Cambridge MA – Sunday, October 26, was a day filled with joy and celebration at Holy Trinity Armenian Church of Greater Boston when the community celebrated the 20th Anniversary of the ordination of their pastor, Fr. Vasken Kouzouian, and the ordination of five sub-deacons of the parish.
October 26 was the Feast of the Discovery of the Holy Cross where our Church Fathers had written beautiful hymns for this feast, and the six clergymen who were present at the morning service beginning at 8:00am, filled the sanctuary with the ancient hymns of our people praising for our Lord Jesus Christ. The beautiful Sharagans were sung as the clergymen used to sing in the centuries old monasteries lifting up their hearts and filling the church with the prayers of our Church Fathers.
The Divine Liturgy was celebrated by the pastor, surrounded by thirteen deacons, sub-deacons, and acolytes of the church. The choir sang beautifully, augmented by members of the Junior Choir, former choir members, and many clergymen. The services were presided over by the Primate of the Eastern Diocese, His Eminence Archbishop Khajag Barsamian, and His Eminence Archbishop Vicken Aykazian, Diocesan Legate and Ecumenical Officer. The sermon of the day was offered by the Primate, who at the conclusion of his words, bestowed upon the pastor a floral pilon (Phelonion) in appreciation for Fr. Vasken’s devotion and leadership to the Diocese of the Armenian Church of America and the parishes and ministries where he has served. The floral pilon was underwritten by Fr. Vasken’s Ordination Godparents, Mr. and Mrs. Gerald Boghosian of Lexington, MA. The Primate concluded the church services with the ordination of five sub-deacons – Oscar Derderian, III, Stephen Hollisian, Harry Lang, Gregory and Mark Torosian, all trained through the devoted services of Deacon Gregory Krikorian of the parish. Family members, friends, parishioners, and the over-whelming youth of Holy Trinity’s ACYOA and Church Schools filled the large sanctuary which added to the overall love for the pastor and five young men ordained on that day.
With a capable Celebration Committee in place for several months, chaired by Lisa Stephanian Burton, they had worked tirelessly to ensure a fitting tribute and appropriate celebration to honor their beloved pastor. Working with Lisa on the Committee were Gregory A. Kolligian, Jr., Parish Council Chairman, Janice Dorian, Lisa Kolligian Dorian, Nancy D. Kasarjian, Yeretzgin Arpi Kouzouian, Carol Krikorian, Deacon Gregory Krikorian, Danielle Malconian, Anna Margaryan, Barbara Surabian, Christopher Tashjian, and Cheryl Balian Scaparrotta, Biographer.
Weeks before the deadline, the Celebration was sold out with approximately four hundred parishioners and friends from the greater Boston area, Canada, New York, Philadelphia, New Jersey, and California present to show their love and respect for Fr. Vasken, including sixteen clergymen from the Armenian Church, the President and Dean of the Episcopal Divinity School of Cambridge, The Very Rev. Katherine Hancock Ragsdale, the Rev. Laura Everett, Executive Director, Massachusetts Council of Churches, and Brian Corr, Executive Director, Cambridge Peace Commission. A beautiful and colorful commemorative booklet, prepared by the Committee and office staff, was placed at every table setting, as well as a commemorative ornament gifted by the family. The program began with the voices of Holy Trinity’s ACYOA Seniors and Juniors filling the Charles and Nevart Talanian Cultural Hall with the National Anthems of the United States and the Republic of Armenia, accompanied on the piano by Nune Hakobyan, and trumpet by Dan Teager.
Welcome remarks were offered by the Chairman of the Parish Council, Gregory A. Kolligian, Jr., who warmly expressed his joy of working with Fr. Vasken for the betterment of the parish. “On behalf of the entire Holy Trinity parish, I want to congratulate Der Vasken on the 20th Anniversary of his ordination. Today not only gives us the opportunity to celebrate this milestone, but it also affords us the occasion to celebrate all the wonderful ways Der Vasken has affected our lives and the lives of our families.” James M. Kalustian, Chairman of the Diocesan Council, member of the Supreme Spiritual Council, and deacon of Holy Trinity served as Master of Ceremonies, interspersing warm personal vignettes and facts throughout the day.
A musical tribute was offered by Fr. Vasken’s sister, Joyce Arpie Kouzouian, accompanied at the piano by Nune Hakobyan. Loving remarks and celebratory Toast was made by Committee Chairman, Lisa Burton, who reflected on the accomplishments of her childhood friend and now pastor on his 20 years of service. Dinner started with the Invocation offered by His Eminence Archbishop Vicken Aykazian, past-president of the National Council of Churches of Christ, Member of the Governing Board of the World Council of Churches, and President of Christian Churches Together. A delicious dinner was enjoyed by all.
