The Western Diocese » The Armenian Apostolic Church in the United States 1898-2007
The Armenian Apostolic Church in the United States 1898-2007
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"O, Heavenly King, keep Your Church strong and keep the worhippers of Your name in peace" [from the hymn Khorhoort Khorin [Deep Mystery]
It is a matter of common knowledge that before 1870, there were individual Armenians who immigrated to the United States, coming here for a variety of reasons.
History records that in 1656, the Governor of the Virginia Colony, Edward Diggs, issued a special invitation to two Armenians from Turkey, bringing them to America to establish and expand a silk raising and producing industry. The first known Armenian immigrant to the United States was named Khachadour Vosganian who was from Constantinople and who came to New York in 1834 as a student. In the period from 1840 to 1860, many young students from the Armenian provinces, Constantinople and Cilicia came to the United States to learn a trade, to establish commercial ties, or to secure their future at New York University, Princeton, Yale, or other institutions of higher learning to pursue courses in religious, medical, or other scientific fields. Until the 1880's, individual and temporary immigration of young Armenians coming to the United States continued. Of these, some returned to the Old Country. Still others, finding success, remained. It appears that the majority of the immigrants were involved in various types of factory work. But, it is possible to say that of these, many chose to remain in New York, which at that time, had become a major center for education, the arts, and commercial trade.
Bearing in mind that the 1894-1896 Hamidian persecutions and massacres were taking place consecutively, and that from 1908-1915, the Turkish government pursued a policy of genocide, and, also, the Russo-Turkish War, and the general insecurity of life, our people were forced to leave their fatherland. Many settled in Constantinople and still others, the more daring, took the road to America and became established in the United States, subsequently starting communities first on the East Coast - New York, Providence, Boston, Worcester, and then on to the West Coast, particularly in California, in Fresno and the nearby rural farming areas, where the various agricultural endeavors promised a future for our compatriots of whom a major portion were from the areas of Kharpert and Dikranagerd.
We read the following in an article by Bishop Moushegh, "From 1895 through 1896, as a result of the horrible massacres in Constantinople, the survivors deemed that the only way to save their lives was to flee abroad."Also, he writes, "Kharpert has given the greatest number of immigrants to America." The unbearable conditions under communism in Armenia during the past century also contributed to this immigrant reality of the Armenian communities.
In view of the above, Bishop Moushegh Seropian, who was the editor of THE AMERICAN ARMENIAN YEARBOOK, sorrowfully wrote that, "The history of the Armenians in America is not the history of a community or a communal or ethnic history. Rather, it is the history of individuals between 1883-1890 and it is the history of those individuals which is dead for us, along with all the sorry conditions which are inseparable from a life lived with an unfamiliar language and in new surroundings." In 1888, when Mugrdich Portugalian visited Worcester, Massachusetts, which was then the largest Armenian center in America and the largest American-Armenian community and consisted of about 1200 persons, a majority of whom were single. The immigrant Armenians of Worcester, thirsting for spiritual, 5355 religious sustenance, attended various Protestant churches in the area. In those days, the reporter Mugrdich Portugalian's visit raised the issue of the necessity of having our own Armenian Church and school, created a most serious enthusiasm in the Worcester community. Remember, prior to his visit the Armenians were attending one or another Protestant church in the city. As a result of this, some of the notable people in Worcester rose to the occasion and worked to bring an Armenian priest from the fatherland. Therefore, American-Armenian history can be said to have begun in 1888.
Then, based upon the request of the Armenians of Worcester, Massachusetts, in 1888 The Very Rev. Hovsep Dz.V. Sarajian was sent by the Patriarchate of Constantinople to serve as the parish priest for the Worcester community and other cities on the East Coast. He assumed his new post and celebrated his first Divine Liturgy in a rented facility on July 28, 1889. Then, one year later, efforts were begun to build an Armenian Church. These plans reached fruition some six months later. That first Armenian Church was consecrated on January 18, 1891 by The Very Rev. Hovsep Dz.V. Sarajian and named Our Savior. It is interesting to note that some 25 individuals from various cities made contributions toward meeting the building expenses. Some four years later, The Very Rev. Hovsep Dz.V. Sarajian resigned his position and returned to the fatherland in 1893.
