Fr. Abraham Malkhasyan, Yn. Karine and their children in front of the anniversary cake at the celebration

Banquet Celebrates 10th Anniversary of Pastor Fr. Abraham Malkhasyan of Bayside, NY

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By Dr. Lynn Cetin

BAYSIDE, N.Y. — On Saturday evening, October 22, the Armenian Church of the Holy Martyrs in Bayside, New York, held an elegant banquet in celebration of Fr. Abraham Malkhasyan’s 10th anniversary as its pastor.

The sold-out event of 200 was a joyful gathering of clergy, parishioners, and friends in celebration of Fr. Abraham’s “first decade of ministry” at Holy Martyrs and other recent milestone events in his life. In 2020, Fr. Abraham successfully defended his dissertation and received his Doctor of Ministry Degree from the prestigious Fordham University. He completed his degree while working full time at Holy Martyrs. In 2020, Fr. Abraham also celebrated his ten year ordination anniversary, for which he received a pectoral cross from Bishop Daniel Findikyan. Both achievements were not celebrated prior due to the covid pandemic. The evening of October 22 was a wonderful party to celebrate Fr. Abraham, the Malkhasyan family, and the entire Holy Martyrs community.

Seated, Yn. Karine Malkhasyan and Fr. Abraham Malkhasyan; standing from left, Gregory Saraydarian, Garo Sedorian, Bertha Sekdorian, Dr. Lynn Cetin

The celebratory banquet, catered entirely in-house by the Anniversary Committee, was co-chaired by Dr. Lynn Cetin and Tamar Kayserian. It was an evening of delicious and abundant food, many smiles, wonderful memories, and an outpouring of love for the Malkhasyan Family. The church auditorium was decorated in blue, silver and white, and transformed into a beautiful banquet hall complete with banquet chairs and china, a surprise to all! Diocesan Vicar Very Rev. Fr. Simeon Odabashian, Garo Sekdorian, former Parish Council chair who “found” Fr. Abraham in Florida over ten years ago, and Gregory Saraydarian, current Parish Council chair, spoke words of congratulations at the start of the night. Cetin, Anniversary Committee co-chair, served as the master of ceremonies and intertwined facts, words of gratitude, anecdotes, and humor throughout the evening.

“Der Hayr, as we spend the next few hours in celebration, we want you to realize that you have become part of the fabric of this amazing and challenging parish,” said Cetin. “You are now the second longest serving pastor of Holy Martyrs (after Fr. Vartan Megherian of blessed memory). Your humility, patience and messages of love have made your ministry endure and thrive in a parish that is hard to please. We are so multifaceted here, but you have managed to rise above and embrace us all. Tonight, we honor you with our love and gratitude. Please sit back and enjoy the celebration that is so well-deserved!”

From left, seated, Yn. Karine Malkhasyan, Fr. Abraham Malkhasyan, Very Rev. Fr. Simeon Odabashian; standing, from left, Dr. Lynn Cetin, Gregory Saraydarian

The evening of celebration highlighted the parish’s achievements over the last decade under Fr. Abraham’s leadership with a wonderful photo and video montage which included congratulatory messages from all the parish’s schools and auxiliaries.

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The video, produced by Alexander Vartanian, was a “Scrapbook of Memories” with photos from many successful events over the past decade: the addition of a parish elevator, dedication of a new plaza, renovation of the Youth Room and church halls, reinstating the very popular Vacation Bible School, starting a new youth choir and dance group, successfully renaming the street in the back of the church as “Armenia Way,” the blessing of a centennial khatchkar brought from Armenia, establishing a green space next to the church after finally knocking down a house, and most recently dedicating a new playground for our children…..just to name a few exciting moments in the history of Holy Martyrs. A surprise video of congratulations from Fr. Abraham’s family in Armenia was also a touching moment in an evening full of much love and appreciation for Fr. Abraham, Yn. Karine, Evelina (11), Armen (10), and Mariam (almost 4).

