- Dedication Of “Koujakian” Hall
- Parish Council Chair Adroushan Armenian Awarded Prelacy “St. Dertad The King” Medal
LAS VEGAS—After years of hard work and perseverance, on April 13 and 14 new life was breathed into the parish community of Las Vegas as they rejoiced in the fruit of their efforts, which culminated in the consecration and dedication of St. Garabed Church by Western Prelate Archbishop Moushegh Mardirossian.
Parishioners from across California and nearby states assembled in Las Vegas to witness this historic occasion and to join the community in celebrating the construction of the first Armenian Apostolic Church in the state of Nevada. The consecration of the Church, which was conducted in stages over two days, was a deeply moving and truly poignant experience, and throughout the weekend sentiments were echoed that this momentous occasion is one that will live on in the hearts of all those present for years to come.
Dedication Of “Koujakian” Hall
The festivities began on the evening of Saturday, April 13 with the dedication and official opening of “Koujakian” Hall, which was sponsored by the Fattal, Yemenidjian, and Koujakian families in memory of their parents Verjine and Abraham Koujakian. The Prelate welcomed the guests and began the service with the Lord’s Prayer. With the unveiling of the hall plaque and the ribbon cutting by the sponsor families, the hall was officially opened and the Prelate entered as deacons and choir members sang the “Aysor Yergnayink” hymn. Inside the hall, the Prelate conducted the blessing of salt, bread, and water assisted by Very Rev. Fr. Muron Aznikian, Parish Pastor Archpriest Fr. Avedis Torossian, and St. Mary’s Church of Glendale Pastor Rev. Fr. Vazken Atmajian. A requiem prayer for the souls of Verjine and Abraham Koujakian followed.
The Prelate greeted the guests, stating that it is a day of great spiritual joy for the entire Prelacy family. He noted how touching the ceremony was for the sponsor families especially who immortalized the memory of their parents with this hall. His Eminence remembered Verjine Koujakian’s active involvement in the community from its very first days, and specifically her role in the founding of the Saturday School. In following her example, the Prelate noted “I am sure her family will continue to bring their enduring support to this community and will continue to be a lasting presence with their moral and financial support”. He then blessed the members of the families, and the ceremony came to a close with the Lord’s Prayer and the Cilician anthem.
Opening Of The Portals
Following the dedication of the hall, as deacons sang the “Hrashapar” hymn the Prelate was led in a procession to the Church main entrance for the Opening of the Portals service (Terenpatsek). Kneeling in front of the closed door, the Prelate knocked three times singing, “Open unto us, Lord, the gate of Your mercy”. With the official opening of the doors, the Prelate entered the Church and ascended the altar where the service continued with hymns, Scripture readings, and prayers for the Lord to bless and sanctify the stones and wood so that “whoever shall greet this house or shall bow down unto it may be considered to have bowed down not to unclean stone and wood, but unto You and Your Holy Name”.
The Prelate then consecrated with Holy Chrism the side Trinity altar, which was sponsored by Charles Sulahian in memory of his father Alexander, and the Baptismal Font, sponsored by Marie Sulahian in memory of her parents Garabet & Azadouhie Baylayan.
The Prelate began his sermon with the words from the order of blessing of a new church recited earlier, “O merciful God, we beseech You with all our hearts. Accept our entreaties which we offer up unto You and let the grace of Your Holy Spirit abide in this house which we have established and built in Your name. Bless and sanctify the stones and wood…Send down Your Holy Spirit and bless this font, as You blessed the River Jordan by descending upon it, typifying the font from which men are born again.”
He continued, “Praise be to God for making us worthy of this blessed day as we have gathered for the consecration and dedication of this Church we have erected for His name, glory, and dominion. Earlier during the Terenpatsek service, we beseeched the Lord to open the doors of His mercy, and I am sure each of you joined in with your prayers asking for the Lord to open the doors of His mercy for your individual families and for our collective family of church, nation, and community. We prayed for Him to bless and sanctify the stone and wood this Church is built from and which symbolize Him and His Holy Name, for this Church was not built for the glory of man, but rather for the praise and glory of Almighty God. We convey our gratitude to the sponsors who donated to this project for His glory. Jesus went into the River Jordan and sanctified it, and whoever is baptized in this font will be purified and will become a new person in the Holy Spirit.