For general information, we note that during the period from 1889 on the responsibility for pastoral care of the American-Armenian community was under the jurisdiction of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, as were the communities of Europe.
At a meeting in 1898, it was decided to again invite as pastor to the American-Armenian community the founding pastor of Our Savior Parish, where he had served for four years, the now Bishop Hovsep Sarajian.
Khrimian Hayrig, in a special encyclical, sent Bishop Sarajian to the community. He served as Primate until 1906. It was Bishop Sarajian who also consecrated the Holy Trinity Armenian Church of Fresno on October 14, 1900. He also consecrated St. Gregory Armenian Church in Fowler in April of 1910.
It was ultimately on July 2, 1898 that Khrimian Hayrig, with a special encyclical raised the American- Armenian community from the status of a mission pastorate, to being a full status Diocese.
During that period, the Diocesan Headquarters for America was establish in the city of Worcester, Massachusetts on July 17-18, 1901 upon the initiative of Bishop Sarajian. The first American-Armenian Diocesan Assembly was convened in Worcester, Massachusetts on July 12, 1902, and that meeting prepared the Diocesan By-laws. Then, His Holiness Khrimian Hayrig, in his encyclical of September 6, 1902, ratified these first By-laws for the American-Armenian community.
Then, on November 28, 1927, His Holiness Kevork V, Catholicos of All Armenians, ratified the By-laws of the new California Diocese. We here record that the Western Diocese, then the Diocese of California, held its first Diocesan Assembly on October 28, 1928.
By 1910, Fresno, California had become a growing center of Armenian presence. Naturally, new and smaller communities began to be established in the various cities and areas of California. It appears that the first Armenians were established in Fresno in 1871 and, after a relatively short period of time they felt the need for religious services and spiritual ministrations, in other words, they felt the need for their own church. According to another source, the first Armenians to become established in Fresno were two brothers from Marsovan, Hagop and Garabed Seropian, who came to Fresno from Worcester in 1881.
We think it appropriate to present in a brief form some basic information regarding those parishes and churches which are to be found in the Fresno area.
5456 The original Holy Trinity parish church was consecrated on October 14, 1900, by the Primate of the American Armenian Diocese, Bishop Hovsep Sarajian. Unfortunately, this building was destroyed by fire on July 9, 1913.
Subsequently, the ground breaking for the present Holy Trinity Church was conducted on November 1, 1913 by The Very. Rev. Vartan Dz.V. Kasparian who also conducted the Blessing of the Foundation on January 4, 1914. The new church was duly consecrated on December 13, 1914 by Archbishop Moushegh Seropian.
St. Paul Armenian Church of Fresno was organized in the late 1930's. Its present church edifice was consecrated on April 22, 1979, by the Primate Archbisop Vatche Hovsepian, with the participation and assistance of Archbishop Tiran Nersoyan. St. Gregory the Illuminator Church of Fowler, which is near Fresno, was established on February 8, 1910 and the consecration was conducted on April 17, 1910 by Bishop Hovsep Sarajian.
The building of St. Mary Armenian Church of Yettem, which is not terribly far from Fresno, was begun on January 17, 1911 and was consecrated by Bishop Moushegh Seropian on July 3, 1911. The community itself was founded in 1904, although there were Armenians in the area prior to that.
It is worth noting that the first Ladies Society in the Western Diocese was established at St. Mary Armenian Church of Yettem in 1914.
The Western Diocese became a separate entity from the American Diocese, that is the Eastern Diocese, and was proclaimed as such on November 28, 1927 in an encyclical of the same date from His Holiness Kevork V, Catholicos of All Armenians. In that encyclical His Holiness clearly states: "With this patriarchal encyclical we establish and proclaim California as a separate American Diocese." In this manner, California gained its own administrative independence and naturally, also, gained the right to have its own Primate.
As we stated earlier, the establishment of the Western Diocese in 1927 was the natural result of the rapidly growing population of Armenian residents and communities and churches in the western states, as well as the great geographic distances which separate the west from the Diocesan Headquarters in New York.
We have already stated that His Holiness Mugrdich I Vanetzi [Khrimian Hayrig] officially established the American Diocese on July 2, 1898. Of course, Mugrdich Khrimian went beyond the request of the Armenian community of America.
