By FLORENCE AVAKIAN
It was a joyous family event, as more than 175 people enthusiastically packed the Pashalian Hall of the St. Illuminator’s Armenian Cathedral in New York on Sunday afternoon, June 12, to congratulate Archbishop Anoushavan, Prelate of the Eastern Prelacy, on the 50th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood, and to show their love, gratitude, and admiration for his decades-long service.
As attendees, after being given a prepared favor, streamed into the packed hall, following the Holy Badarak celebrated by the Prelate at the Cathedral, they were greeted by intricately decorated white satin-like table and chair coverings, table centerpieces adorned with plants and hanging beaded stones, and satin purple napkins encircled with glittering holders.
Eight priests from different parishes were also in attendance, taking seats with attendees at different tables, showing their closeness to the people.
As Anoushavan Srpazan humbly (his trademark) entered the hall and proceeded to the front, a long and thunderous ovation erupted. It took some time before quiet was instituted. The Prelate shared the opening prayer, wishing all “peace, joy, good health and bon appétit.”
A warm welcome was voiced by master of ceremonies Tamar Haroutunian, Esq., who noted: “As a spiritual leader, he has led by inspiring example while also showing gentleness and comfort to the faithful whom he has served with humility that can only come from following the Lord.”
On behalf of St. Illuminator’s Cathedral Board of Trustees, Chairman Armen Morian, Esq., , congratulated the Prelate on the celebration of this milestone in his life of service. “It’s an honor to host this particular event, at this particular time, and for this particular man,” he said. “We are with you, and we are grateful you are with us.”
Several speakers enumerated Archbishop Anoushavan’s many remarkable gifts and qualities, including him being a humble shepherd, devoted teacher, passionate preacher, pastor; his compassion and gentility, his giving of comfort, being a unifying voice and a ‘people person.’ He has been also an extraordinary advocate of issues to aid Armenia and Artsakh, and a developer of numerous programs for the Prelacy and for the Armenian diaspora at large, especially the community of Lebanon in the last years.
Who can forget his words inspired by the Lord, “I know my sheep and my sheep know me”?
The many speakers who extolled Srpazan’s deep faith and unique warmth shown to people included Very Rev. Fr. Sahag Yemishian, Vicar; keynote speaker Archpriest Rev. Fr. Nerses Manoogian, Pastor Emeritus of St. Gregory the Illuminator Church of Philadelphia, and Executive Council Chairman Hagop Khatchadourian.
Rev. Fr. Nareg Terterian, Pastor of St. Sarkis Church (Douglaston, NY) read messages sent from the Prelates of the Western and Canadian Prelacies. Rev. Fr. Mesrob Lakissian, Pastor of St. Illuminator’s Cathedral, read a letter sent by poet Vehanoush Tekian.
A group of young award-winning and musical talents, encouraged by the Prelate who has always supported young artists, presented numerous selections. They included violinist Arpi Bakhshian, whose oﬀering of Sayat Novas’s “Chega Kizi Nman” was an appropriate tribute to Srpazan. Other performers included singers Siran Tchorbajian, Karina Vartanian, and Anahit Indzhigulyan. They presented several Gomidas songs: “Kele Kele,” “Bejingo,” “Chinar Es,” with organ accompaniment by St. Illuminator’s Church organist Ara Dinkjian. Their rendition of Edgar Hovannisian’s “Erevan-Erebuni” was especially powerful, as was the violin selection, “Azk Parabantz”.
“Fifty years of service” video
With narration in Armenian by Prelacy Executive Director Vartan Matiossian, the professionally prepared video, subtitled in English, enumerated the various chapters of Srpazan’s outstanding service. “A shy, quiet, twelve-year old youngster,” Torkom Tanielian, at the Forty Martyrs School in Beirut, inspired by future Prelacy leader Archbishop Mesrob Ashjian, started his 50-year journey to become a dedicated priest, preacher, Vicar, and Prelate of the Eastern Prelacy.
