priest of our Prelacy, was no stranger to the church community. Before his ordination as a priest, and after graduating from the pastoral studies course at the Armenian Theological Seminary in Antelias, Fr. Baljian came to Boston and served at St. Stephen’s as church deacon and secretary. He also taught in the Sunday and Armenian Schools and carried out the office of pastor’s assistant. For the past thirteen years, Fr. Antranig has been capably carrying out the office of pastor.
Both Rev. Archpriest Torkom Hagopian and Rev. Archpriest Antranig Baljian have been granted the right to bear the pectoral cross, the flowery “pilon” and have been granted the title of archpriest.
On June 17, 2006, a special banquet known as the “30/50 Banquet” was held in honor of these two clergymen, celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of Der Torkom’s priestly ordination and the thirtieth anniversary of Der Antranig’s. The banquet was presided over by the newly consecrated Bishop Anoushavan Tanielian, Vicar General of the Eastern Prelacy, who also celebrated his first episcopal Divine Liturgy the next day in our church. On this occasion, the parish planted two trees in the churchyard, one dedicated to each priest.
Mention must be made of several clergymen who over the years have served in a pastoral capacity in our church by arrangement of the Prelate and the Executive Council. They were either Assistant Pastors (ordained priests) or Pastoral Assistants (candidates for the priesthood), usually associated with internship-style training, in order to get them accustomed to parish life and administration and in order to assist the current pastor of the church in his spiritual duties. Understanding this to be a great indication of trust and favorable regard by our Prelates, we consider this a great honor and a sign of our parish’s many capabilities.
Until now, the following have served for a short time period in the capacity of intern and Assistant Pastor: Rev. Fr. Serop Azarian, Rev. Fr. Sarkis Aktavoukian, Rev. Fr. Bedros Shetilian. Serving in this capacity for a more extended amount of time was Rev. Fr. Hovnan Bozoian, who after nearly one year and a half of service was relieved of his duties in August 2006 to become pastor of Sts. Vartanantz Armenian Apostolic Church of Ridgefield, New Jersey.
Deacons serving as Pastoral Assistants before their priestly ordinations include Deacon Garo Ishkhanian (later Archpriest Armen), Dn. Nishan M. Baljian (later Archpriest Antranig), Dn. Megerdich Megerdichian (later Fr. Khachig) and presently, Dn. Nishan V. Baljian, whose priestly ordination is scheduled to take place at St. Stephen’s Church in
February of 2008.
The following have been Delegates to the World Assembly of the Catholicossate of Cilicia: Rev. Archpriest Antranig Baljian, Mihran Guzelian, Dr. Levon Daghlian, Levon Tufenkjian, Dr. John Manuelian. Dr. Varant Hagopian, Viken Babayan, Attorney Aram Kaloosdian, Vartan Artinian, Kevork Donabedian.
The following have participated in Catholicossal elections: Rev. Archpriest Arsen Simenoniantz, Rev. Archpriest Torkom Hagopian, Rev. Archpriest Antranig Baljian, Dr. Levon Daghlian, Levon Tufenkjian, Mihran Guzelian, Attorney Aram Kaloosdian, Dr. John Manuelian, Haygaz Megerdichian, Albert Derian, Vigen Babayan.
For their long and devoted service in church, civic, cultural, charitable and literary endeavors, the following have been awarded by various Catholicoi of Cilicia either the Prince of Cilicia, Knight of Cilicia or the Mesrob Mashdots medal: Prof. Puzant Yeghiayan, Maestro Rouben Gregorian, Mihran Guzelian, James Tashjian, Dr. John Manuelian, Attorney Aram Kaloosdian, Albert Papoyans, Minas Tololyan, Jack Der Avedisian, Peter Felegian, Astor Guzelian, Dr. Varant Hagopian, Vahan Terchoonian, Kevork Donabedian, Gregory Avedikian, Jirayr Gharibian, Hakob Karapentz, John Mirak, Maestro Hampartsoom Berberian, Aram Andonian, Tatoul Sonentz Papazian, Michael Najarian, Vartan Seraderian, Houry Boyamian.
A truly unforgettable date in the history of the Armenian American community and of St. Stephen’s Church was May 10-11, 1969 when for the first time as Catholicos of the Great House of Cilicia, His Holiness Khoren I made his pontifical visit to our community and celebrated the Divine Liturgy. Subsequent Catholicossal visits to our community were made by His Holiness Karekin II Co-adjutor Catholicos in 1979, in 1983 and in 1990 as Catholicos of the Great House of Cilicia. As His Holiness Karekin I, Supreme Patriarch
and Catholicos of all Armenians, he also graced St. Stephen’s with a visit in 1996, his very last visit to the Boston area.
An historic ecumenical event took place when His Holiness Aram I, Catholicos of the Great House of Cilicia made his first pontifical visit to our community in October of 1997. At that time, a joint ecumenical service and meeting took place between the Catholicos and His Holiness Bartholomew I, Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, at which time they signed an important document regarding the future relations of the two ancient churches. His Holiness Aram I made a second visit to St. Stephen’s in October of 2000 to celebrate the 1700th Anniversary of the establishment of Christianity as the official faith of Armenia. A forum for young people as well as one for adults and a service and program in church highlighted His Holiness’ visit.
In October of 2005, H.H. Aram I made yet another visit to St. Stephen’s in order to mark the Seventy-fifth Anniversary of the establishment of the Theological Seminary of the Holy See of Cilicia in Antelias Lebanon. His Holiness’ Tenth Anniversary as Catholicos of the Great House of Cilicia was also observed. A religious service and program took place in church to celebrate the Seminary’s many years of preparing clergy, teachers and other public servants within the Armenian community. For this occasion, at the request of His Holiness, Fr. Antranig undertook the writing of a book entitled The Antelias Seminary: Seventy-Five Years of Service and Leadership. The book was distributed nationwide to all who participated in His Holiness’ visit.
September 8, 2001 was another historic day in the life of our community. On that day, the Nativity of the Mother of God, ten young men and women were ordained as acolytes by His Eminence Archbishop Oshagan. Following the Saturday-evening Vespers, a banquet was held at the A.C.E.C. in honor of the 1700th Anniversary of the Establishment of Christianity in Armenia, the 45th Anniversary of St. Stephen’s Church, as well as Rev. Archpriest Torkom Hagopian’s 45th Anniversary of orination and Rev. Archpriest Antranig Baljian’s 25th Anniversary.
The year 2007, St. Stephen’s Armenian Apostolic Church’s Golden Jubilee year, has seen a bevy of cultural, educational and fundraising endeavors. Under the title, “A Time to Look Back, to Come Back & to Give Back,” the year’s events are set to culminate in December with a festive dinner-dance and with a St. Stephen’s Day church wide celebration.
Future milestone events to which St. Stephen’s Church looks forward to are the ordination of Dn. Nishan Baljian to the Holy Priesthood on February 16-17, 2008 and the hosting of the Prelacy National Representatives’ Assembly in May of 2008, which will coincide with the observance of the 50th Anniversary of the Armenian Prelacy’s reestablishment as a diocese constituting the Holy See of Cilicia.
St. Stephen’s Armenian Apostolic Church continues in its mission of preserving and propagating the Armenian Apostolic faith to all of her beloved children, both near and far. She has become a beacon of light and refuge for all that seek her wisdom and care. May Christ, our Heavenly King, continue to grant his blessings to our church, keeping it unshaken in its mission and peaceful in its existence.