2024 St. Nersess Graduate with seminary faculty and Primates (Jebejian Images)

Commencement Ceremony Held at St. Nersess Seminary

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ARMONK, N.Y. —  The 2024 St. Nersess Seminary Graduation ceremonies took place on Friday, May 17.

One student was from the Western Diocese of the Armenian Church of America, Deacon Garen Hamamjian.

For the first time, officiating at the graduation were both Bishop Mesrop Parsamyan, Primate of the Eastern Diocese and President of the St. Nersess Board of Directors, and Archbishop Hovnan Derderian, Primate of the Western Diocese and Vice President of the Board of Directors.

Fr. Mardiros Chevian, dean, opened the graduation program by welcoming the guests and introducing the graduate. “Hovnan Srpazan, we are handing back to you a fine graduate and future priest. Deacon Garen is a shining star,” commented Chevian.

Deacon Adam Bullock, representing the St. Nersess Alumni Association, welcomed Deacon Garen as a new alumnus, exclaiming, “he knows how to relate to people and wears his faith on his sleeve. I am proud to have served with you; with God’s grace you will succeed.”

Speaking to the graduate as a remaining student was Karo Boyadzhyan, who emphasized how he has known Deacon Garen for the past six years and was encouraged to serve in the Western Diocese and follow in his footsteps because of Deacon Garen’s support. “You have a passion of helping other seminarians and minister to those who need it,” shared Karo.

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Next Deacon Yervant Kutchukian, spiritual director and representing the faculty, addressed the graduate. “Deacon Garen, I will liken you to a sequoia seed which needs to be planted just right for it to germinate and flourish. You have already been cultivated… you came with gifts to the seminary and over the last four years we have watched you grow,” shared Deacon Yervant.

Dr. Ionut-Alexandru Tudorie, Academic Dean at St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary, spoke to the graduate, conveying his love and congratulations for completing his education over the past four years. “I am happy to share this special moment with you.”

Chevian next recognized the faculty in attendance from St. Nersess, including Fr. Karekin Kasparian, Fr. Daniel Karadjian, Fr. Arshen Aivazian, Dr. Roberta Ervine, Dr. Ani Shahinian, Dr. Jesse Arlen, Maestro Khoren Mekanejian, Deacon Yervant Kutchukian, and Andrew Kayaian.

He also recognized and thanked the board members in attendance for their support of the seminary, as they had just met for its fiscal and academic year-end meeting prior to the graduation, before introducing Richard Papalian, who serves as the treasurer.

“On behalf of the Board, and Karnig Durgarian, chairperson, congratulations! Deacon Garen, you are well equipped to go on your journey, and we are here for you to support you,” said Papalian.

Surprising the graduate with some sentiments was Nareg Kasian, his cousin from California. “This degree differs from your other degrees in terms of service and spirituality. May God continue to give you strength.”

Hamamjian shared his sentiments about his seminary journey. “Coming to St. Nersess was one of the best decisions I have ever made. We are asked as seminarians to identify our strengths and weaknesses and work on them. Mentally, I thank Dr. Roberta Ervine as a teacher and Deacon Yervant as my spiritual director; Spiritually, I thank Hovnan Srpazan for guiding me over the past 10 years and Mesrop Srpazan for being my 2nd Arachnort; and physically, I thank Fr. Mardiros for keeping me moving over the past four years,” added Hamamjian.

Before presenting the diploma, Archbishop Derderian shared his observations about Hamamjian. “This fine gentleman, standing in front of us, gifted with many talents and virtues, was a young boy when he made his strides at St. Leon Cathedral as an altar boy. Today, we celebrate his faithfulness, steadfastness and perseverance. Despite facing numerous challenges, Garen remained focused and persevered until the end. His achievement is a tribute to the blessed memory of his late mother, beloved Ani Kelejian Hamamjian, who instilled the love for God and His holy church in the heart of his son.”

“We are proud and happy to have four seminarians from the Western Diocese. We are excited for the prospective candidates who will eventually follow in the footsteps of their brothers by joining the seminary in the near future,” continued the archbishop.

Concluding the graduation was Bishop Mesrop Parsamyan who offered his personal reflections. “This commencement is just the beginning of your journey and the lives you will touch and transform,” he shared. “Lead others to Jesus Christ, in the rich Armenian tradition, and go to those in need, with courage and in faith by using your lessons at St. Nersess Seminary. God is always helping you!”

Following the program, Hamamjian’s family, who had traveled from California, and all the guests moved to a festive tent set up outside the Arsen Keleshian dining hall to enjoy dinner. During the meal, guests were invited to share their best wishes to Deacon Garen, including his sister, Tsoler Hamamjian.

The following day, May 18, the graduation took place at St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary. Bishop Parsamyan was present along with several orthodox hierarchs.

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