Tomorrow we will continue the ceremony with the consecration of the sixteen pillars, which signify that we built this Church on the pillars, on the strong foundation of the faith of the apostles, evangelists, and St. Gregory the Illuminator. May God bless the memory of the Fattal, Yemenidjian, Koujakian, and Sulahian faithful departed, and may God bless the families as they continue their service for the glory of God and our people. We are overjoyed to have with us large numbers of faithful from across California, including Catholicosate Central Executive member Khajag Dikijian, almost all the members of the Prelacy Executive Council, and deacons and choir members from Fresno and Los Angeles area Churches, all of whom have come to express their solidarity and support of this community. Congratulations to Parish Pastor Archpriest Fr. Avedis Torossian, Parish Council Chair Adroushan Armenian and members, Building Committee, and the entire parish community on this great accomplishment. May the Lord grant us all renewal of spirit and rebirth of faith so that we can see Him through the eyes of our soul and praise His Holy Name now and always.” At the conclusion of the service, guests were hosted to a reception at “Koujakian” Hall hosted by the Parish Council, and faithful departed from the Church in joyful anticipation of the following day’s ceremonies.
Sunday, April 14 will forever be remembered as a momentous day for the Western Prelacy family as the Prelate consecrated the altar and sixteen pillars of St. Garabed Church of Las Vegas and officially named the Church. Guests in attendance included the Consul General of Armenia the Honorable Grigor Hovhannissian with his wife Victoria, Congresswoman Dina Titus, Central Executive and Prelacy Executive Council members, clergy from local evangelical, Maronite, and Syriac Churches, benefactors, and a standing room only crowd of faithful.
The ceremony began in the morning with the official procession of His Eminence into the Church, joined by the sixteen pillar Godfathers, clergy, and the many deacons participating from various Prelacy Churches. The Prelate was led from the courtyard to the entrance of the Church with the “Khorhoort Khoreen” hymn, followed by the “Hrashapar” hymn as he entered the Church and ascended the altar to begin the Holy High Mass. The congregation followed the service attentively and with reverence as Fr. Muron and Rev. Vazken washed the unadorned altar with wine and water. The Prelate then consecrated the top, right, left, head and front of the altar in the form of the Cross, and blessed sponsors Arpine Koutnouyan and her son Aram who dedicated the altar in memory of their husband and father Aram Koutnouyan. This was followed by the blessing, anointing, and sanctifying of the sixteen pillars. With each Godfather standing next to his respective pillar, the Prelate conducted the consecration and blessed them. The Blessing of the Four Corners of the World (Antasdan) followed, during which the church was officially named St. Garabed. The Prelate ascended to the altar where he was presented with four lit candles which he placed on the altar. The curtain closed as the service continued, to be reopened a few minutes later beautifully adorned with intricate tapestry, candles and flowers.
The Prelate began his sermon with the following passage from the Antasdan service, “Blessed and protected and providentially preserved be this Church, established in the name of St. Garabed”. He continued, “Earlier you heard these words as we prayed and beseeched Almighty God to bless, protect, and preserve St. Garabed Church established for His glory in the name of St. John the Baptist. Today is a historic day of unbridled joy. It is truly a day to rejoice for the entire Prelacy family as we conducted the consecration of the first Armenian Apostolic Church in the state of Nevada. Praise and glory to Almighty God for granting us this blessed day to come together and collectively celebrate this historic occasion. This dream was realized through much hard work, dedication, and united efforts; and now a new chapter has begun for this parish.”
The Prelate spoke of the symbolic coincidence that the Church is being consecrated on the third Sunday of Eastertide, which in the Armenian Church is known as Sunday of the World Church and Green Sunday. This Sunday commemorates the establishment in Jerusalem of the first Christian Church by the apostles, and is called “Green” to symbolize the idea of new life. By the Resurrection of our Lord, the whole world became green and flowered, and Christianity spread and blossomed. The Gospel readings of Green Sunday are particularly meaningful for the occasion as they convey the message of spiritual rebirth, new life, and the example of St. Paul who was rejected by the disciples but continued to boldly preach the Good News of the Risen Christ throughout Jerusalem, and through whose efforts the Church prospered and multiplied. “How very fitting and symbolic that we are consecrating this new Church on the day which we commemorate the establishment of the first Christian Church in the world, celebrate the idea of new life, and when the Gospel readings convey to us the inspiring message of rebirth”, stated the Prelate.
