The Eastern Prelacy’s St. Gregory of Datev Institute held its 33rd annual Summer Christian educational Program for youth ages 13-18 at St. Mary of Providence Center in Elverson, Pennsylvania, from June 30–July 7, 2019, under the auspices of His Eminence Archbishop Anoushavan, Prelate. Forty students participated from twelve parishes along with 16 clergy and lay instructors and counselors.
Sponsored and organized by the Prelacy’s Armenian Religious Education Council (AREC), the Program was directed by Very Rev. Fr. Sahag Yemishian, vicar general of the Prelacy, and pastor of Sts. Vartanantz Armenian Church of Ridgefield, New Jersey. The Institute offers a unique Christian educational program for our youth in a wholesome and nurturing environment, with three-pronged objectives: Christian education, prayer/worship, and fellowship and recreational activities.
“Datev has the perfect balance of classes, prayer, free time and other activities. I am so glad I decided to attend Datev this year and I hope to be back next year,” Arpi Donoyan, a first time participant, commenting on the three components of the Datev Program. “Datev is the perfect balance of religion and a traditional camp. It is a unique experience that I would recommend to anyone,” Levon Tekeyan remarked, a fifth year participant.
The daily life of the students at Datev was framed by morning and evening prayers. Every morning the students filed out for chapel to pray and sing praises to God according to the tradition of the Armenian church, and in the evenings, they reassembled at the chapel for the compline (Husgoom) service. Interestingly, the older “datevatsees” requested that we reinstate singing of Der Voghormia during the Husgoom Service (abridged at Datev to about 25 minutes).
Students attended three classes in the morning, from 9:30am-12:30pm, and two more in the evening from 7:00pm-9:00pm. The curriculum of the Program is designed to be completed in four years, one week each summer. Those who graduate have the option to return for post-graduate classes. All five levels of classes take place concurrently. Each year, students participate in about 20 hours of educational sessions. The curriculum includes the Bible, the sacraments with more emphasis on Soorp Badarak (Divine Liturgy), Armenian Church feasts and saints, Armenian Church history and creeds, prayer and worship, as well as discussions on contemporary moral and ethical issue.
The intensive daily schedule of the Summer Program was tempered by afternoon sports and recreational activities, such as volleyball, soccer, and swimming. There was an excursion to French Creek Pool and the convivial 4th of July picnic.
The weeklong program culminated on Sunday, July 7, with the celebration of the Divine Liturgy (Soorp Badarak) at St. Gregory the Illuminator Armenian Church of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, presided over by His Eminence Archbishop Anoushavan. The celebrant and the homilist was Archpriest Fr. Gomidas Baghsarian, visiting pastor of Holy Cross Armenian Church in Troy, New York. Following the Soorp Badarak, the Philadelphia Artemis Chapter of the Armenian Relief Society (ARS) hosted a luncheon, at the conclusion of which diplomas were distributed to the graduates.
This year, three students graduated from the Datev Program, having completed four weeklong sessions. The graduates were: Peter Agopian from St. Sarkis Armenian Church (Douglaston, New York), Lianna Isakhanian from Sts. Vartanantz Armenian Church (Ridgefield, New Jersey), and Garo Minassian from Holy Cross Armenian Church (Troy, New York).
The instructors and staff of the Program were: H.E. Archbishop Anoushavan, Very Rev. Fr. Sahag Yemishyan, Archpriest Fr. Antranig Baljian, Archpriest Fr. Gomidas Baghsarian, Rev. Fr. Sarkis Aktavoukian, Rev. Fr. Stephan Baljian, Rev. Fr. Dr. Vahan Kouyoumdjian, Archdeacon George A. Leylegian, Archdeacon Shant Kazanjian, Dn. Harout Takvorian (counselor), Dn. Bedros Kalajian (counselor), Yn. Alice Baljian, R.N., Yn. Maggie Kouyoumdjian (instructor and counselor), Ms. Tamar Lakissian (counselor), Dr. Alta E. Mekaelian (counselor), and Dr. Ari Nalbandian (instructor and counselor).
Word of Appreciation
A program of this scope and caliber can only be made possible through the collaborative efforts of the Armenian Prelacy, clergy and lay instructors and leaders, parishes, parents, and a number of organizations and individuals. Many thanks to the instructors for their labor of love, to the parents for entrusting their children to the Institute for a week of Christian formation, to the supervisors and counselors for their invaluable services.