The Catholicos Kevork V, in his official encyclical of November 28, 1927, also ratified the election of Bishop Karekin Khachadourian as Primate and proclaimed California as a separate Diocese. The Diocesan Assembly conducted this election on September 18, 1927. Bishop Khachadourian arrived in Fresno to assume his new duties on May 26, 1928.
In the Minutes of the Diocesan meetings [Divan 1917-1934, Minutes Book, page 30, June 1, 1928 - Friday] the following interesting fact is recorded. "During the meeting, the members stood as the two encyclicals from His Holiness were read. One directed to the first Primate of our Diocese, His Grace Bishop Karekin Khachadourian and the other to the Primate of the American Diocese, The Most Rev. Archbishop Tirayre (Ter Hovhanessian). These encyclicals established the position of His Grace Bishop Karekin Khachadourian and stressed the importance of cordial and harmonious cooperation between the two Primates.
The reading of the encyclicals was done by Very Rev. Fr. Dirayr (Markarian) and was heard with respect and heartfelt appreciation." At the beginning of the Minutes it is stated that "Bishop Karekin Khachadourian of Trabizon was presiding." The first Diocesan Assembly was held on November 28, 1928, in the vestibule of Fresno's Holy Trinity Armenian Church with the presence of 24 delegates. The Diocesan Headquarters were established in Fresno and in 1958 it was transferred to Los Angeles and St. James parish served as the Diocesan Seat. This church was later sold and presently, with its Armenian architecture, belongs to non-Armenians.
For history's sake, we feel obligated to here note that Holy Trinity Church and community, because of internal church and community politics severed its ties to the Western Diocese in 1951 and in 1957 passed to the Prelacy of the Cilician See. The same situation prevailed in 1953 with the Holy Cross Church of Los Angeles [now Montebello]. The Divan of the Diocese in its 1953-1956 files. The Primate the Very Rev. Shnork Dz.V. Kaloustian, referring to the situation in regard to Holy Cross refers to the "schism of Holy Cross." Elsewhere, he makes reference to "The Problem of Holy Cross." 5557 Until 1927, the Armenian churches throughout California were under the jurisdiction of the American Diocese, that is why they were subject to the authority of the Eastern Diocese. Nonetheless, bearing in mind the distance from the West to the Eastern Diocese and also the growth and spreading of the Armenian communities in California, Kevork V, Catholicos of All Armenians, granting the request and interest of the Armenians of California, considered it appropriate to separate the American Diocese into the Eastern Diocese and the Western Diocese, respectively.
We find one such request in an issue of ETCHMIADZIN which was published in Fresno and bears the date February 11, 1917 and was published in the June, 1918 #6 issue of this publication. After giving the religious and community reasons for taking such a step, the statement is made that "The sons of the Armenian Church wish to have their separate Diocese." Today, aside from California [as the first Diocese] the boundaries of the Western Diocese include the following states, as of 1980: California; Colorado; Alaska; Arizona; Hawaii; Idaho; Montana; Nevada; New Mexico; Oregon; Utah; Washington; and Wyoming. These are also recorded in the Western Diocese By-laws.
It is appropriate to also recall that the headquarters of the Eastern Diocese were transferred from Worcester, Massachusetts to Boston in 1923 and then in 1927 to New York. As we previously mentioned, while the Western Diocese was originally housed in Fresno, in 1958 it was transferred to Los Angeles.
At the time of the establishment of the Western Diocese, 1927-1928, there were five (5) churches in California:
- Holy Trinity (Fresno) which was established on April 1, 1900 and consecrated on October 14, 1900 by Bishop Hovsep Sarajian. Fresno was the center of the Diocese, having Holy Trinity as the Diocesan Seat.
- St. Gregory the Illuminator (Fowler)
- St. Mary (Yettem)
- Holy Cross (Los Angeles)
- Sts. Sahag-Mesrob (Reedley) which was consecrated on November 23, 1924 by The Very Rev. Vartan Dz.V. Kasparian and The Very Rev. Dirayr Dz. V. Markarian.
Subsequently, the following parishes were added to the above:
- In 1926, St. Vartan Parish of Oakland was established. The present church is the second church for the parish community and was consecrated on April 7, 1957 by Archbishop Vartan Kasparian.
