WASHINGTON — On Sunday, August 18, Archbishop Khajag Barsamian, Primate of the Eastern Diocese, visited the St. Mary Church. On the name day of the church, the Feast of the Assumption of the Holy Mother of God, the Primate celebrated the Divine Liturgy and performed the Blessing of Grapes service.
After the services, Barsamian presented the St. Nersess Shnorhali Medal to Jirair and Anahid Nishanian, longtime members of the Washington parish and benefactors at the local, diocesan and international levels. The Primate presented the medal to the Nishanians on behalf of Karekin II, the Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians.
In the pontifical encyclical accompanying the medal, Karekin II wrote: “As dedicated members of St. Mary Church of Washington, DC, you have offered, with love, your financial support towards the prosperity of the church. Your contributions testify to your love of church and nation.”
In presenting the honor, Barsamian extolled the efforts of the Nishanians on behalf of the church, including their renovation of the main altar of St. Mary Church and thanked them for their support of scholarships in Armenia. “For many years now, Jirair and Anahid have been providing moral and material support for the edification of our people,” he said.
Jirair Nishanian was born in Iran, the son of Genocide survivors. Educational opportunity brought him to the US, where he has had a career in engineering and commercial development. Motivated by the experiences his parents had during the Genocide, Jirair Nishanian was inspired to provide assistance to the children of Armenia — especially to orphans, the underprivileged and to promising students seeking higher education.
The Jirair Nishanian Foundation currently provides scholarships to nearly 60 students in the homeland. His foundation also works with the Fund for Armenian Relief in a number of charitable efforts. The couple has three children and five grandchildren.
“I feel humbled,” Jirair Nishanian said as he accepted the medal. “I did not expect any award, because I feel that it is my duty and responsibility to support my church, heritage and homeland.”
During the luncheon following the services, St. Mary’s pastor Rev. Hovsep Karapetyan called the occasion “a day of joy for all of us, as we celebrate the name day of our beloved home St. Mary Church.” He added, “Today is a day of personal renewal and re-commitment to St. Mary Church and to our Christian identity as children of the Holy Armenian Apostolic Church.”
Karapetyan also expressed appreciation to several diplomatic dignitaries at the luncheon: Robert Avetisyan, Nagorno-Karabagh’s representative to the US; Karen Israyelyan, first secretary at the Armenian Embassy and Colonel Mesrop Nazaryan, defense attaché at the embassy.
Jirair Nishanian’s nephew, Vazrik Nishanian, served as the master of ceremonies for the occasion. The afternoon also featured a performance by the Chamasian Sisters Trio. A traditional madagh meal was donated by the Yepremian family and the luncheon was sponsored by the Ghazarian family.