“Indeed today this parish community is commencing a new life, which is a rebirth of faith. For the last few years you dedicated yourselves to reaching this stage. Now that the Church is complete and consecrated, you are entrusted with a new mission. It is your duty to ensure that this parish continues to advance and progress, that the members of this community continue to work together in unity and with the same diligence you have demonstrated thus far, so that coming generations reap the bountiful harvest of the seeds you have planted.” The Prelate greeted the large number of guests and faithful who had come to share in the joy of the day, and commended all those who had a hand in making the day a reality. He conveyed gratitude to main benefactor Larry Barnes for his most generous contribution in tribute to his late wife Seda Der Garabedian-Barnes and her ancestors, to the Dream Fund at UCLA for their benevolence, and his appreciation to the Godfathers and all the sponsors and friends for their financial and moral support. He commended the Pastor, Parish Council, and Building Committee members for their diligence, and thanked all those present who had travelled from near and far to show their encouragement and backing of this community. “As we begin this new chapter, this new life, let us renew in ourselves our commitment to our faith and to the Armenian Apostolic Church, and in the example of St. Paul, let us boldly continue to preach the Gospel to those around us, let us engage the younger generation and encourage them to become active participants in our community life by instilling and cultivating in them love and reverence for our faith and heritage. For only through harmonious collaboration and cooperation, can our Church, nation, and people prosper. We praise the Lord for blessing us with this new house of prayer. May the Holy Spirit empower us all as we move forward in our service for His glory and for the advancement of the Armenian Apostolic Church and nation.” The Prelate then announced that he would be returning on May 19 to consecrate the sacred paintings and stained glass windows, and invited faithful pilgrims from California, Arizona, and other regions to once again join the community on that special occasion, during which a statue dedicated to mothers will be unveiled.
The Liturgy continued until the Kiss of Peace. It was a moving moment as the Prelate called on the faithful to feel the presence of Christ as they received their first greeting in the newly blessed Church. The Prelate connected this first greeting in the new Church with the greeting of His Holiness Catholicos Aram I who had sent a letter of blessing on this occasion. His Holiness conducted one of the milestones in October of 2011 when he blessed the foundation stone and consecrated the dome cross, and today our Pontiff is with us in spirit conveying his greetings through his letter, stated the Prelate, and continued to read the message of His Holiness. During this first Kiss of Peace in this consecrated Church, let us greet one another as brothers and sisters for we are all children of the same Father, Almighty God, concluded the Prelate and the Liturgy continued
At the time of “Der Voghormya” Fr. Vazken announced that memorial prayers would be offered for the souls of Seda Der Garabedian-Barnes, Diramayr Marie Mardirossian on the fourth anniversary of her passing, Fattal, Yemenidjian, Koujakian, Koutnouyan loved ones, and in memory of Kirk Kerkorian’s sister Rose.
The service concluded with the confession and Holy Communion, after which the procession of Prelate, Godfathers, clergy and deacons headed to the courtyard with the singing of “Oorakh Ler”, where the ceremony came to a close with the Cilician and Armenian national anthems, and the benediction by the Prelate.
In the afternoon, 250 guests gathered at the Tropicana Hotel “Cohiba” Ballroom for the Consecration Celebratory Luncheon. A warm and friendly atmosphere reigned over the celebration, with speeches filled with humor and lightheartedness.
The hall echoed with applause as Master of Ceremonies Mrs. Anna Kabadian announced the procession of the Prelate, who was joined by the Consul General of Armenia, Congresswoman Dina Titus, and Councils members. Following the anthems of the United States and Armenia, the MC invited Congresswoman Titus to convey her remarks.
Congresswoman Titus stated that she was honored to be a part of the celebration and proud to have St. Garabed Church in the heart of District 1 which she represents. She noted that she has been part of the many milestones of the Church, and today is the fulfillment of the community’s at least two decades long dream. She remarked that St. Garabed is a beautiful Church full of light and love which will nourish the body and soul not just on Sundays but every day, and expressed joy that the Armenian population, as a growing force in the community, now has its very own Church as a safe haven. The Congresswoman thanked Mr. Larry Barnes, the Dream Fund, and the Yemenidjian family, congratulated the parish community, and on this occasion presented a congressional certificate to Chairman Mr. Adroushan Armenian, who accepted on behalf of the Parish Council. Congresswoman Titus approached the head table where she formally met the Prelate and personally conveyed her greetings and well wishes to His Eminence.