- By 1957, St. John Parish of San Francisco was added to the list of parishes of the Western Diocese. The first Divine Liturgy there was celebrated toward the end of 1910. The present church is the second one for the parish community and was consecrated on January 19, 1958 by Bishop Papken Varjabedian. Also participating was Archbishop Vartan Kasparian.
- St. James Parish, in the center of Los Angeles, was located on Adams Boulevard and was later sold to a non-Armenian congregation. It was founded in 1941. The present church is the third one for the St. James Parish/Community and was consecrated on March 21, 1971. The consecration was conducted by Archbishop Torkom Manoogian who at the time was the Primate of the Eastern Diocese.
- St. James Parish of Sacramento was established in 1929. The church was consecrated on May 10, 1953 by Archbishop Vartan Kasparian. Also participating was The Very. Rev. Shnork Dz.V. Kaloustian as the Primate of the Western Diocese.
Bishop Karekin Khachadourian of Trabizon was the first elected Primate of the Western Diocese and he assumed office on May 26, 1928.
We note as an item of historical importance that during the primacy of Bishop Karekin Khachadourian [1928-1934], he began the publication of the official paper of the Western Diocese, PAROS [The Lighthouse], a periodical in both the Armenian and English languages.
During the period between 1934-1953, some 19 years, there was a lack of clarity and an element of uncertainty within the Western Diocese. This situation can be explained by noting that during those 19 years, it was only for four (4) years (1942-1946) that the Diocese had an elected Primate and during those years the administrative work was carried out by 5 different Locum Tenens.
During the 1940's, Archbishop Karekin Hovsepian, during his tenure as Primate of the Eastern Diocese, expended efforts to establish a youth organization. However, because of World War II these efforts were not successful.
In 1943, Bishop Mampre Calfaian, in his Annual Diocesan Report to the Eastern Diocese wrote: "We have planned to establish in all of our parishes, under the auspices of the Diocese, and with one set of By-laws to organize for the younger generation an "Armenian Youth Christian Organization" and/or "Sons and Daughters of the Armenian Church." However, on January 12, 1946, it was Bishop Tiran Nersoyan who finally realized that dream and became the Founder of the Armenian Church Youth Organization [ACYO] whose purpose was to secure the future of the mission of the Armenian Church. On September 3, 1949, under the presidency of Archbishop Vartan Kasparian, Diocesan Locum Tenens, the ACYO was established in the Western Diocese.
During the 1953-54 year, the Diocesan Council happily notes in its report, "The Armenian Church Youth Organization, step by step, is increasing its interest and enthusiasm in our Church." In 1964, according to the Diocesan Assembly Report (April 11, 1964) the ACYO counted some 196 members.
Later, in 1966, for the first time ever, an ACYO member was invited to address the delegates to the Diocesan Assembly. Danna Surabian [Yeretzgin Danna Kasparian], a parishioner at Sts. Sahag-Mesrob Parish in Reedley and member of the ACYO Central Council. She addressed the delegates during the Diocesan Assembly Banquet. That year's Diocesan Assembly was hosted at St. John Parish in San Francisco.
This organization has gradually grown and today is a serious organizational presence in all the parishes of the Western Diocese.
In the meantime, from November 18-20, 1949, a 3 day celebration of the 20th anniversary of the Western Diocese took place.
Also, in 1949, with great joy, the Western Diocese celebrated the 70th birthday of Archbishop Vartan Kasparian, the Diocesan Locum Tenens, recognizing his tireless and dedicated service.
St. Andrew Parish of Cupertino was founded in 1961. The present church was consecrated on May 17, 1992 by Diocesan Primate Archbishop Vatche Hovsepian, assisted by Archbishop Hoosig Santoorian from Holy Etchmiadzin and Bishop Aris Shirvanian.
From 1960-1970 we note that a new and stronger wave of immigration of Armenians from the Middle Eastern countries began to arrive in Los Angeles as a result of political unrest and civil war along with social instability. They came primarily from the countries of Iran, Syria, Egypt, Lebanon, and Iraq. Then, with the independence of Armenia from the Soviet Union in the early 1990's, we saw an unprecedented immigration of Armenians to the United States.
We note this simply to say that in the entire Armenian Diaspora, Los Angeles has become the largest community outside of Armenia. For this reason, too, naturally the characteristics of the Los Angeles Armenian community have undergone some very strong changes - social, ethnic, cultural, spiritual, religious, church and organizational. Because of many tasteless and frequently changing conditions we see the endangering and destroying of our people's usual law abiding attitude and the conditions for them living the Christian faith. This is attributed to the awesome changes in which they are living.