During the banquet, clergy, parishioners, and friends had the opportunity to mingle and take lots of photos. For many, this was the first large event they had attended since the covid lockdown, and many people had not seen each other in years. It was inspiring to see so much love and joy in the room! After dinner, the attendees were serenaded by professional violinist and parishioner, Diana Vasilyan, with a variety of Armenian pieces, including the encore crowd pleaser, Artsakh, (one of Fr. Abraham and Yn. Karine’s favorites). The Malkhasyan Trio (Fr. Abraham’s very talented children) brought the excited crowd to their feet in applause with a beautiful rendition of Yerevan Erepoonee. It was a priceless moment of pure joy as Dr. Lynn Cetin presented the children, our precious future, with sunflowers!

The parish gifted Fr. Abraham a new set of vestments made in Armenia, in honor of his 10th anniversary. The vestments – green, cream and gold, with appliques of the Apostles – were blessed and worn during Badarak the next day. The parish also honored Yn. Karine and the entire Malkhasyan Family with a special gift.

“We cannot forget that celebrating Der Hayr means celebrating the entire Malkhasyan family,” said Dr. Lynn Cetin. “Without Yn. Karine’s support and love, Der Hayr would not be complete. It takes a special woman to be behind the scenes guiding a pastor, during good days and challenging ones. We are grateful to you and your children for sharing Der Hayr with our community.”

Yn. Karine was presented a limited-edition Michael Aram foliated cross. The foliated cross has a personal meaning to Michael Aram. He states, “leaf shapes traditionally found at the tips of the cross is a representation that enforces the cross as a symbol brimming with life, potential and hope.” “This is the message of our parish,” said Dr. Lynn Cetin.  “We wish you all continuous good health, the inspiration to continue your ministry together and much hope and love as you spread the Word of God, together as a family with our parish. May you remember this day each time you look at this beautiful cross.”

Fr. Abraham Malkhasyan, Yn. Karine and their children at the celebration

A draft “Booklet of Blessings” was also presented to Fr. Abraham during the banquet, listing all donors and congratulatory messages received in his honor thus far. Due to the overwhelming response to the Booklet, donations and messages will be accepted until the end of November. The Booklet will soon be finalized with the addition of the photos from the celebratory weekend. Over $21,000 has been raised in Fr. Abraham’s honor to date.

Dr. Cetin reflected on a discussion with Fr. Abraham when he was asked about his first few weeks at Holy Martyrs:

“This was known to be a tough parish,” said Fr. Abraham “but I am always up for a challenge, so I knew that this was the place for me to be. I took that challenge upon myself with patience, love, self-control, humility and of course hope! Holy Martyrs is a very progressive parish. There are people in this parish who are from very different backgrounds, but I look at that as a gift. We can learn from everybody. We can build upon the strength of each other, and I knew from the very beginning that Holy Martyrs had so much potential as long as we accepted each other, and we worked together. It has been the foundation of my ministry to bring love into the center of everything that I do – to set aside jealousy and pride and to remember that we are all here to worship the Lord and bring healing to those who have been wounded.”

The evening concluded with a celebratory cake-cutting and words of love and gratitude from Fr. Abraham, who was visibly moved. “Tonight inspires me to do more,” said Fr. Abraham. “Der Hayr, you have loved us, comforted us, healed us, and made us better, and we thank you,” said Cetin.

No one wanted the night to end, as many lingered in the hall as the servers began cleaning up. The Anniversary Committee had anticipated this and welcomed everyone to an “After Party” in Kalustyan Hall, set up like a café. This was the perfect setting to relax after the banquet, congratulate Fr. Abraham and Yn. Karine personally and to dance to Armenian and American music. Many stayed until after 1 p.m. The following day, after Badarak, the faithful enjoyed a lavish celebratory fellowship hosted by the Anniversary Committee, all of the church’s schools (Day School, Saturday Armenian Language School, Sunday School) and auxiliaries. Children from the Sunday School presented Fr. Abraham with a photo signed by all the students and the Lousaper Choir sang their hearts out in celebration.

October 22-23 was a wonderful weekend of love and appreciation for Fr. Abraham, the Malkhasyan family, and the Holy Martyrs community. It will be one we will treasure in our memories for years to come.

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