The MC invited the Prelate to deliver the invocation and bless the tables. His Eminence also thanked Congresswoman Titus for her presence and her supportive remarks.
Alex Yemenidjian also welcomed the guests and congratulated the parish community. He conveyed gratitude to the Prelate, “without whose leadership and inspiration this wouldn’t have been possible”, saluted the presence of the Consul General and thanked him for his participation, stated that the community owes a big debt of gratitude to Larry Barnes and the Dream Fund for making this project financially possible, and expressed appreciation to architect and engineer Levon Gulbenkian, and Adroushan Armenian and Council members stating, “we are the beneficiaries of their hard work”. In conclusion, Yemenidjian noted that with benefits come responsibilities, thus it is everyone’s responsibility to make sure to support and serve our Church with dignity and make the Prelate proud.
The remarks continued after lunch.
The first to speak was Adroushan Armenian, who began by noting that this important milestone is the result of a handful of Armenian who came together from different cities and countries to build a Church. He conveyed words of thanks and appreciation to all those who contributed to the realization of the endeavors, specifically Mr. Larry Barnes and the Dream Fund for their generosity. He recognized Lakes Lutheran Church Pastor Kurt Sortland for allowing services to be held at his Church for four years, thus giving the community the opportunity to strengthen and organize. Mr. Armenian stated that without the blessings, support, and guidance of the Prelate which would have been very difficult. He also thanked Executive Council member and Prelacy Building Committee Chair Vahan Bezdikian for his countless visits and supervision, and to his fellow Parish Building Committee members Levon Gulbenkian and Koko Darakjian. He also thanked the Tropicana Hotel for providing the facility, and all the committees and individuals who organized the luncheon. In conclusion, Armenian stated that there are still some items which require sponsors before the Prelate’s return on May 19 to consecrate the paintings and stained glass, and announced a number of new donations received in the past few hours.
Consul General Grigor Hovhannissian congratulated the parish, noting that this is the birth of community life because a community becomes truly Armenian when it has its own Church. He noted that the day was an emotional experience for him as he was present from the beginning, during the dedication of the hall in 2009, and how impressed he was with the speed of the construction. Having previously promised the community a painting, the Consul General announced that in less than a month he would be donating that painting in recognition of their wonderful work. In conclusion, he stated that the consecration of the Church is the culmination of painstaking effort, and now is the time for more participation and more involvement by the people to strengthen and maintain the Church.
Catholicosate Central Executive member Khajag Dikijian began his remarks by citing the words of His Holiness Aram I from October of 2011 when he stated that the Church belongs to the people, the people are the Church. “St. Garabed will be the people, serving all Armenians without exception”, said Dikijian. Building a church speaks volumes about our faith, about the efforts of all the people involved, and about the generosity of sponsors. At one time we built 1,001 churches in one city; today we are very proud to have one more, stated Dikijian as he concluded by conveying the well wishes of His Holiness and Central Executive.
On behalf of her fellow Executive Council members, Chairlady Rima Boghossian wholeheartedly congratulated the community on this occasion, a day which she stated is historic for Las Vegas Armenians as it is their first Church, and a day which is historic for the Prelacy with the consecration of this newest Church. She wished that all our parishes are inspired from the example of the Las Vegas community and will soon have their own Churches as well. Boghossian acknowledge the diligent supervision of the Prelate throughout all the phases of the project over the past three years, and commended the Pastor, Parish Council, Committees and benefactors for their hard work and support. Boghossian expressed hope for a school to be built in the future next to the Church, because our Churches and schools together preserve and foster our Armenian identity, and in conclusion wished that the community always works together for the flourishing of St. Garabed Church.
A cultural program followed, with Gohar Markaryan and Izabell Mardirosyan presenting a traditional Armenian dance.
Thus it was time to formally acknowledge and commend all the hard workers involved in this project. The MC invited to the podium His Eminence for the presentation of plaques to members of the Parish Council, Building Committee, and Ladies Guild. The names of the individuals who contributed their time and efforts for the realization of this endeavor were called one by one by Mr. Vahan Bezdikian as they approached the stage to receive their plaque from the Prelate.
