• This year’s Saturday School Seminar was held on August 23rd at the Diocesan Headquarters in Burbank. The program commenced with the Primate’s opening prayer and a subsequent spiritual message. His Eminence commended the Saturday School Executive Committee led by Dr. Ellie Antreassian.

    In the first part of the meeting, Dr. Vatche Mankerian and Mr. Harout Der-Tavitian elaborated on the role of culture in the upbringing of Armenian children.

    After recess, Dr. Antreassian, with the participation of Saturday School teachers discussed Bloom’s Taxonomy and curriculum in detail. Bloom's taxonomy, named after Benjamin Bloom, is a way of distinguishing the fundamental questions within the education system.

    The presentation was followed by a lively discussion where the teachers raised various questions pertaining to the instruction of the Armenian language and culture. This was a good opportunity for exchanging thoughts and ideas and refresh their knowledge.

  • The Christian Education Council held a Workshop at the Diocesan Headquarters on Saturday, August 23, 2014. With superintendents, catechists, clergy, parents and ladies society members participating, the theme of the workshop was “Creating Partnerships and Building Community.”

    CEC Chair Debbie Derderian lectured on practical ways to engage parents in faith formation of their children. The participants also explored ways to create community and to build bridges between Sunday School, ACYO, and other Diocesan organizations.

    Guests speakers at the workshop included Mr. Mashdots Jobanian, Director of the Religious Education Department of the Western Diocese, and Mrs. Marie Hagopian from St. Vartan Armenian Church in Oakland. Jobanian spoke about God’s intention for the family and the vital role of the family within the faith community. Mrs. Hagopian offered ways to build a community within a community. 

  • On Sunday, August 24, Diocesan Primate Archbishop Hovnan Derderian paid a pastoral visit to the Armenian Church in Ventura County where His Eminence celebrated the Divine Liturgy and delivered the sermon.

    The Primate was assisted at the Holy Altar by Archpriest Fr. Arshag Khatchadourian, Visiting Pastor, Archpriest Fr. Kevork Arakelian and the Deacons of the parish.

    In observance of the Feast of the Assumption of the Holy Mother of God, at the conclusion of the service, the Primate officiated the traditional Blessing of the Grapes ceremony. In accordance with tradition, the blessed grapes were distributed to the parishioners.

    Archbishop Derderian recognized the members of the Ladies Society and called upon them to emulate the humble nature of St. Mary, the Holy Mother of God.  

    His Eminence also met with the youth of the parish and Sunday School students and offered his pastoral blessings to the future leaders of the Armenian Apostolic Church. He called upon the youth to uphold the sacred teachings of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and to cherish the sacred traditions of the Armenian Church.

    A catered lunch was held in the hall of St. Patrick Episcopal Church. In recognition of their dedicated service rendered to the Armenian Church of Ventura County, Mr. and Mrs. George and Alice Kamajian and Mrs. Margaret Mooradian were honored by the Primate with Certificates of Blessing and Commendation. Archbishop Derderian congratulated the honorees and encouraged them to continue their enduring service with a renewed sense of commitment and zeal. 

  • The Western Diocese of the Armenian Church always takes pride in good relationships and keen partnerships it maintains with local organizations and institutions. Among them, the Children’s Hospital Los Angeles is unique. In June 2005, when His Holiness Karekin II, Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of all Armenians paid a Pontifical visit to the Armenian community of Southern California, despite his tight schedule, His Holiness made sure to visit Children’s Hospital Los Angeles to extend his blessings and give hope to the patients. Since then, the Diocesan clergy got more involved with the hospital, paying frequent visits, and even taking CPE (Clinical Pastoral Education) courses at Children’s Hospital.

    This year particularly, by virtue of tireless efforts of Ms. Rita Terterian, Assistant Vice President of Development, the long-standing partnership between the Diocese and the hospital was elevated to a new level.

    On Tuesday, August 18, 2014, His Eminence Archbishop Hovnan Derderian, Primate of the Western Diocese, accompanied by Rev. Fr. Avedis Abovian, Pastor of the Armenian Church of Crescenta Valley, Mrs. Alice Chakrian, Chair of the Diocesan Junior Godfathers Program, and Mr. Diran Avagyan were hosted by Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, where they held a special meeting with Ms. Rita Terterian, Assistant Vice President of Development, Rev. Dr. Dagmar Grefe, Manager of Spiritual Care and ACPE Supervisor, Ms. Amanda Castillo, Assistant Director of Junior Ambassadors program, as well as Ms. Alicia Katano, Assistant Director of Development.

