By Aram Arkun
WATERTOWN — Very Rev. Fr. Garegin Hambardzumyan, dean of the Gevorkian Seminary of the Mother See of Holy Echmiadzin, visited the United States last month to attend the annual Diocesan Assembly and Clergy Conference in Cleveland as a representative of Echmiadzin. While in the Boston area, he served as a guest celebrant and homilist on May 15 at Holy Trinity Armenian Church in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The educated and well-spoken young priest spoke with the Mirror about his background and plans for the seminary.
He was born in 1986 in the city of Kapan, Armenia, but he and his family left to Russia, where he began his schooling. They returned eventually at the end of the 1990s, and he continued his education in Armenia. At that time, he said, “my family was not very church-going, but was very pious, in the Soviet way.” He learned journalism in one of the afterschool children’s centers run by the Armenian General Benevolent Union (AGBU) and the Armenian Church, and was in the youth group.
There was a soup kitchen run by the two organizations, and when the Divine Liturgy was celebrated for the mostly elderly clients, he participated as an acolyte. He said, “I found that this service brought me the greatest happiness, for I obtained experience in two things, in prayer life and in the service that grew out of prayer life. Some weeks the elderly could not come to the soup kitchen so I would bring them food to their homes … I learned what prayer is, and the service that arises from prayer, which is the embodiment or crystallization of prayer in our daily life.”
As he learned more, one day a cleric came and asked whether he might want to attend seminary. He was about to graduate high school and initially was planning to study journalism at Yerevan State University, but he felt his calling was through the church. Six years of study, from 2002 to 2008, at the Gevorkian Seminary, where he was ordained a deacon at the end of 2006.