If, upon all this, we add the free thinking, dissension, and liberalism of the United States on our society, we will see that we have a psychological challenge in adapting to a new reality which truly has a great influence, not only upon the Armenian community but on the responsible Primates and governance of the Armenian Church.
Along with these general realities, new challenges are created for the Armenian Church, presenting new demands and the need for new methods and points of view.
In 1960, St. Sarkis Church was established. The first Divine Liturgy was celebrated in 1961. St. Sarkis Church was consecrated in 1962 by Archbishop Vartan Kasparian and Very Rev. Torkom Manoogian, then Primate of the Western Diocese.
In the summer of 1960, during the primacy of Bishop Papken Varjabedian, His Holiness Vazken I, Catholicos of All Armenians visited the Western Diocese for the first time.
In May of 1962, The Very Rev. Torkom V. Manoogian was elected Primate of the Western Diocese and was consecrated a Bishop on October 14, 1962 by His Holiness Vazken I.
On October 18, 1964, Bishop Torkom Manoogian, along with Archbishop Vartan Kasparian conducted the consecration of the St. Gregory the Illuminator Armenian Church at the new location on Colorado Boulevard. This replaced the original church which was located on Michigan Avenue in Pasadena.
On November 8, 1964, Bishop Torkom Manoogian conducted the Groundbreaking Service for St. Peter Parish in Van Nuys. The consecration of the new church was conducted on May 29, 1966.
During his primacy, Bishop Torkom turned his immediate attention to the Armenian Schools for which he set about to secure appropriate instructional textbooks. For the Sunday Schools and the Sunday School teachers he organized Annual Assemblies. In order to further strengthen the study of the history of the Armenian Church, he established THE BISHOP'S PLAQUE for the ACYO. He consecutively established the Diocesan Summer Camp Program and a Summer Camp Fund. He also established an Auxiliary Committee to assist in securing the needs of the Diocese and to organize cultural presentations.
We also recall that outside of California, Bishop Torkom visited Phoenix, Arizona where he organized a parish, appointed a Parish Council, and established an Endowment Fund for the eventual building of a church.
The parish hall, Melikian Hall, was built in 1992. However, the church has not yet been built.
In 1970, the San Diego Parish was established, dedicated to St. John Garabed [the Forerunner]. It was duly consecrated on November 15, 1981 by the Diocesan Primate, His Eminence Archbishop Vatche Hovsepian with the assistance of Bishop Aris Shirvanian.
THE WESTERN DIOCESE OF THE ARMENIAN CHURCH
DURING THE PRIMACY OF ARCHBISHOP VATCHE HOVSEPIAN
On Saturday, March 13, 1971, in St. Mary Armenian Church of Yettem, during a productive session of the Diocesan Assembly, His Grace Bishop Vatche Hovsepian was elected Primate of the Western Diocese.
His Grace received the title of "Archbishop" in 1976 and was well aware of the Diocesan realities regarding the churches, religious conditions and general social realities.
The newly elected Primate immediately set about to secure for the Diocese its own Diocesan Headquarters as an administrative center and to establish, as much as possible, a new religious mission with new needs and a new mode of thinking. The result of these labors was the purchase of the present building of St. John Garabed Parish of Hollywood, which, at one and the same time, served as a parish church and the Diocesan Headquarters. The Diocesan Headquarters functioned in Hollywood until 1994 when, because of the Northridge Earthquake, it was moved to the complex of St. Gregory Armenian Church in Pasadena.
As a result of Archbishop Vatche Hovsepian's serious and tireless insistence, in 1978 the present Diocese building in the city of Burbank was purchased and the Diocesan Headquarters was moved there as an appropriate center for the administrative governance of the Diocese. Over the years the building has undergone various architectural changes and remodeling changes in order to fulfill the various and changing administrative needs of the Diocese.
It was during the primacy of Archbishop Vatche Hovsepian that plans for an adjoining cathedral were put forth. Through the persistence of Archbishop Vatche's successor, Archbishop Hovnan Derderian, it is expected that actual construction of the cathedral will begin in September-October, 2007.