    At 9:30am, Ms. Terterian greeted the Archbishop and those who accompanied him at the entrance of the Hospital and led them to the conference room, where an elegant breakfast was awaiting.

    After Archbishop Derderian’s invocation and a brief introduction, Ms. Terterian made the opening remarks expressing her appreciation to the Primate for his compassionate heart, spiritual leadership and commitment.

    A concise and holistic mission statement was drafted for the committee in order to clarify the goals and objectives. Then, the group proceeded with the next item on the agenda. In her presentation, Ms. Terterian described the various outreach programs that the hospital offers to the public, which are aimed at getting more community involvement and participation. Philanthropy is at the core of the Children’s Hospital. It was in the same spirit that the founders started this hospital in 1901. Until now, the hospital and the professional staff continue their God-pleasing mission in the spirit of giving and philanthropy. Dr. Thomas Lee, who performs numerous surgeries in Armenia every year, is the embodiment of the above mentioned.

    Then, Ms. Castillo presented the Junior Ambassadors program, which is specifically tailored for the kids. The goal of this program is to increase the participation of the community’s children in the life of the Children’s Hospital in every possible way. They also offer various internship and volunteer opportunities.  

    After carefully listening to the presentations, Archbishop Derderian thanked the participants for the opportunity and proposed an action plan. He suggested expanding this partnership by creating sub-groups within the committee. More particularly, the Primate offered to create Children’s Hospital Circle of Friends from the community leaders and prominent people, who would convene a few times a year and discuss possible participation in the programs of the hospital.

    To instigate interest and cultivate a special bond, Archbishop Derderian emphasized the importance of ACYO participation through internship and volunteer programs. Similarly, the Junior Ambassadors of the Children’s Hospital may visit the Diocese and get involved in our Diocesan youth programs, such as the Junior Godfather program, chaired by Mrs. Chakrian.

    The next item on the agenda was the November 30th Divine Liturgy at St. Leon Armenian Cathedral. His Eminence has designated the Sunday of November 30, 2014 as the “Day of Children.” On that auspicious occasion, the Primate will dedicate his sermon and a special reception/program to recognize Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, and honor Dr. Thomas Lee for his exceptional philanthropic work in Armenia. Before the event, the committee members will meet again to further discuss the details.

    The meeting was closed with Rev. Grefe’s prayer, after which the participants took a group picture and exchanged keepsakes.

  • The 2nd Annual Summer Night at the Turpanjian Plaza was held on Friday, August 22, 2014, under the auspices of His Eminence Archbishop Hovnan Derderian, Primate of the Western Diocese of the Armenian Church of North America.

    Organized by the Ladies Guild of St. Leon Armenian Cathedral, the outdoor gala marked the official unveiling of the miniature model of the monument dedicated to the Centennial of the Armenian Genocide. A special candle lighting ceremony was held in honor of the 1.5 million Armenian martyrs who perished during the Armenian Genocide from 1915-1923.

    The program commenced with the welcoming remarks of Ladies’ Guild Chairlady Mrs. Araxie Boyamian who thanked Archbishop Derderian for his continued pastoral support and care throughout the years. The Chairlady also thanked the members of her committee for their dedication and collective effort in organizing the event.

    Rev. Fr. Nerses Hayrapetyan, Pastor of St. Sarkis Armenian Blessing of the Tables. Dinner was served following the Invocation.

    Saxophonist David Petrosyan and vocalists Sergey and Ani Arustamyan entertained the audience with instrumental and musical performances.

    In his remarks, the Primate commended the Ladies Guild under the leadership of Mrs. Boyamian for organizing the unique event. His Eminence called upon the guests to honor the memory of the Armenian martyrs by upholding our ancestral Christian Faith and the values which we hold in reverence.

    Funds raised from the event will benefit the construction of the Memorial Monument.

  • Diocesan Primate Archbishop Hovnan Derderian’s pastoral visit to the Armenian Apostolic Church of Victorville on August 18th, 2014 was much anticipated. Accompanied by Rev. Fr. Arshag A. K. Khatchadourian, the Visiting Pastor, Deacon Mkrtich Ksachikyan, the Diocesan Youth Director, and Mr. Diran Avagyan, Archbishop Derderian took the long commute all the way from Los Angeles to Hesperia to convey his fatherly blessings and meet with the Parish Council members.

    Upon the arrival at about 7:00pm, Archbishop Derderian was greeted by the Parish Council and community members at St. Hilary’s Episcopal Church, where the congregation gathers for the celebration of the Divine Liturgy on the first Sunday of every month.

