Fr. Aved Terzian at the reception

Veteran Priest in Worcester Retires with Lavish Sendoff

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WORCESTER — On Friday, November 18, more than 350 guests attended a memorable event to honor Fr. Aved Terzian on his retirement from active service, after 38 years as the pastor and spiritual shepherd of the historic Armenian Church of Our Saviour.

First assigned to the parish as deacon in charge in 1982, and assuming the full role of pastor following his priestly ordination in 1984, Terzian has devoted his entire ministry to the service of the Worcester community. He is distinguished as the longest serving priest in the proud history of the very first Armenian Church in America.

His nearly four decades at the helm of the parish, and the leadership role he has played in the Eastern Diocese, were recalled in tributes from distinguished clergy, friends and parishioners throughout the evening at Pleasant Valley Country Club. These included Diocesan Legate Archbishop Vicken Aykazian, Diocesan Vicar Fr. Simeon Odabashian, Parish Council Chair Jay Kapur, and event chair Edward Atamian. Deacon Louis Mikitarian and Michael Mamishian read messages from retired pastor Fr. Garabed Kochakian and Fr. Arakel Aljalian of Watertown’s St. James Church.

Fr. Aved and Yn. Vivian Terzian, with their sons Raffi (left) and Onnig (right)

Fr. Terzian offered his own gracious, heartfelt remarks, recollecting his years of ministry in Worcester and giving counsel for the future. “As I have said nearly every Sunday for the past 38 years, may you continue to walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself for us, and continue offering our sacrifice to God,” he concluded. “God’s richest blessings on you all; I will dearly miss everyone, but I will carry you in my heart forever.”

Tribute Message from the Primate

As the official representative of Diocesan Primate Fr. Mesrop Parsamyan, Fr. Odabashian read a special message from the Primate that expressed the evening’s spirit of grateful admiration.

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“It would be impossible to sum up Der Aved’s importance to your community—indeed, to our entire Diocese and church—in just a few words,” Fr. Mesrop wrote. “Even as a young man, newly arrived in this country, he left a lasting impression on our Diocesan Center and St. Vartan Cathedral, where people still fondly remember the young Deacon Onnik who brought such energy and conviction to his service.”

“He had a special bond to the arachnort of that time: the great Archbishop Torkom Manoogian, later to become Patriarch of Jerusalem. And it was by his hand that Der Aved was ordained into the priesthood in 1984, receiving the priestly name that had once been Torkom Srpazan’s baptismal name. He has carried it with honor and dignity ever since.”

Noting the pastoral virtues of humility, charity, faith, courage and perseverance, Fr. Mesrop continued: “Under this spiritual vision, Der Aved undertook the leadership of this great parish in Worcester: the oldest in America, and still a supremely active and vital one. By God’s grace, Der Aved has seen his ministry blossom beautifully in four decades of service here.”

Jay Kapur and his wife, Rebecca

A Model of Christian Faith

The Primate also extolled the devotion of his wife, Vivian Terzian, whom he called “a true partner and support of Der Hayr’s ministry” through the years, leading the parish in many dimensions. “With grace and charity, Yeretzgin has been a model of Christian faith to people in this parish, and indeed throughout our Diocese. So many people regard her as a mentor and friend, and she has been a blessing in our community life,” wrote the Primate.

In the course of the evening, the parish revealed that a plaque in Yn. Vivian’s honor would be permanently mounted in the church’s Sunday School area, as a tribute to her devotion to the parish’s outreach ministry to children, and her foundation of its “Babies and Toddlers” program.

Onnig Terzian, son of Sima and Ara Terzian, was born in 1955 and resided in Istanbul, Turkey where he attended the Esayan Armenian elementary school and served as an acolyte (tbir) at the Holy Resurrection Armenian Church. He established friendships with several other Armenians and together they enjoyed playing soccer.

At the age of 14, he and 55 young Armenian boys departed their homes in Turkey to continue their education at the St. James Monastery of the Armenian Patriarchate in Jerusalem. After graduating with high honors from the Jarankavorats (high school), he received a four-year scholarship to attend Haigazian College in Lebanon.

Having yet to make the commitment to become a priest, he planned to go to Lebanon with the aspiration of earning a teaching degree. Unfortunately, his plan was interrupted by the outbreak of civil war in Lebanon and consequently, with no choice, he returned home to Istanbul.

As he was no longer a student, Onnig was obligated by law to begin a two-year period of mandatory military service in the Turkish Army.

