For the first time ever, the Diocesan Assembly convened on May 7, 2021, virtually. Led by the Diocesan Primate Abp. Hovnan Derderian, the delegates of the 94th Assembly were invited to honor the memory of the martyred heroes of the 44-day Artsakh War as well as the departed souls of Diocesan pillars Armen Hampar and Charles Tateosian, who entered their eternal rest last year.
The Assembly was chaired by Dn. Dr. Varoujan Altebarmakian. The Vice-Chair was Dr. Vahram Biricik. Archpriest Fr. Sarkis Petoyan served as the Secretary.
The day’s spiritual message (Mark 8:1-9) was delivered by the Primate. “What we see and learn in this Gospel narrative is about the mercy of Christ, our Lord. He then calls on His disciples to faithfully fulfill the will of God,” stated His Eminence in part. “We all are graced with Divine gifts and have the duty to share them with our people to enrich their spirituality. The spiritual bread that God has graced upon us can satisfy the multitudes. Therefore, let this Assembly be the time of spiritual rebirth despite the fact that we all have been challenged with the pandemic and the war in Artsakh,” he continued.
The Primate’s annual report was presented to the Assembly. His Eminence noted how despite the pandemic, the Diocese had mobilized humanitarian fundraising efforts through the collective efforts of the parishes to reaching out to those families who had been impacted or displaced as a result of the Artsakh War. Archbishop Derderian emphasized that such humanitarian missions will be continuous in nature.
We present excerpts from the Primate’s message to the Assembly.
“The core mission at the Western Diocese of the Armenian Church of North America has been and will always be the preservation of our ancestral Christian faith. At the heart of our collective mission have been the Diocesan clergy, the Diocesan Council, the Diocesan staff, all Parishes, and undoubtedly, all the subcommittees who have realized the vision and creed of this venerable institution. We are entrusted to enrich the lives of the faithful with the divine love and peace of our Resurrected Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. In doing so, we will create and safeguard the living, breathing, and thriving Church.
Our message to the Diocesan Assembly this year will be different from those of previous years. In the last two years (2019-2020), the activities of the Western Diocese were published and disseminated on the Diocese’s social media platforms.
We can assure you that we have been able to realize our missions despite the enormous challenges created and posed by the pandemic, as well as the brutal war in Artsakh and the political instability in the Motherland.
Beloved faithful in Christ, in our Christmas message, the year 2021 was dedicated as the “Year of Prayer.” Prayer is the doorway and the mirror to our soul. Its reflection is the path to a just, noble, and righteous life, one lived with Christ our Lord.
In the words of the Resurrected Lord, “Faith moves mountains.” Let us abide by and adhere to the words of God so that we may open the doors to a new life, and preserve a prosperous institution. Let us emulate the life of Christ.”
The Diocesan Primate expressed his wholehearted gratitude to Rev. Fr. Vazken Movsesian who was honored as the Priest of the Year, highlighting Fr. Vazken’s commitment and tireless efforts in carrying the mission of the Western Diocese.
Referencing to the expansion of the Western Diocese, Archbishop Derderian informed the delegates about the upcoming consecrations of the church complexes in San Diego and Sacramento. The Primate also highlighted the construction projects of other church properties in the Diocese including St. Mary Armenian Church of Costa Mesa, Holy Apostles Armenian Church in Crescenta Valley, St. Apkar Armenian Church in Arizona, and St. Gregory the Illuminator Armenian Church in Pasadena. Given the restrictions posed by the pandemic, the Primate’s visitations had been limited to mission parish communities. Archbishop Derderian noted that the faithful of these communities had been keenly following the church services remotely as they had been broadcast online on the Diocese’s Facebook page.
The preparation of Priesthood-Candidates and the Stewardship mission of the Western Diocese was also highlighted by the Primate who spoke about the importance of educating the next wave of the clergy of the Diocese.
The Primate also informed the Assembly of the global fundraising initiative for the renovation of the Cathedral of the Mother See of Holy Etchimiadzin. Pastoral visits to Dioceses around the world were made to lead the massive global fundraiser to preserve the world’s oldest church structure and the Holy of Holies for Armenians around the world.
The Primate commended the selfless service of all Diocesan sub-committee members, noting their unrelenting dedication despite the numerous challenges and obstacles in the past year.
In his closing remarks, the Primate stated “We praise the Almighty for the bountiful graces bestowed upon us. We express our wholehearted gratitude to His Holiness Karekin II, Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians for his pastoral guidance and care. We are grateful to the Diocesan clergy for their dedicated service to the flock of Christ, the Diocesan Council Chair Judge Adrienne Krikorian and the Diocesan Assembly Chair Dr. Varoujan Altebarmakian, who have been pillars of the Western Diocese for decades both at the Western Diocese as well as in Armenia.”
“We express our genuine appreciation to the Diocesan Executive Director Deacon Harout Markarian for his unwavering service and the Diocesan staff, the pastor of St. Leon Armenian Cathedral the Rev. Fr. Khajag Shahbazyan and the Parish Council, the Diocesan benefactors and donors. By the grace of God, we vow to serve Christ’s flock with humility and unrelenting dedication,” Archbishop Derderian continued.
The Primate’s report concluded with Psalm 25 “My hope lies in You, O Lord. I shall never be ashamed.”
“Christ is our source of hope and protection. A meaningful life is one of service, glorifying our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.”
Elections were held and the following individuals were elected to serve on the Diocesan Council.
- Derik Ghookasian (Chair)
- Vahe Skenderian (Vice-Chair)
- Ara Der Sarkissian (Treasurer)
- Silva Katchiguian (Secretary)
- Very Fr. Sasoon Dz. V. Zumrookhdian
- Fr. Mesrop Ash
- Fr. Vazgen Boyajyan
- Fr. Gomidas Zohrabian
- Dn. Alex Esibov
- Michael Missakian
- Vartan Nazerian
- Marty Dakessian
- Pamela Abaci
- Rafi Hagopian