    After a short prayer service and a Gospel reading, Fr. Arshag Khatchadourian made his opening remarks and greeted the Primate on behalf of the community. In his speech, Rev. Khatchadourian commended the tireless efforts of the Parish Council in mobilizing the entire Armenian community of Victorville for worship and community events.

    Immediately after, the Primate addressed the attendees. Particularly, His Eminence extended his appreciation to the Parish Council members for their conscientious and dedicated service. Several topics were discussed during the meeting. Archbishop Derderian pointed out the various phases that mission parishes usually go through as they structure themselves. For the Armenian Apostolic Church of Victorville, at this stage of development,  it is absolutely crucial to strengthen the church organizations - the Ladies’ Society, Sunday School, Saturday School, Men’s Club, ACYO, etc. and introduce new religious, cultural, and educational programs based on research and community feedback. The Primate encouraged the faithful to make arrangements with St. Hilary’s Episcopal Church for the Divine Liturgy to be celebrated twice a month.

    A special emphasis was put on church membership, an important factor that also indicates the success and the steady growth of the parish. To become due-paying members of the church, with all the responsibilities and entitlements, the congregation must be trained and educated. Also, the leadership should be able to share its vision with the rest of the community and make sure that everyone is part of that vision.

    Among administrative issues, the need for regular meetings, organized data management, and other matters were discussed. For mission parishes, in the absence of office space, this can be particularly challenging.

    Archbishop Derderian was very delighted to see the presence of the youth at the meeting. Enthusiastic and goal-oriented, the youth of the Armenian Church of Victorville is growing in numbers rapidly. In order to cater to their specific needs, the Primate officially appointed Dn. Mkrtich Ksachikyan as the Youth Director of the Victorville ACYO, who every Monday will commute from Los Angeles to Victorville to conduct Bible Study courses and other activities for the youth. The community received this news with joy and much appreciation.

    While the Archbishop was answering the questions of the faithful, Dn. Mkrtich had the opportunity to officially meet the youth in a different room. After brief introduction, they engaged in lovely conversation regarding the Armenian Church, its doctrine, and the various youth programs that the Diocese offers. Christine Hovhanesyan, a talented and an active member of ACYO, closed the meeting with her wonderful musical rendition.

    After taking a group picture and having a brief tour in the sanctuary, a delicious dinner prepared by the Ladies Society was served in the meeting room.

    Around 10pm, Archbishop Derderian and those who accompanied him left Victorville for Burbank with spiritual gratification and thankful heart.

  • More than 70 friends and supporters of the Diocesan Stewardship Program attended the fundraising reception at the Primate’s residence in Burbank on Thursday, August 21, 2014. Among the guests were Rev. Fr. Nerses Hayrapetyan and Rev. Fr. Khajag Shahbazyan, both graduates of the Stewardship Program. Diocesan Priesthood-Candidates Dn. Sarkis Alanjian and Dn. Mkrtich Ksachikyan were also in attendance.

    In his welcoming remarks, the Primate thanked the honorable guests for their kind presence and steadfast support of the Stewardship Program, calling it “one of the dearest missions at the Diocese.”

    Stewardship Committee member Mr. Derik Ghookasian spoke about the history and the mission of the Stewardship Program. He reflected on the success of the Stewardship Program in recent years and thanked the Primate and Dr. Vahram Biricik for their unrelenting dedication in identifying and educating the future clergymen of the Armenian Apostolic Church. Mr. Ghookasian noted that contributions to the Stewardship Program ensure the vivacity of the Western Diocese by preparing and training promising Priesthood-Candidates who would one day join the ranks of Diocesan clergy.

    In his remarks, Hon. Judge Armand Arabian thanked the Primate for his pastoral service to the community and as a token of his gratitude presented His Eminence with a miniature sculpture of St. Gregory the Illuminator.

    Guests enjoyed delicious Armenian cuisine and were entertained by well-known saxophonist David Petrosyan.

    To this day, six young clergymen, graduates of the Program have taken on challenging roles of leading the flock of Christ.

  • A number of important topics pertaining to the Armenian-American youth were discussed on Thursday, August 21 at the Diocesan Headquarters. The Primate met with Archpriest Fr. Sarkis Petoyan, Religious Instructor of St. Gregory’s Hovsepian School, Mr. Howard Emirhanian, Chairman of the Parish Council of St. Gregory the Illuminator Armenian Church in Pasadena, Mr. Hartyoon Hilalian, former Chair of the Parish Council and Mr. Shahe Mankerian, Principal of the School to discuss ways to form a graduate transfer program between Hovsepian School and Pasadena’s AGBU Vatche and Tamar Manoukian High School.