During the primacy of Archbishop Vatche Hovsepian the following plans were proposed and implemented with the following results: • Ordained seven priests (for service in the Diocese).
- The ACYO became better organized.
- Saturday and Sunday Schools were organized.
- New parishes were opened.
- Added impetus was given to the work of the Ladies Society. [The first Ladies Society was organized in Yettem in 1914.] 5860 The Cupertino Parish was established in the period 1960-61. In 1988, taking down the old building, the new building was erected that same year. On May 16, 1992, the new church was consecrated by Archbishop Vatche Hovsepian.
- In 1972 the present building of St. John Garabed Parish in Hollywood was purchased.
- In 1977 the Palm Desert (Rancho Mirage) was established. In November, 1980 its establishment was made official. The parish now has its own property and a large hall, The Kirkjan Family Hall, which houses offices and also serves as a church. The official opening was conducted by the present Primate, Archbishop Hovnan Derderian.
- In January, 1979, the publication of the official Diocesan newspaper, THE MOTHER CHURCH, was begun under the responsible editorship of Fr. Sipan Mekhsian. This publication features religious, church, and liturgical topics and related articles and information, along with spiritual messages and church news and is published in a bilingual format - Armenian and English.
- In 1984, The Alfred and Margurite Hovsepian Day School was opened next to St. Gregory the Illuminator Parish in Pasadena.
- In 1981, plans were made to have a parish in Seattle, Washington. This parish was officially established in 1992. Currently, the parish has its own property but, as yet, does not have its own church or hall.
- In 1985, St. Mary Parish of Costa Mesa was established and the consecration was conducted on June 14, 1992 by Archbishop Vatche Hovsepian.
- As of December 3, 1987, the Western Diocese has had its very own summer camp property in the Sequoia National Forest in the San Joaquin Valley. It is comprised of some 160 broad acres. With great enthusiasm, the official opening was conducted on July 9-10, 1988, with the presence of some 500 people.
- With the labors of capable clergy such as Fr. Shahe Archpriest Altounian, Fr. Vartan Archpriest Kasparian, Fr. Datev Archpriest Tatoulian, and Fr. Vasken Movsesian sequentially working, there were a number of booklets published that dealt with various church, religious, and liturgical issues.
- These were published in both Armenian and English in order to inform our younger generation, as well as to inspire them and strengthen their faith and lead them to the Lord and to strengthen them in the spirit of the Armenian Church.
- During the primacy of Archbishop Vatche Hovsepian, the Western Diocese Endowment Fund was established and is one of the important sources of the Diocese's financial strength.
- It is appropriate to here recall that His Holiness Vazken I, Catholicos of All Armenians, conducted his first visit to the Western Diocese during the primacy of Bishop Papken Varjabedian. A second visit was paid by His Holiness in 1968 during the primacy of Bishop Elisha Simonian. His third and last visit to the Western Diocese was in 1987 during the primacy of Archbishop Vatche Hovsepian.
- His Holiness Karekin the first, during his short pontificate of only four (4) years - 1995-1999 - made a pontifical visit to the Western Diocese from February 1-13, 1996, again, during Archbishop Vatche Hovsepian's primacy.
- Beginning on May 13, 2001, His Holiness Karekin II paid the first of his two pontifical visits to the Western Diocese. This first visit was during the primacy of Archbishop Vatche Hovsepian.
* * * In the archives of the Western Diocese we come upon records that show the concerns of previous Primates and the faithful. These are truly praiseworthy and reflect both seriousness and spiritual honor regarding the Armenian Church community, as well as the mission and role entrusted to them. In clear language and pronouncements they show their faith and serious conviction regarding the calling of the Church and their special role among the people. "The Church is holy and must serve for holy purposes, avoiding political and partisan ideologies and questions. Her true purpose is the Gospel of Jesus Christ and communication of the teachings of the Armenian Church to the people in order to strengthen their feelings of spiritual, national, and patriotic commitment, to inspire faith and hope, to comfort and to help." And, in yet another place, "A great question stands before the American Armenian which requires serious and difficult action. This community must be Christian, that is the Christian spirit must be reborn. And it must be Armenian Christian." They are also convinced when they say, "The most valuable gift that the Armenian people today can offer to the civilized nations is the Armenian Church." These are messages which need study and are certainly a topic for serious thinking, whose meaning and importance will not decrease but will likely become a rallying point for today's mission of the Western Diocese of the Armenian Church.