The sixth child of a religious family, his mother played a central role in introducing him to God. He was ordained a deacon in 1968 by Bishop Karekin Sarkissian, his most dynamic inspiration. Bishop Sarkissian later became Catholicos. On November 26, 1972, Archbishop Ardak Manougian, Prelate of Iran, ordained young Deacon Torkom a celibate priest, and renamed him Anoushavan, meaning “sweet place.”
Catholicos Khoren I bestowed on him the four ranks of Vartabed of the Armenian Church in 1974, which began a decade of the young priest translating into modern Armenian the works of Church Fathers. He also participated in an Armenian translation of legendary writer and philosopher Khalil Gibran’s masterpiece, “The Prophet.”
During this time, Fr. Anoushavan also attended Haigazian College, earning a Master of Divinity degree from the Near East School of Theology. When the tragic civil war broke out in Lebanon from 1975 to 1990, he exclaimed: “During this time, I felt how mighty prayer is. Not only it is a daily necessity, but it is the main source of vitality.”
He traveled to India, Canada, and South Korea, participating in assemblies of the World Council of Churches. He also made many visits to Armenia, where he was a guest of Catholicos Vazken I, during the preparation of the catalogue of manuscripts of the Catholicosate of Cilicia. He stated, “During my repeated visits to Armenia, I came closer and closer to my roots. Every monastery that I visited, brought me the living memory of past generations who had lived and created our history.”
In 1984, he attended Princeton University, receiving a Master of Theology degree. He earned another Master’s degree in Philosophy from Columbia University in 1992, and a Doctor of Philosophy degree, also from Columbia in 2003, graduating with “high distinction.”
During his studies, he served at St. Gregory the Illuminator Church in PA and Sts. Vartanantz Church in NJ as preacher, and at St. Sarkis Church in Douglaston, NY, as pastor. While serving at these churches, he organized Bible studies, youth seminars, lecture series, choir conferences, and started the St. Gregory of Datev Institute and the Lenten Lecture series. His focus has always been on programs for the youth and senior citizens.
On June 4, 2006, His Holiness Aram I, Catholicos of the Great House of Cilicia, performed the Episcopal consecration of Very Rev. Fr. Anoushavan Tanielian in Antelias, and on September 8, 2018, at St. Illuminator’s Cathedral in New York, he was elected as the fifth Prelate of the Eastern United States. He was elevated to the rank of Archbishop by Catholicos Aram I on November 4, 2018, and was reelected Prelate for a second term on May 14, 2022.
In great health
Following the video, Archbishop Anoushavan strode to the front, leaping onto the two-foot-high stage with one leg, to a thunderous ovation, displaying his healthy physical condition.
Jumping back down to be close to the people, he presented a contemporaneous conversation with the adoring crowd, interspersed with large doses of humor, delighting all present.
The musicians led the crowd in a spiritual rendition of “Giligia,” which brought the special event to a close.
Hard-working and dedicated members of the 50th Anniversary Committee included the Prelate, the Vicar, Rev. Frs. Nareg Terterian and Mesrob Lakissian, Mireille Babikian-Hanna, Seta Balmanoukian, Maral Doghramadjian, Lilit Indzhigulyan, Sophie Khachatryan, Yn. Ojeen Lakissian, Tamar Lakissian, Nanor Matiossian, Sitta Oranjian, Nayda Voskerijian. Booklet and video production was by Greg Dosttur; printing of the booklet and program by Delta Printing; and food preparation by Anahid Krichian.
Legendary Armenian folk singer Onnig Dinkjian, in voicing the feelings of many said, “In the 93 years of my life, I have known many Prelates, but I feel honored to be here for one of the greatest Srpazans, Archbishop Anoushavan Tanielian for his down-to-earth qualities, his honesty, his humanity.” Becoming emotional, Onnig Dinkjian added, “Srpazan is truly an exceptional human being.”
Srpazan Anoushavan has said, “My choice to become a priest was not the result of a whim, but rather it was a long process of fertilization a call beginning with the early childhood impact and example of my parents’ life, along with the call to monastic life, the inspirational teachings of the instructors, and an inner urge to imitate Christ, followed by a conscious decision to serve.”