    Other topics of discussion included the expansion of the Hovsepian School and the construction of the adjacent playground.

  • At the invitation of His Excellency Grigor Hovhannissian, Ambassador of the Republic of Armenia to Mexico, Diocesan Primate Archbishop Hovnan Derderian will travel to Mexico on August 25th where he will meet with Ambassador Hovhannissian, religious leaders and members of the Armenian community.

    On August 26, Archbishop Derderian will meet with His Eminence Norberto Rivera Carrera, Cardinal Primate of Mexico. On the following day, the Primate will meet with His Eminence Metropolitan Antonio Chedraui, Archbishop of the Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese of Mexico, Central America and Islands of the Caribbean.

    On August 28, the Primate will meet with community members at a luncheon. In the evening, Archbishop Derderian will take part in a reception hosted by Ambassador Griogor Hovhannissian in honor of His Eminence.

  • A letter, drafted by Rabbi Harold Schulweis, Founder of Jewish World Watch, and signed by a large group of religious leaders throughout the United States including His Eminence Archbishop Hovnan Derderian, Primate of the Western Diocese of the Armenian Church of North America has been addressed to President Barack Obama.  

    In it, the religious letters express grave concern for the recent events in northern Iraq stating that the Islamic State (or ISIS) poses a genocidal threat to religious minorities there, forcibly instituting a “convert or die” policy in all territories it conquers. 

    Jewish World Watch has drafted the letter urging continued vigilance and action to protect religious minorities in Iraq.

    Below is the letter in its entirety:

    August 22, 2014

    Dear President Obama, 

    We are leaders of faith communities who are watching the escalating crisis in northern Iraq with mounting alarm. The Islamic State poses a serious genocidal threat to religious minorities in northern Iraq. Territorial gains by the Islamic State have been followed swiftly by its deeply rooted exclusionary ideology – and a policy requiring non-Sunni Muslim civilians to “convert or die” that has resulted in brutal massacres.

    We are deeply troubled by the immediate crisis facing tens of thousands of Yazidi civilians in this region, who face threat of extermination by the Islamic State simply because of their religious beliefs. We commend your Administration’s decision to defend the Yazidis, and strongly support your authorization of food drops for the Yazidi population and airstrikes against the Islamic State forces holding them under siege. These actions provided a small window for thousands of Yazidi civilians to escape the siege on Mt. Sinjar, where they had remained trapped without food or water and in dire conditions.  

    While your Administration has acted admirably in response to this threat against civilian life, the danger posed by the Islamic State is far from over and much more remains to be done. In particular, we note that reports by an assessment team sent by your Administration that the siege on Mt. Sinjar is effectively over has been fiercely contradicted by Yazidi leaders, relief agencies and UN officials. These leaders claim that tens of thousands of Yazidi lives still hang precariously in the balance on the southern flank of the mountain, missed by your assessment team.

    Just this Sunday, August 17, at least 80 Yazidi men were executed by the Islamic State for refusing to convert to Islam. More than 1000 women and girls were kidnapped by Islamic State forces, ostensibly with the intent of forcing conversion and “marrying” them to Islamic State fighters and sympathizers.

    We ask you to continue your strong actions in defense of Yazidi civilians and other religious minorities in northern Iraq.

    We also note that the immediate threat to the Yazidi, Christian groups and other religious minorities is taking place in a larger context of instability in Iraq and the region. Other recent attacks have displaced over 200,000 people bringing the total number of internally displaced persons in Iraq to 1.4 million in 2014. As you have noted, these broader challenges will require long term approaches. 

    We welcomed the launch of a massive UN relief mission and the unified position of the UN Security Council in adoption of UN Security Council Resolution 2170 introducing sanctions aimed to stem financing of the Islamic State and other groups causing instability in the region. We urge you to continue to work with the Iraqi government and multilaterally with the United Nations to address these broader challenges, even as you remain prepared to act to protect civilians from immediate mass slaughter.

    As leaders of different faiths we strongly believe in the protection of civilians of any faith from mass slaughter based on their beliefs. We have seen your willingness to act swiftly and with compassion to protect religious minorities under threat in northern Iraq. As we join together, we urge you to join with world leaders to continue to protect those in Iraq who remain at risk of atrocities.