Following the dinner, tribute remarks were offered by Archbishop Vicken Aykazian, who also added his pride in how Yn. Arpi Kouzouian serves on the Governing Board of the National Council of Churches of Christ, USA. This was followed by a tribute made by Antranig Garibian, Esq., long-time friend of Fr. Vasken’s and fellow member of the Diocesan Council, who had traveled with his family from Philadelphia to be present at this Celebration. Anna Garabedian, Chairman of the St. Mark Armenian Church of Springfield, MA, where Fr. Vasken first served as pastor, spoke warmly about their days together and the work that he offered in the parish.
Remarks were made by the former pastor of Holy Trinity Church and father of Fr. Vasken, Fr. Mampre Kouzouian, who presented his son with a silver hand-cross originally gifted to him by his own mother at his ordination, and other liturgical family heir-looms.
A special tribute letter from His Beatitude Archbishop Nourhan Manougian, Armenian Patriarch of Jerusalem, was read by the Very Rev. Fr. Krikor Maksoudian, praising his efforts and expressing his congratulations to Fr. Vasken for his leadership and work in the Diocese of the Armenian Church, in Youth Ministry, and in parish life. At the conclusion of His Beatitude’s letter, a surprise bejeweled Pectoral Cross, made in Jerusalem, was presented to Fr. Vasken with these words: “On this occasion, I send you a Pectoral Cross so that its yoke may bond you to the Patriarchate of the Armenian Church of Jerusalem, and that in a way you become her ‘Ambassador.’ May you be one of the chosen and remain faithful to Sts. James.” The Primate then made the presentation of the cross by placing it around Fr. Vasken’s neck.
A unique highlight of the day was the active presence of Holy Trinity’s ACYOA Juniors and Seniors. In a collective and moving presentation the young parishioners of Holy Trinity lined the stage, each holding a one word placard, expressing what Fr. Vasken means to them and to the parish.
The Primate, in his remarks, tied the feast day of the Holy Cross to the service Fr. Vasken and his family have offered the Armenian Church spanning generations stating, “the family into which Der Vasken was born has repeatedly taken up the Cross of Christ and carried it forward in life,” referring to the family’s oral history that Holy Trinity’s pastor is the fifty-first priest in their lineage to serve the Armenian Church.
A former classmate of Fr. Vasken’s, the Rev. Fr. Sarkis Petoyan, traveled from Pasadena, California, to be present and speak about his classmate and dear friend on this day. “I feel doubly honored to speak today, inasmuch as I was a speaker at his ordination banquet in this very hall 20 years ago. Thank you Fr. Vasken, for you visit the sick and comfort those who mourn. You counsel the doubtful and give direction to those called to marriage. It’s not easy, but that’s what you do. You are a priest. You love God and people not because you are a priest. You are a priest because you first love God and people. Der Vasken, as the Holy Spirit directs you in the next 20 years of your ministry, rest assured: we stand with you side by side.”
A professional video about the life and ministry of Fr. Vasken was produced and presented by Ara Hollisian, Vice-chairman of the Parish Council. The video, which was narrated by family members, office staff of Holy Trinity, and the Chairman of the Parish Council, showed photos and videos from Fr. Vasken’s childhood through the twenty years since his ordination. Similarly, excerpts and tributes from parishioners’ congratulatory letters were shown on the main screen throughout the day.
Fr. Vasken warmly addressed the crowd, saying, “Dear friends, I thank you all for being a part of today, because you were all such an important part of these last 20 years. I am humbled and honored by your presence. I love each one of you. I love serving God through the Armenian Church. I love the fact that He ‘Called’ me — with all my flaws and my strengths to serve a Church that was here well before I was born, and will be here well after I’m gone. He must have known something I didn’t. As I look out among all of you filling this Hall, I think about tomorrow. It’s not my tomorrow, and it’s not your tomorrow. I am thinking about our tomorrow. We have grown closer over the years, and I look forward to sharing the stories of our lives in the years to come. God blessed me with wonderful parishioners over the years, and with a ministry I never would have imagined possible.”
According to the wishes of the pastor, the over $20,000 in gifts made on the occasion of his 20th Anniversary have been designated by Fr. Vasken to establish a “Youth Center” within the Holy Trinity parish. Many of the expenses of the celebration were generously underwritten by members of the parish.
This exceptional Celebration honoring Fr. Vasken was very uplifting for the pastor and parish who attentively followed to the very end.
The Celebration concluded with a closing prayer by His Eminence Archbishop Vicken Aykazian, followed by warm and personal moments shared between pastor and parishioner as they came to offer their personal congratulations.