The Institute extends its appreciation to those parishes that subsidized a portion of the expenses by providing scholarships to church-server participants, and to the following for their generous support and donations: St. Illuminator Armenian Cathedral (NYC), Soorp Khatch Armenian Church (Bethesda, MD), National Association of Ladies’ Guilds (NALG), Ani Chapter of the Armenian Relief Society (Pennsylvania), Artemis Chapter of the Armenian Relief Society (Pennsylvania), Rev. Fr. Vahan and Yn. Maggie Kouyoumdjian, Archdeacon George A. Leylegian, Dn. and Mrs. Vartan Karakelian, Mr. and Mrs. Varouj Aghjayan, Mr. and Mrs. Ohanes Chamavonian, Mr. and Mrs. Hagop Dakessian, Gharibian Farmers, Inc., Mr. and Mrs. Samuel Indzigulyan, Mrs. Asdghig Kazanjian (Armenian Delight), Mr. and Mrs. Noubar Megerian, Dr. Alta Mekaelian, Dr. Ari Nalbandian, and Toufayan Bakeries.
A special thanks to Archpriest Fr. Nerses Manoogian, pastor, and the board of trustees of St. Gregory the Illuminator Armenian Apostolic Church of Philadelphia for their hospitality.
— Arpi Donoyan (first year student)Everyone was very friendly and welcoming at Datev. Because of Datev, I became closer to God. I learned church songs, more about the history of Armenian Christianity, about Badarak, etc. The 4th of July was my favorite day here, because that’s when I got closer to all my friends.
— Aida Khojoyan (first year student)I had a lot of fun. I enjoyed playing games, dancing, and learning more about the Bible. Also, I made a lot of new friends. Thank you for making my experience amazing at Datev summer camp.
— Yeva Der Kosrofian (first year student)
My first year of being a Datevatsi has been a really fun and enjoyable experience. I made new friends and learned many important thing from the Bible. I also learned Armenian dances, as well as creating new designs of friendship bracelets. Playing group games like kickball and volleyball was also a great time. I definitely enjoyed attending Datev Summer Program. It was a great pleasure to meet everyone.
— Katrina Arvestian (first year student)
I had a lot of fun at Datev, whether it was playing various outdoor activities or learning many different things about the Armenian church. Everyone at Datev is very welcoming and friendly. If you have the chance to come, you should.
— Nora Tarbinian (first year student)
I really enjoyed my time here at Datev. All the activities were fun. It gives you a great opportunity to make friends and strengthen your faith. I learned more about the Bible and Jesus.
— Emma Avedissian (first year student)
I was so excited to get to Datev. When I got here, I felt so welcomed because everyone was super nice. I really enjoyed it and can’t wait to come back next year!
— Lilly Karageozian (first year student)
Datev was a good place to make friends and learn more about the Christian values.
— Antranig Tatarian (first year student)
This week of Datev was pretty good. The classes were very interesting, the food was nice, and we had a lot of free time. Overall, Datev was a good experience. I am probably coming again next year.
— Avedis Aguilian (first year student)
My Datev experience was good. We have 4 hours of free time where we can do whatever we want— play volleyball, basketball, chess, checkers, Uno, etc. It is also a great place to improve faith. We also have classes, but they’re interesting and not bad at all.
— Joesph Barton (first year student)
I extremely loved this past week of Datev and I plan to come back next year. It has been a great time here.
— Aram Ozoonian (first year student)
Datev was a nice experience. I learned a lot of new stuff that I haven’t learned in Sunday School. I met Armenian Christians from all over the country. But most importantly, this week has strengthened my faith.
— Mary Ashbahian (second year student)
I love Datev. I love the classes, but my favorite part is the reflections in the chapel because I get to speak to God and my brother. I will definitely come back next year because I love seeing all my friends.
— Sarineh Cunningham (second year student)
I have made amazing friends and lifelong memories that I truly will never forget. The balance between the study of faith and extracurricular activities is intriguing. The lessons are very interesting and informative, with topics I often wonder about. The whole experience is sure worthwhile and I cannot wait until next year.
