Grace Shnorhig Petoyan, Yn. Talin Petoyan, Rev. Fr. Sarkis Petoyan, Archbishop Hovnan Derderian, and Godparents Chris and Margaret Yaldezian

Fr. Petoyan Celebrates 20 Years of Ordination

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PASADENA, Calif. — More than 600 faithful gathered for a special service and luncheon marking the symbolic 20th anniversary of the ordination and consecration of Archpriest Rev. Sarkis Petoyan, the parish priest of the St. Gregory Armenian Apostolic Church of Pasadena on Sunday, September 9.

Marking the milestone occasion of Petoyan’s 50th anniversary of service to the Armenian Apostolic Church, Archbishop Hovnan Derderian, Primate of the Western Diocese of the Armenian Church of America, presided over the divine liturgy, where he reflected on the ministry of the honoree, “a good and faithful servant.”

“He is a brave shepherd who has remained true and loyal to carrying out the mission of the Armenian Apostolic Church,” said Derderian.

In recognition of Petoyan’s commitment, which traces back to his childhood, Derderian announced that a cross-stone khachkar will be mounted to the facade of the St. Leon Armenian Cathedral in Burbank. Praising Yeretzgin Talin Petoyan’s dedication as a Sunday School teacher and superintendent over the last 30 years, Derderian presented her with an icon of the Holy Mother of God and acknowledged her as a genuine partner to Fr. Sarkis in their pastoral mission. He gifted their daughter Grace Shnorhig, a student at St. Gregory-Hovsepian School and St. Gregory Sunday School, with a wooden cross from Armenia.

“Fr. Sarkis is a wonderful pastor dedicated to his community,” said Derderian. “He has given his love and dignity to his parish and to our church life.”

An informative and celebratory program followed services in Geragos Hall, where Deacon Armand Yerjanian served as master of ceremonies, welcoming guests alongside Deacon Vahe Charkhutian. Diocesan Council Chairman Joseph Kanimian, Esq. remarked during his toast that Petoyan is a compassionate role model who is loved and well-respected.

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Reflecting on his childhood growing up in the San Fernando Valley as one of the first Armenian families there in the 1960s, Petoyan recalled the significance of the church during his youth.

 

“Since birth my parents brought me to church every single Sunday where I was very active in parish life,” he said. By the age of 7, he recalled, he was serving on the altar and became heavily involved in the Armenian Church Youth Organization, among other Diocesan programming. “So it was a very natural progression for me to take an interest in the priesthood.”

Despite embarking on a career in banking after graduating from college, Petoyan felt unfulfilled and knew he had to pursue his calling.

“I knew by the time I was 29 years old that I wanted to fulfill my dream of becoming a priest,” said Petoyan, a third-generation Armenian-American who studied at Echmiadzin to learn the Armenian language. “I have neither job nor career, but a calling.”

He went on to receive his Master of Divinity degree from St. Nersess Armenian Theological and St. Vladimir Orthodox Seminary in 1995. After marrying Talin Mermerian, he was ordained to the priesthood in 1998 by Archbishop Vatche Hovsepian, then-Primate of the Western Diocese, under the guidance of his godparents, Chris and Margaret Yaldezian, who were present at the luncheon.

Following his ordination, Petoyan served as parish priest of the St. John Armenian Church of San Francisco for 11 years and for the last decade has been ministering the St. Gregory Armenian Church of Pasadena. Although based in California, the honoree and his wife actively aid Armenia, having led 10 pilgrimages there while raising and distributing more than $400,000 for a variety of charitable projects, including assistance to impoverished parish priests in remote corners, building homes for homeless families with Habitat for Humanity, providing direct aid to Warm Hearth, a home for special needs orphans, as well as supporting the Kavar Orphanage and Echmiadzin Children’s Fund, among many other noteworthy projects.

Petoyan said he sees himself as a representative of Christ within his parish and society as a whole, remarking that priests play a “critical role” in maintaining both the Armenian and Christian identity.

“The world is changing, society and culture are changing and America is changing,” he said. “I’m called to preach, teach and live a Christ-loving life before the faithful in my charge.”

In addition to serving Armenia and their flock, the couple strongly supports the Western Diocese. They have written a four-year, age-appropriate curriculum for the Diocesan Summer Camp, prepared service books for rituals celebrated in the Armenian Church, including Holy Week, and produced three professional documentaries on the Armenian Church.

“We do not need golden chalices, we need golden priests,” said Derderian in his concluding remarks. “And Fr. Sarkis is a golden priest serving our Diocese.”

“It’s impossible to separate an Armenian from an Armenian Church,” said Petoyan. “I became a priest because I love God and I love people and I love the Armenian people.”