Still, having the difficult church, religious, ethnic, and social conditions before him, the Primate, Bishop Karekin Khachadourian, authorized the printing of Missal of the Divine Liturgy which was published by The Rev. Fr. Theodore Isahagian [Issacs} and printed in Fresno in 1932. The leaders of the Church in those days had already begun to express sorrow and concern. "The American Armenian community has opened a new field of ministry for the Armenian Church - to spread the Gospel, forcefully proclaiming the Christian faith to us in this country, not preach to a pagan nation, but to our own new generation, born and raised in this country. A generation which is becoming more sophisticated and improving themselves but without ethnic identity and led by the strong American influence, day by day becoming alienated from their own traditions, which are intermingled with our sacred religion." Whatever the condition of the Armenian people, we are happy to bear witness that the Armenian Church is not simply a past phenomenon. Each generation, to a greater or lesser degree, has grasped the idea that the Armenian Church is a spirit, which has lived for centuries among the Armenian people and the Armenian people in Her. It is not possible to ignore this, nor is it possible to underestimate the importance of this.
Basically, this is an important covenant which stands before us when the institution of the Western Diocese is striving to organize the 80th anniversary of the Western Diocese itself.
On May 3, 2003, at the 76th Diocesan Assembly held at the Diocesan Headquarters in Burbank, Archbishop Hovnan Derderian was elected Primate of the Western Diocese, thus becoming the 8th Primate of the Western Diocese.
On May 19, 2003, at St. Peter Parish in Van Nuys, the Service of Installation was conducted in the presence of hundreds of faithful. During the service, there was the official reading of the encyclical of His Holiness Karekin II, Catholicos of All Armenians, ratifying Archbishop Hovnan's election and establishing him as the duly elected Primate of the Western Diocese. The new Primate celebrated his first Divine Liturgy in that office at St Gregory the Illuminator Armenian Church in Pasadena on June 22, 2003. Then, on November 15, 2003, there was an official Welcome Banquet tendered in his honor at the Kalayjian Hall at the Diocesan Headquarters.
The primacy of Archbishop Hovnan has thus far gained its own recognizable characteristics: • Church and administrative reorganization • Securing and preparing candidates for the priesthood • Instruction in the Christian religion and ethics • Regular conferences and lectures for the clergy • New plans with the parishes for speedy implementation and follow-up • Lively and quick enforcement of decisions • Granting of medals to benefactors of the church and community workers within the Diocese Yes, these are the obvious characteristics of Archbishop Hovnan's church mission and national labors, because the Armenian Church is in the 3rd millennium and has its contemporary needs.
6602 Yes, from the first day of his primacy, Archbishop Hovnan Derderian was aware of the many needs of the Diocese, particularly in view of the fact that the large Armenian community of Los Angeles is considered to be the largest Armenian community outside of Armenia and is made up of America Armenians, immigrants from the various Middle Eastern countries and Armenian immigrants from former Soviet countries.
He is working on general plans for immediate implementation. He is carrying out plans for Diocesan, church, liturgical, ethnic, cultural, and instructional publications as well as working on inter-church relations.
It is to this end that he has made new church and pastoral assignments for parishes and communities. As a means of encouraging the priests and encouraging them to further accomplishments, he has granted the title of archpriest to a number of the Diocesan clergy. He has ordained deacons and sub-deacons. He has established new mission parishes [See the appropriate section of this volume].
Also, during his primacy, the Western Diocese has a continuing television program featuring spiritual, church, religious and cultural topics. This television program is shown in the Los Angeles area on a regular basis.
He gives strong impetus to ecumenical activities and inter-church and inter-faith activities. He pays particular attention to our sister Assyrian and Coptic Church relations. Along with these, he pursues ecumenical relations with the Roman Catholic Church and the Anglican-Episcopalian Church, always fostering mutually helpful relations and meetings.
He directed special attention and attempted to re-structure and strengthen the youth movement and its activities and attached various missions to them both within the Diocese and in Armenia - the Sanahin Institute, Christian Youth Mission to Armenia, Brighter Future for Armenia, Etchmiadzin Children's Fund, and Mer Doon [Our Home]. He has also endeavored to strengthen the Western Diocese Endowment Fund and the Armenian Church Youth Organization [ACYO]. In the same way, he has given impetus to and pursued the publication of books dealing with religion, the Church, and liturgical topics, as well as prayer books and books of sermons..