A close friend and fellow seminarian from Jerusalem, Deacon Bedros Sarkissian, who was enrolled at the St. Nersess Seminary in New York, spoke to the Primate on Onnig’s behalf. Subsequently, it was at the Primate’s invitation that Onnig, at the age of 19, came to the United States in February 1975.

With no family here in America, he lived at the Diocesan Complex in New York. Archbishop Torkom Manoogian, Armenian Patriarch of Jerusalem, who at that time was the Primate of the Eastern Diocese of the Armenian Church of America, played an influential role in Onnig’s life and decision to become a priest.

In 1978, on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of St. Vartan Cathedral, Onnig was ordained a deacon by Archbishop Manoogian. As time passed, he grew very close to Archbishop Manoogian who became like a second father to him by monitoring his education, social maturity, and spiritual development. Onnig then proceeded to earn his Bachelor’s Degree at Concordia College in Bronxville, NY, and in 1979, he continued his studies at the General Theological Seminary.

While working on his Master’s Degree, he accompanied the Primate at many events and religious functions. During this time, he was appointed Director of the Avaks (Senior Citizens) program at the Diocese. This program served as a model for subsequent Avaks programs that were established throughout the Diocese. He was also appointed Deacon in Charge of the Northern Westchester Parish where he performed Sunday services.

He earned his Master’s Degree in Divinity from General Theological Seminary in 1982. After graduation, he came to Worcester with the then Very Rev. Yesnik Balian and began to serve the Armenian Church of Our Saviour.

On June 2, 1984, Deacon Onnig married Vivian (Vartoukian) at St. Vartan Cathedral with the Primate presiding. Six weeks later, Deacon Onnig was ordained into the Holy Priesthood by his spiritual mentor, Archbishop Manoogian. Following the tradition of the Armenian Church, the Primate was given the honor of choosing the newly ordained priest’s name. He named him Aved, which is a shortened version of the Primate’s own birth name Avedis. Father Aved and Yeretzgin have two sons; Onnig (given his father’s birth name), born in 1985, and Raffi who was born in 1988.

As the longest serving pastor of the Armenian Church of Our Saviour, Der Aved has overseen many momentous occasions: the 100th Anniversary of the first ArmenianChurch in America, the 50th Anniversary of the Church being located on Salisbury Street, and the 1988 Armenian Earthquake Relief Effort which resulted in the collection of medical supplies, equipment, clothing, and $850,000.

During his tenure, Der Aved coordinated the restoration and renovation of the Church and its facilities; he also served as a catalyst for the establishment of the Memorial Endowment Fund which has generated a continuous flow of income for the Church.

Terzian has worked with other Armenian clergy and lay leaders in the promotion of Armenian Unity which has resulted in the Armenian community coming together for Genocide Commemorations, Christmas Eve Services, and the creation of the Greater Worcester Armenian Chorale.

He has also worked closely with non-Armenian church leaders in order to develop an Ecumenical Spirit within our Church. He has established close relationships with the city’s mayors as well as Massachusetts state legislators.

Fr. Aved Terzian gets a warm greeting at the reception.

Terzian has nurtured and maintained a positive relationship with the church’s neighbor, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, at which he has offered commencement prayers and provided crisis counseling in the nearby fraternities. In 1984 he participated in a Task Force that would introduce Holocaust studies to the curriculum in the Worcester Public Schools.

He has served on the Community Partnership Committee for Police and Clergy, the City Manager’s Coalition on Bias and Hate, the St. Nersess Seminary Board, and as an advisor to the Dean of Students at Clark University.

Looking back over the past 25 years, Terzian believes that some of his greatest accomplishments have been the creation of a closer relationship between his congregation and God, a more widespread understanding of our Armenian Faith, an appreciation for our rich Armenian culture, and a spirit of cooperation in working for the church.

From left, Fr. Vasken Kouzouian, Archbishop Vicken Aykazian and Fr. Mampre Kouzouian

Never content with his ministry, he strives to welcome new ideas and foster new programs while keeping long honored traditions. Terzian said he is thankful that the people of Worcester have embraced him and his family, and have been generous with their love and respect.

Being a priest is not a job, but is a calling that is not easily described or understood. Archbishop Vicken Aykazian said in his sermon following a reception and banquet held on November 18 in Terzian’s honor, “Fr. Aved’s ministry will not end on December 31, 2022. He will no longer be your pastor, but his ministry will continue as an instrument of the Lord.”

His final service at the Church of Our Saviour will take place on December 24.

 

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