— Maral Zobian (second year student)
Datev is a great place to grow and learn. It gives a great opportunity to make friends and have fun every day! Here you can participate in any activity that you would like to, and there is always someone to do them with. I have never met a more accepting and open group of people in my life and I am so happy I get to spend an awesome week here every year.
— Melanie Simonian (second year student)
My second year as a Datevatsi was amazing. You learn many new and interested things about the practice of the Christian religion. I made a number of friends and had a lot of fun. I would recommend any young Armenian to go to Datev.
— Saro Karageozian (second year student)
I really enjoyed my second year at Datev. I made new friends. I learned a lot of new things this year about church history and about Soorp Badarak. I also learned valuable life lessons that I will apply to my daily life. I can’t wait for next year.
— Aram Stepanian (second year student)
Leading up to my second year at Datev, I was very excited for all the chances to learn more about my religion. Even though the Datev Program has many recreational activities, the religious aspect is emphasized. We go to the chapel in the morning and evening. We have classes about the Armenian history, the Bible, Soorp Badarak, etc. These classes are taught by Deacons and Priests who are very knowledgable. Coming to Datev has enhanced my knowledge and strengthened my faith.
— Yervant Bardakjian (second year student)
Datev has changed my life for the better. For the past two years, I have learned a lot about Christianity and the Armenian apostolic Church. Also, I have made many friends and have met priests from different parts of the country. Datev has made a great impact on my life and I can’t wait for next year!
— Micheal Simmonian (second year student)
Datev was a lot of fun and educational. My favorite classes were the ones about the Bible. The sports and activities were fun and brought a lot of people together. I loved everything about Datev and I can’t wait to go back next year!
— Taleen Lakissian (third year student)
The classes were interesting and had great topics. The priests let us ask many questions that they answered. The activities involved everyone and were fun.
— Anna Tekeyan (third year student)
Datev is a fun and interesting experience. Datev is a way to meet new people and to learn about God.
— Micheal Alojan (third year student)
This year was really fun. I was happy to see all my friends. The environment is really warm, welcoming, and friendly. I never feel uncomfortable around anyone and always have someone to talk to, which only happens at Datev.
— Nareg Kassardjian (third year student)
I have been coming to Datev for 4 years and every year just gets better and better. We are all like a small family that never gets annoyed by each other. I have learned so much about God and what kind of impact that he has had on the world and my life. Datev makes me feel at home and has taught me a lot of lessons. Graduating from Datev feels like I have presented myself to God in becoming an independent and mature woman. I can’t wait for all the other lectures and lessons to come at Datev next year!
— Lianna Isakhanian (fourth year student)
Going to Datev has changed my life and has made me want to open my heart to God. The classes are very inspirational, and learning about virtues and vices makes you realize what kind of vices or virtues you have and what kind of person you are.
— Garo Minassian (fourth year student)
As my fourth year of Datev comes to a close, I look back and I am amazed by all the wonderful friends I’ve made, all the great memories and all the priceless lessons and wisdom imparted onto me. Thank you to all the people that make Datev happen. I am very excited to begin my post-graduate experience!
— Peter Agopian (fourth year student)
Datev is always a fun experience. I enjoy the informative discourse with the clergy as well as the communal kinship. I have enjoyed coming to Datev over the years and discussing our common faith.
— Katherine Jemian (postgrad)
When I first came to Datev, I was immediately enveloped in the idea of unity within the Armenian church. Having come from small parish, I began to gain a larger understanding of both the church and certain elements within it. Five years later, I have returned as a post-graduate student having gained so much useful knowledge, as well as friendships that will last a lifetime
— Margaret Jemian (postgrad)
I look forward to Datev every year. It is the perfect balance of religion and a traditional camp. It is a unique experience that I would recommend to anyone.
— Levon Tekeyan (postgrad)
Datev to me is a week of fun, learning and fellowship. I’ve made a lot of new friends during this short week. I have also learned much about the church and Armenian history. Overall, it is an awesome experience that I can’t wait to attend every year.
— Davit Isakhanian (postgrad)
Over the years, I have grown as a person and strengthen my relationship with God. There are many activities to take part in, friends to be made, and experiences to take in.
— Nishan Kouyoumdjian (postgrad)