The Armenian community of Philadelphia gathered at St. Gregory the Illuminator Armenian Church’s parish hall on Saturday, June 4, to celebrate and honor the retirement of Rev. Archpriest Nerses Manoogian, who shepherded the community for 31 years. About 320 people came to show their gratitude and respect to their pastor.
His Eminence Archbishop Anoushavan, Prelate, presided over the event, which included the participation of local Armenian clergy and distinguished guests. The walls of the lobby leading to the hall displayed numerous pictures and memories of Der Nerses, featuring key events of his personal life and pastoral ministry. Different translations and educational booklets and publications, prepared by Der Hayr throughout the years for the members of the community, were also displayed.
Under the direction of Master of Ceremonies Kirk Karagelian, the event brought to light the devoted following Der Nerses’ earned in his long decades of service. After the Armenian and American national anthems were sung, Archbishop Anoushavan did the invocation and blessed the food. Mike Injaian, chairman of the Board of Trustees, gave a toast in honor of Der Nerses and shared with the guests his memories of working with Der Hayr, wishing him a happy retirement. Afterward, Der Nerses and Yn. Nectar were invited to cut the cake. The Vosbikian Ensemble entertained the guests with their enjoyable performance during the banquet.
After dinner, congratulatory letters in Armenian and English were read. Kurk Selverian, vice chairman of the Board of Trustees, thanked Der Nerses for his selfless service and for leading the community to prosperity and making it strong. On behalf of the Board, he presented three gifts to Der Nerses, among them a special humanitarian fund, which will be under the direct leadership of the retiring Pastor to continue his charitable endeavors in the future. Community members praised Der Nerses for his contributions and remembered their work with him inside the Church, as altar servers, or as members of different church and sister organizations.
Sally Manoogian, daughter of Der Nerses, shared with the guests a very personal side of him and presented different stories and anecdotes that highlighted his joyful side. Der Torkom Chorbajian, newly appointed pastor of St. Gregory the Illuminator, was invited to offer his remarks. He stated that the community is honored to celebrate the retirement of its servant, who became a true shepherd and leader at the Church and the community, working with everyone for everyone, spearheading numerous initiatives, among them the vision and the project of having a new and beautiful hall, something that everyone was enjoying at that evening. He concluded that St. .Gregory will always remain Der Nerses’ home and wished that his days will be full of God’s blessing, now that he enters a new phase in his life.
Archbishop Anoushavan addressed the guests first, by going back sixty years ago, when he and Der Nerses were classmates at the seminary and then years later, they worked together when His Eminence was still a pastor, then as Vicar and in the past few years as a Prelate. He commended Der Nerses’ total dedication to the community, working hard for the sake of the spiritual and cultural life of the parish, always being wherever his people are, addressing their needs and leading them in good and bad days. On behalf of the Prelacy’s Executive Council, he congratulated Der Hayr on his retirement and wished that the community will benefit from his wisdom and experience.
Der Nerses wholeheartedly thanked everyone present at his retirement banquet and he retold the story of how he came to Philadelphia and became the pastor of St. Gregory Church. He remembered the leaders of the Church that he worked with, and he called attention to their talents and abilities in serving the Church alongside him. He asked the community to work together, making sure that the Church will continue its mission in the life of the people. Der Nerses stated that he did everything in his abilities to create an environment where everyone feels welcome to contribute.
As the evening came to a close, a group picture was taken. Another one was already taken by everyone’s mind and heart, cherishing this great memory and remembering in honor of Der Nerses’ presence and service to the community and the great legacy he leaves behind.