St. Gregory the Illuminator Church of San Francisco Celebrates 50th Anniversary of Consecration

On the weekend of October 8, 2016, the Bay Area Armenian community came together for a two-day celebration of the 50th anniversary of the consecration of St. Gregory the Illuminator Church of San Francisco, which was presided over by H.E. Archbishop Moushegh Mardirossian, Prelate, and organized by the Parish Pastor, Board of Trustees, Ladies Guild, and 50th Anniversary Committee.

On the morning of Sunday, October 9, the Prelate celebrated Divine Liturgy and delivered the sermon at St. Gregory Church, assisted at the altar by Very Rev. Fr. Barouyr Shernezian and deacons. By the request of His Eminence, His Holiness Catholicos Aram I had sent a pontifical encyclical on this occasion, which was read during the service.

The Prelate then delivered his sermon, which he began by greeting and congratulating the parish family and wishing them many more anniversaries and greater successes to come. Reflecting on the historic celebration of the 20th anniversary of the consecration of His Holiness the week prior, the Prelate cited the Pontiff’s message, that “anniversaries are not merely occasions for thanksgiving and celebration, but opportunities to reflect on the past, on our failures and successes alike, to learn and grow from our mistakes, and to use the wisdom and experience gained to build a better and brighter future.” Thus, he urged the faithful to reflect on successes and shortcomings of the past fifty years and collectively take action to build a better and brighter future for the community. Speaking on the feast and invaluable legacy of our Holy Translators, the Prelate urged the faithful to serve in their spirit and example for the survival of our distinct religious and national identity for centuries more. Speaking on the critical situation in Aleppo, His Eminence concluded his message by calling for the community’s generous support to alleviate the suffering of our compatriots.

At the conclusion of the service, the Prelate, joined by fifty children with candles in hand, headed to the church courtyard where requiem service was held for all departed servants of St. Gregory Church and for the martyrs and victims in Aleppo. A cultural program followed at “Vasbouragan” Hall. Krouzian-Zekarian-Vasbouragan School students presented pieces dedicated to our Holy Translators and to St. Gregory Church’s 50th anniversary. The program concluded with the Prelate’s message and blessings.

The 50th anniversary banquet was held on Saturday evening at “Saroyan” Hall of the “Khatchatourian” Armenian Community Center with the participation of Bay Area clergy, former parish pastors of St. Gregory, representatives of community organizations, sponsors, and friends. On this occasion, long-time community members and benefactors Mr. and Mrs. Henry and Rita Khachaturian and Mr. and Mrs. Jirair and Serpoug Sarkissian were honored for their benevolence.

The program began with welcoming and congratulatory remarks by 50th Anniversary Committee Chair Dzovig Derounian. The invocation was delivered by the Prelate, who was joined by a number of clergymen from Bay Area Churches. Former Board Chairman and Master of Ceremonies Rostom Aintablian first congratulated the Prelate on his 20th anniversary as Prelate and 40th anniversary of ordination, then gave an overview of St. Gregory Church’s history and service. Current Board Chair, Dr. Garo Mirigian, lauded the vision and utmost dedication of the founders who established St. Gregory Church during the tense political and economic climate of the 1960’s, a feat that seemed impossible at the time.

For the cake-cutting, the first couple to be wed at St. Gregory, Mr. and Mrs. Garbis and Maida Bezdjian, were invited to do the honor. The evening also featured musical presentations by soprano Nadima Avakian, LARK Musical Society students, and Mark Ohannessian and Avedis Chalaganyan.

The awards ceremony followed. On behalf of the parish, the Prelate presented medals to Henry and Rita Khachaturian (accepted by their daughter) and Jirayr and Serpoug Sarkissian for their enduring generosity and valuable support to the church and community. Medals were also presented to former parish pastors Archpriest Fr. Datev Kaloustian, Archpriest Fr. Avedis Torossian, and Archpriest Fr. Khoren Habeshian.

Very Rev. Fr. Barouyr Shernezian in his remarks highlighted the church’s vocation and the importance of fulfilling this vocation with collaborative efforts for another fifty years of service.

The program concluded with the Prelate’s message. Inspired by the recent visit of His Holiness Catholicos Aram I and his call to service throughout the year, the Prelate echoed the Pontiff’s message of service as the purpose of life and the importance of the church, school, and family unit as one entity, commending St. Gregory Church, KZV Schools, and community organizations for working together side by side toward a common mission. His Eminence congratulated the evening’s honorees for their service and called on the parish members to do the same, urging them to follow in the footsteps of the founders and commit to serving with faith, brotherly love, enthusiasm, and unity, with only the best interests of this community in mind and at heart, and to mobilize and engage the youth in the life of our church. The program concluded with the benediction and “Cilicia.”

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