LA CRESCENTA—The Western Prelacy of the Armenian Apostolic Church announced that funeral services for the late Archbishop Sumbat Lapajian, who passed away on July 17, will take place Monday, July 26 at the Holy Cross Cathedral in Montebello.
Western Prelate Archbishop Moushegh Mardirossian will celebrate Divine Liturgy at 10:30 a.m., and will conduct the Extreme Unction at 11 a.m.
By the authority of His Holiness Aram I, Catholicos of the Great House of Cilcia, and per the wishes of the late Archbishop, the burial will take place in the courtyard of Holy Cross Cathedral.
The viewing will be held on Sunday, July 25, from 5 to 9 p.m., with the wake service set to begin at 7:30 p.m.
An ad hoc memorial committee has been formed to oversee the details and arrangements of the funeral. The committee is headed by the Prelate and includes Archbishop Yeprem Tabakian, Very Rev. Muron Aznikian, Rev. Ashod Kambourian, Khajag Dikijian, Levon Kirakosian, and Dr. Hagop Dikranian.
In memory of the late Archbishop, the “Holy Cross Archbishop Sumbat Lapajian Memorial Fund” will be established, proceeds of which will be allocated to the new clergy preparation program of the Western Prelacy.
On the morning of July 17, one of the eldest members of the Catholicosate Brotherhood and the first Western Prelate Archbishop Sumbat Lapajian passed away at Ararat Home in Mission Hills. The Catholicosate of Cilicia and the Western Prelacy mourn the loss of Archbishop Lapajian, who leaves behind a legacy of over four decades of devoted service within the Western prelacy.
Archbishop Lapajian was born in Beirut in 1927 with the baptismal name Setrag. Having lost his parents at a very early age, he was sent to the Danish “Birds’ Nest” orphanage under the directorship of Maria Jacobson, who cared for him as a nurturing mother and for whom he had deep admiration and respect. From early adulthood on, Archbishop Lapajian’s life was one of service. He belonged to the first generation of post-Genocide youth for whom orphanhood and self-education were the way of life.
In 1941, he graduated from Junior High. During the Second World War, at the age of 14, he was forced to work to earn a living. He worked with the British Army in Lebanon for almost six years as a typist and telephone operator, and at the same time devoted himself to self-education.
In 1948, he was accepted into the Seminary of the Armenian Catholicossate in Antelias by His Holiness Karekin I (Hovsepiantz). He studied there until 1952, and in 1953 he served as a deacon in the Armenian section of the Holy Sepulcher Cathedral in Jerusalem.
From 1954 to 1958, he held teaching posts in Armenian schools in Jordan and Lebanon. In 1956, along with his teaching, he entered Haigazian University as a full-time student and graduated from the sophomore class in 1958.
Also in 1958, during the tenure of His Holiness Catholicos Zareh I, he was ordained a celibate priest by Archbishop Ardak Manougian at St. Gregory the Illuminator Mother Cathedral in Antelias, Lebanon on July 13, the Feast of Transfiguration.
Father Lapajian continued his studies in theology and philosophy through a combined curriculum at Haigazian University and the Near East School of Theology, and graduated from Haigazian in 1960 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Theology. In Antelias, Father Lapajian resumed the duties as Dean of the Seminary, and became the Secretary to the Catholicos.
In January 1961 he was appointed pastor of the Holy Cross Armenian Apostolic Church of Los Angeles, a position he held until the time of his election as Prelate of the Western United States on June 2, 1973.
In March of 1961, he was ordained a Vartabed by Archbishop Hrant Khatchadourian. His academic thesis was “The Spiritual Life in Armenia During the First Five Centuries”, a thorough study of the religious life of that era.
From mid-1961 to 1963, he also assumed the pastorate of Holy Martyrs Church in Encino, during which time he played an important role in the building of the new church.
In May of 1963, he participated in the election of Caltholicos Khoren I as a representative from the United States.
During the academic year 1963-1964, he taught classical and modern Armenian in the Department of Armenian studies at UCLA. He also established a bilingual Radio Sermon Hour which aired on Sundays from 1963 to 1968, and which was widely received by the Los Angeles Armenian community.
In 1965, he blessed the groundbreaking of Armenian Mesrobian School in Pico Rivera, and actively participated in the educational and administrative progress of the school.
In 1965 he was ordained Supreme Vartabed by H.H. Catholicos Khoren I in Antelias, and in 1966 he was appointed Assistant Prelate of California.
On June 2, 1973, the first Representatives Assembly of the Western Prelacy elected him Prelate of the Western Prelacy of the Armenian Apostolic Church of America.
On June 2, 1974, the Feast of Pentecost, he was ordained a bishop by H.H. Catholicos Khoren I at St. Gregory the Illuminator Mother Cathedral in Antelias, Lebanon.
During his tenure as Prelate of the Western States (June 1973 – September 1977), St. Mary’s parish and day school were established in Glendale (later the day school was named after its benefactors Mr. & Mrs. Vahan & Anoush Chamlian), the parish in Orange County was established (later named Forty Martyrs Armenian Apostolic Church), and he consecrated the foundation of what became St. Garabed Church in Hollywood. The building of the church was almost completed during his tenure. Today, these three churches are flourishing parishes in Southern California. Again, during this period, the Armenian community of California generously contributed half a million dollars to help the victims of Lebanon’s civil war.
On April 4, 1981, Catholicos Khoren I honored him with the title of Archbishop.
From 1978-1985, he was the instructor of Religion and Ethics at Mesrobian and Rose & Alex Pilibos Armenian Schools, as well as Pastor at Holy Cross and St. Garabed Churches.
From 1986-1990, he was the Chairman of the Religious Council of the Western Prelacy.
In 1985, he assumed the duties of Dean at Holy Cross Cathedral in Montebello, a position he held until 1994.
In January 1994, he officially retired from administrative duties but continued his voluntary ministry, especially to the parish community of Holy Cross Cathedral.
In recent years his health began to deteriorate, however he continued to serve to the best of his ability. In 1998, the 40th anniversary of his service within the Western Prelacy was celebrated, and the commemorative book published on this occasion serves as a beautiful reminder of his remarkable life of service.