He exhibits the same interest and persistence in the education of candidates for the priesthood, their preparation for pastoral life and the securing of proper financial assistance for them, as well as their university preparation.
With great interest, he has indicated a gap in the achievement of cultural programs within the Diocese. He has also formed the Armenian Professional Society whose purpose it is to encourage and financially assist aspiring and promising Armenian students.
For those clergy serving in the Western Diocese, he has organized beneficial lectures and conferences.
He has organized the Diocese's Arakel and Shahke Aga-Sarkisian Library, having it properly arranged and organized and securing new volumes. The official opening of this Library was on June 6, 2005 and was conducted by His Holiness Karekin II during his second pontifical visit to the Western Diocese. He also established the Baydzar Turpanjian Book Store which was officially opened on June 15, 2007 by Archbishop Hovnan Derderian.
Along with all this, he honored with patriarchal encyclicals and various medals the benefactors of the Diocese and the Church and community cultural leaders.
With great ability, he organized the building of the Diocesan Cathedral which is to be built adjacent to the existing Diocesan Headquarters. The actual building is scheduled to begin sometime during the months of September-October, 2007. The official and most beautiful groundbreaking services were conducted on June 4, 2005 by His Holiness Karekin II, Catholicos of All Armenians, with the presence and participation of other Archbishops and Bishops, clergy, as well as hundreds of the faithful.
For the history of the Diocese we feel it appropriate to record an event which took place during Archbishop Hovnan's primacy. The Very Rev. Dajad Yardemian, a former member of the Mekhitarist Brotherhood, by special arrangement and decision of His Holiness Karekin II, officially received the veghar [cowl] at Holy Etchmiadzin on February 19, 2004. Later, on March 2, 2004, he was officially received as a member of the clergy of the Western Diocese. One year later, he was appointed the Vicar General of the Western Diocese by Archbishop Hovnan Derderian and was appointed the Grand Sacristan of the proposed Diocesan Cathedral. The Primate has entrusted him with many responsibilities at the Diocese.
During Archbishop Hovnan's primacy, the year 2007 coincided with the 80th anniversary of the official establishment of the Western Diocese. His Eminence spared no effort to commemorate this historic event in the 6163 best manner possible on all levels - church, religious, and cultural. With eight decades of rich work, rich rewards, and a rich heritage. Eight decades from American Armenian Church life which positively created organization, religious and educational community improvement.
During the primacy of Archbishop Hovnan, the Western Diocese has had the opportunity to host the visit of His Holiness Karekin II, Catholicos of All Armenians, from October 1-2, 2007. His Holiness' previous pastoral visit to the Western Diocese was from June 1-20, 2005.
*** Dr. M.S. Kaprielian, in his article WHAT DOES THE AMERICAN ARMENIAN COMMUNITY LOSE AND WHAT DOES IT GAIN, written almost 100 years ago in 1912, with surprising conviction and faith has written his thoughts which even today have maintained their relevance and must be taken into consideration by individual Armenians living in America and by the public. Dr. Kaprielian says, "Convinced, I say that the most valuable gift that the Armenian race today can give to the civilized nations is its Church - the Armenian Church. With Her great Illuminator and imposing patriarchs, Her numberless martyrs and saints, Her endurance throughout history with steadfastness and martyrdoms, with Her simple yet majestic beauty and music and Her cheery aroma of the old, is capable of providing Christian inspiration and a strong liturgical influence for American Armenians. I have no doubt that the Armenian Church will be more loved here. . .if we first appreciate Her great value and recognize our obligations toward Her."
Our good wishes and prayers are that this important truth not be overlaid with dust and that the presence of the Armenian Church not be absent from our individual and community life, because
THE ARMENIAN CHURCH IS THE MIGHTY FORTRESS OF MY FOREFATHERS' FAITH, RAISED BY THEM FROM THE EARTH STONE BY STONE. - Vahan Tekeyan
The Very Rev. Dajad Dz.V. Yardemian
Diocesan Vicar General
[Translated by the Rev. Fr. Vartan Archpriest Kasparian]