The celebration and festivities of the last two days came to a close with the Prelate’s message. “Today is a day of great celebration. It is the day we have been joyfully anticipating. It is said that vision without action is merely a dream. Years ago, a group of individuals had a vision; a dream to provide this growing community with a church and cultural center to call their own. The community rallied behind these visionaries, and together, this initiative, this idea was put into action. Ideas are valuable only when they are implemented, and that is just what this community did. They took action and turned dream to reality. And today, we are here celebrating the fruit of their vision and labor.” With a grateful heart and profound spiritual joy the Prelate greeted the distinguished guests and dear friends who had come from various cities to share in the blessed occasion of the consecration and dedication of the first Armenian Apostolic Church in the region. “St. Garabed Church is now the heart of this community. Alongside the Cultural Center, it will become the beacon, the lighthouse from where our faith, our language, our heritage and our history will radiate throughout our community of faithful, keeping our spiritual and cultural legacy and spirit alive and strong. The realization of this tremendous venture was achieved through hard work, perseverance, and collaborative efforts. At this time we would like to acknowledge all the individuals who joined hearts and hands to bring this dream to life.”
The Prelate first and foremost conveyed gratitude once again to main benefactor Larry Barnes for his incredible generosity which, in addition to being the greatest contributor to the success of this project, forever memorialized his late wife Seda Der Garabedian-Barnes and her ancestors. He noted that in 2010 Mr. Barnes was awarded the “Knight of Cilicia” medal by His Holiness, and today the benefactor was being acknowledged once again for his remarkable support. He conveyed his deep appreciation to the Dream Fund at UCLA for believing in this mission and lending their generous support, and thanked representative Lindy Schumacher who was in attendance. He commended the Parish Pastor Archpriest Fr. Avedis Torossian, Parish Council Chair. Adroushan Armenian and members, Building Committee members, and also Vahan Bezdikian for their tireless efforts and steadfast determination from the inception of this endeavor until this very moment. Finally, he thanked all the members of the community, all the sponsors, volunteers, and friends who shared in this vision and lent their enduring encouragement. “You all labored hard over the past few years to reach this point. Today, we salute you and we applaud you. You have indeed brought great pride and joy to our hearts. As you embark on your new journey of service, we pray for the divine wisdom and guidance of our Lord to be upon you, leading your path to infinite successes. May you continue on this righteous path and serve with renewed vigor and determination, and most importantly with love, unity, and harmony, for the splendor of the Armenian Apostolic Church and this community.”
Here the Prelate stated that he had some special announcements. His Eminence announced that Mr. and Mrs. Adroushan and Nora Armenian, who humbly had asked for their name not to be announced in the commemorative booklet, had donated $25,000 as the banquet hosts. He joyfully announced that the Fattal, Yemenidjian, and Koujakian families with a $50,000 donation had sponsored Koujakian Hall in memory and honor of their parents and loved ones, in addition to which they were donating $10,000 to establish a new scholarship fund at the Prelacy also in memory of their parents and loved ones. The Prelate also announced the establishment of another new scholarship fund at the Prelacy, this one by Mr. and Mrs. Vahe and Lucie Fattal in memory of Vahe’s father Joseph and mother Eugenie, whom he had recently lost nearly forty days ago. And finally, the Prelate announced that Mr. and Mrs. Alex and Arda Yemenidjian were graciously undertaking the sponsorship of the remaining sacred paintings and stained glass windows noted by Mr. Armenian earlier. Each of these announcements were received with great applause and appreciation by the guests. His Eminence had one more surprise announcement, an announcement which drew loud applause and cheers. In commendation of Mr. Adroushan Armenian and his painstaking efforts over the years, the Prelate was awarding him with the Prelacy “St. Dertad the King” medal. He became the first ever recipient of this award, which was recently established by the Prelacy to honor individuals who have made a difference in our community life with their service. Mr. and Mrs. Armenian received a standing ovation as they approached the stage to receive this honor. Fr. Avedis read the Prelate’s letter of blessing as the Prelate presented them with the medal. With this wonderful surprise, the celebration came to a close on a high note with the benediction by the Prelate and the Cilician anthem.