LAS VEGAS—The weekend of October 18 and 19 was a momentous one for members of St. Garabed Church of Las Vegas who celebrated the grand opening of the Cultural Center and Koujakian Hall, signifying the successful completion of the project which had begun in 2009. The weekend’s festivities commenced on Saturday, October 18 with a celebratory banquet held at Cili Restaurant of Bali Hai Golf Course. The official opening of the new complex was conducted by Western Prelate Archbishop Moushegh Mardirossian on Sunday, following Divine Liturgy. Executive Council members participated in the events.
On Sunday morning the Prelate celebrated Divine Liturgy and delivered the sermon at St. Garabed Church, assisted at the altar by Parish Pastor Rev. Fr. Arsen Kassabian. His Eminence began his address by congratulating and commending the parish members on their latest achievement, in particular Mr. Larry Barnes, the Dream Fund at UCLA, and the Fattal, Yemendijian, and Koujakian families whose generosity was vital to the project. His Eminence reminded the parish that though they have completed the final phase of their project, their mission is not over, stating “The mission of maintaining this church and cultural center, of fostering our faith and heritage, is an ongoing one”.
He turned their attention to the day’s Gospel reading to hear what is expected of all of us as faithful and active Christians. The passage is of Jesus reading a Scripture by Isaiah proclaiming Him as the Savior, with the spirit of the Lord upon Him, sent to proclaim “The Good News of Salvation”. The Prelate went over the mission of our Lord found in the passage; to preach the good news of God’s love and mercy, to heal the brokenhearted and bring comfort and hope to others, to free those bound by sin, to open the eyes of the spiritually blind, to free the weak and oppressed, and to proclaim the day of judgment. His Eminence noted that the day before was the feast of the Holy Evangelists, the four Gospel writers who faithfully fulfilled the commission entrusted to them by Christ and in doing so taught us how we too can and must do the same. “The spirit of the Lord is with us today in this sacred house of worship. As children of God and devotees of Christ, His mission, detailed above, is one that is required of us each and every one of us. In our unique capacities, we are all commissioned to continue the work our Savior, in the example He set forth during His earthly ministry”, exhorted the Prelate.
The Prelate stated that the progress achieved by the community is proof of their commitment to carrying out the mission entrusted to them. However, he urged for continuous work to maintain both the church and the cultural center; to preach the Gospel of Christ and draw new faithful to the church, and to preach the beauty and value of our language and culture and bequeath our heritage to generations.
At the conclusion of the service, guests gathered in the courtyard for the grand opening ceremony, which began with the ribbon-cutting. Inside the complex, sponsors were in attendance for the unveiling of plaques. The newly renovated Koujakian Hall, sponsored by the Fattal, Yemenidjian, Koujakian families, was unveiled by the grandchildren of Apraham and Verjine Koujakian in whose memory the hall is dedicated. The grandchildren of Dr. and Mrs. Raffi and Shoghag Hovanessian unveiled the three paintings by artist Sarkis Hamalbashian donated by the sponsors. Also unveiled were the kitchen by Mr. and Mrs. Raffi and Siran Nersessian, the Boardroom by Mr. and Mrs. Adroushan and Nora Armenian, two classrooms by Alex Karabajakian and Mari Rose Simon, and the Game Room by Oshin Harootoonian. The ceremony culminated with the unveiling of the St. Garabed Church and Cultural Center dedication plaque of main benefactor Larry Banes, in memory of his wife Seda Der Garabedian Barnes, and the Courtyard sponsor plaque of Mr. and Mrs. Adroushan and Nora Armenian.
Guests enjoyed a reception hosted by the Fattal, Yemendijian, and Koujakian families in memory of their parents. A cultural program followed in the newly remodeled courtyard where students of the ARS Verjine Koujakian Saturday School recited poems and sang Armenian songs, and students from the Armenian Dance School of Las Vegas performed dances.
The Prelate once again congratulated and commended the parish members, benefactors, and faithful on their great accomplishment and wished them continued successes in the years to come.
On Saturday evening the Prelate presided over the celebratory banquet.
The program began with welcoming remarks by Master of Ceremonies Mrs. Houry Darakjian, followed by the invocation by Parish Pastor Rev. Fr. Arsen Kassabian and congratulatory remarks by Congresswoman Dina Titus. Guests then enjoyed dinner accompanied by a musical performance. On behalf of the Parish Council, Adroushan Armenian gave an overview of the three phases of the construction process, beginning from 2009. He thanked the donors and supporters for their generosity and encouragement, owing to which he said the parish has made great strides in the last five years. Keynote Speaker Arda Yemenidjan expressed gratitude to all those who made the dream of a Church and Cultural Center a reality. She thanked the Prelate for his leadership, benefactor Larry Barnes and Dream Fund at UCLA for their generosity, Parish Pastor, Parish Council, and Building Committee members for their tireless work, and the Armenian Relief Society for planting the seeds of education in the community. Consul General of Armenia Sergey Sarkisov addressed the gathering, conveying his congratulations to the community.
The Prelate was then invited for the presentation of plaques, which were awarded to Building Committee members Levon Gulbenkian and Koko Darakjian in appreciation for their dedicated service to the project since its inception, and to Mr. and Mrs. Greg and Annie Gevorkian for completing the construction in a timely and efficient manner. In honor of the Year of the Elder, Parish Council Chair Mr. Garabed Bedirian and his wife Zaruhi received special recognition for their service to the parish and community.
The Prelate began his message by thanking God for the occasion and praying for His blessings upon the parish as they begin a new phase of their mission. “The Western Prelacy family rejoices with you today, evidenced by the number of Executive Council members here tonight, the presence of the honorable Consul General Sergey Sarkisov, and the guests who have come from near and far to share in this joy with you. You are a wonderful example that with faith and trust in God, nothing is impossible”, stated His Eminence. He applauded the unity and collaboration of the community, which he said has led to the successful completion of the complex where faithful of all ages can safely gather in a warm family atmosphere to celebrate our language and culture and pass down our heritage to the younger generations. The Prelate expressed joy especially for the upcoming launch of the Sunday School and programs for the elderly. Thus, he commended all those who had a hand in this latest accomplishment, the Parish Pastor, Parish Council, Building Committee, generous sponsors, most notably Mr. Larry Barnes and the Dream Fund at UCLA, donors, and faithful friends. He commended also the Fattal, Yemenidjian, and Koujakian families for their generosity in sponsoring the hall memorializing their parents. The Prelate concluded his message by urging the parish to continue their service with faith, humility, brotherly love, enthusiasm, and harmony.
The cutting of the cake and candle-lighting ceremony followed. The official program came to a close with the benediction, Cilicia and the Armenian national anthem.