Executive Council Hosts Consultation Meeting at the Prelacy with Representatives of Parishes

By the invitation of the Executive Council, on Wednesday, October 10, 2018, a consultation meeting took place at the Western Prelacy “Dikran and Zarouhie Der Ghazarian” Hall presided by H.E. Archbishop Moushegh Mardirossian, Prelate, and with the participation of Parish Pastors, Delegates, and members of parishes’ Boards of Trustees, Ladies Guilds, and the Prelacy Ladies Auxiliary. The meeting was called to discuss future endeavors, concerns, and the exchange ideas and information. Given that 2018 marks the 60th anniversary of the Northern American Prelacy and 45th anniversary of the Western Prelacy, the meeting was dedicated to these two milestones and former Executive Council member Deacon Mark Shirin, who presented a lecture on this topic.

The program began with prayer and the Prelate’s welcoming remarks. His Eminence stated that the meeting was called to bring together members of our parishes as one family to share concerns and suggestions, to revitalize endeavors and draft future plans, and to mark the two anniversaries, expressing hope that the meeting would serve to renew our allegiance to the Holy See of Cilicia and impel us in our mission as one unit, Prelacy-parish-school.

On behalf of the Executive Council Chair, Mr. Garo Eshgian welcomed the representatives of the parishes, especially those who had traveled from far-away regions, hoping that the discussions would be productive for all.

Executive Council member Mr. Ara Shabanian presented ideas and plans to revitalize endeavors, and drawing on his experience as a Board of Trustees member spoke on means of engaging the youth and faithful. A question and answer session followed.

Religious Council Chair, Very Rev. Fr. Muron Aznikian introduced the keynote speaker, a former Seminarian with years of service to our Church as a Deacon, Delegate and Board of Trustees member at Holy Trinity Church of Fresno and Executive Council member.

Deacon Mark first gave an overview of the history of the Holy See of Cilicia in the early 20th century when Catholicos Sahag II was exiled along with his flock, secured the seat of the Holy See of Cilicia at its current location in Antelias in 1929, established new Prelacies, and despite his advanced age embarked on a massive undertaking of new construction and reorganizing the Holy See.

Next, Deacon Mark spoke on the establishment of the Holy See of Cilicia Prelacy in Northern America, noting that members of the Cilician Brotherhood have been a presence in these lands since 1911, participating in the inauguration and consecration of Holy Trinity Church in Fresno in 1914, and in later years with a member of the Cilician Brotherhood being elected Locum Tenens in Boston. Deacon Mark noted that the Northern American Prelacy was officially established in 1957 with the Pontifical Encyclical of Catholicos Zareh I in response to an appeal by the Representative Assembly of Churches united under the Holy See of Cilicia. In 1959, the Representative Assembly elected Bishop Hrant Khatchadourian as Locum Tenens, who served until 1961 at which time the first election of the Prelate took place.

Deacon Mark then spoke on the conditions which precipitated the establishment of the Western Prelacy. Beginning in the 1960’s, the Armenian population in American grew rapidly, especially in Los Angeles, and even more following the revolution in Iran. It was no longer practical for the Prelacy headquartered in the East Coast to oversee the population in the West Coast. Thus, in 1972, Delegates appealed to Catholicos Khoren I to establish a separate Prelacy in the West Coast, for which Very Rev. Fr. Sumbat Lapajian was elected as the first Prelate. Deacon Mark spoke in depth on the service and achievements of subsequent Prelates in the realms of new construction, publications, education, and more.

As mentioned above, the first Prelate was Very Rev. Fr. Sumbat Lapajian (later Archbishop), who served from 1972-1977. He also served as pastor of Holy Cross from 1961 and was Vicar General during the tenure of Archbishop Hrant Khatchadourian. During that time the Prelacy operated out of an office in Los Angeles. During his tenure the Orange County and Hollywood parish communities were established, and Glendale’s St. Mary’s parish and school were organized.

The second Prelate was Very Rev. Fr. Yeprem Tabakian, later Archbishop, who served from 1977-1985. He initiated the purchase of a property in Hollywood, which served as the Prelacy’s headquarters for the next twenty-five years. During his tenure the new campus of Ferrahian School in Encino was built, Krouzian-Zekarian-Vasbouragan School and complex in San Francisco were built, the construction of St. Garabed Church in Hollywood was completed, Holy Cross Church relocated to Montebello and was rededicated as a Cathedral, and St. Mary’s Church was purchased. He conducted the blessing of the foundation of Forty Martyrs Church in Orange County, and initiated the publication of textbooks and newsletters.

The third Prelate was Archbishop Datev Sarkissian, who served from 1985-1995. He had previously served as Prelate of Aleppo and Dean of the Seminary. During his tenure the inauguration and consecration of Forty Martyrs Church and the new St. Mary’s Church took place, as well as the opening of Tavlian School in Pasadena and Tufenkian School in Glendale. He closely followed the publication of Armenian textbooks and the progress of our schools, and ordained four priests.

The fourth and current Prelate, Very Rev. Fr. Moushegh Mardirossian, later Archbishop, began his service within the Western Prelacy in 1982, serving as pastor of St. Garabed and Forty Martyrs Churches. He served as Vicar General from 1991-1995, Locum Tenens from 1995-1996, and Prelate since 1996). He previously held executive positions at the Catholicosate in Antelias, and served as parish pastor in Thessaloniki, Greece. He received Episcopal ordination in 1997, and was elevated to Archbishop in 2003.

Deacon Mark noted that it is not feasible to fully articulate all of the current Prelate’s achievements in a limited amount of time, noting that he was unprecedentedly elected to a sixth term in 2016. Among his major accomplishments are the purchasing and construction of the current Prelacy headquarters, St. Sarkis Church in Pasadena, St. Garabed Church in Las Vegas, monuments at the Prelacy and in parishes, new section of Ferrahian School, renovation of ARS Ashkhen Pilavajian Pre-School, construction of Pilibos School’s library and gym, and more. The Prelate has initiated the formation of new parishes, launched the “Spiritual Spectrum” newsletter and the publication of a great number of textbooks, religious and other books, expanded the Prelacy’s reach to the public through the weekly television program, website, and Facebook, established the Lousavorich choir, forged deep relations with community institutions, and more. Deacon Mark concluded by noting that by the invitation of the Prelate and Executive Council, Very Rev. Fr. Torkom Donoyan began his service within the Western Prelacy in March of 2017, was later appointed Vicar General, and in April of 2018 received Episcopal ordination.

The Prelate commended Deacon Mark for his thorough presentation, as well as the Religious Council, Executive Council, and all those who faithfully serve within our parishes. He announced that a commemorative booklet is in the works marking the two anniversaries, which will feature the history of our churches and schools. He spoke also on forthcoming celebrations marking the anniversaries, including a banquet in San Francisco, joint Divine Liturgy, a concert in early December, and local events. The Prelate concluded by stressing that our Prelacy operates on the principles of action, not words, as well as unanimity, adding that such events are opportunities to develop ourselves as ambassadors of the Holy See of Cilicia and faithful servants of our Prelacy’s mission.

The evening concluded with the singing of Cilicia.

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