60th Anniversary of the Summer Conferences Remembered During the High School Session
From July 22 – 30, the seminary welcomed high school students to the annual High School Summer Conference. This year, participants represented the three North American dioceses – Western, Eastern and Canadian- as well as Jerusalem, and hailed from parishes in California, Connecticut, Florida, Massachusetts, New Jersey, North Carolina, Virginia, and Ontario. The conference was co-directed by Dn. Adam Bullock, a 2022 seminary graduate, and Maria Derderian, a 2007 seminary graduate. Counselors included Dn. Johnny Chadoyan, 2019 alumnus, Subdn. Aren Antranik, Kareen Kaltakdjian, and Jenna Soiles, wife of Dn. Adam.
For the 14th year, students from the Sts. Tarkmanchatz Armenian School in Jerusalem were invited to attend, thanks to the support of several benefactors who cover their expenses. “We were happy to offer our American students the opportunity to interact with their peers from Jerusalem once again, as this wonderful connection has been on hold since 2019 due to the pandemic,” shared the Rev. Fr. Mardiros Chevian, dean.
The main benefactors of the program this year were Vicken and Rosette Arslanian (NJ), Joseph and Kristine Casali (NJ), Russell and Susan Kashian (WI), George and Lorraine Marootian (NJ), and Steven and Karen Nargizian (NJ), with generous support from Gregory and Meline Toufayan (NJ), Ara and Aline Araz (NJ), Keith and Karen Bilezerian (MA), Glen, Grant and Lilly Dabaghian, and Paul Derderian (NY). Traveling from Jerusalem were students Galina Boyadjian, Liana Dikbikian, and Zaven Tateossian, who were all very grateful for the opportunity to be a part of the program and visit New York.
“We were lucky enough to be given the opportunity to participate at a St.Nersess conference this summer. I had the joy of forming lasting friendships and immersing myself in the teachings of the Bible and my cherished Armenian heritage,” reflected Liana Dikbikian. “Engaging in meaningful conversations and activities connected me with fellow Armenians on a profound level, by exchanging stories and insights that expanded my perspective. The food was delicious, created by our chef Wilma, who treated my taste buds and overall making my experience extra special.”
Each day, the participants enjoyed bible study, cultural hour, and listening to a different speaker on important faith topics, most who are seminary alumni: Rev. Fr. Stepanos Doudoukjian – What’s Your Vocation; Rev. Fr. Hovnan Demerjian – 3 is the Magic Number: How the Trinity Blesses Us Sunday & Everyday; Rev. Fr. Tadeos Barseghyan – The Armenian Church in the World (Comparative Christianity); Dn. Yervant Kutchukian – Praying with St. Nersess Shnorhali. Also presenting was Dr. Roberta Ervine, seminary professor – Founding Our Passions: St. Nersess Shnorhali on Structuring a Life; and Linda Agazarian Bullock – Armenian Dancing.
On Monday afternoon, the Very Rev. Fr. Mesrop Parsamyan, primate of the eastern diocese and president of the seminary’s board of directors, joined the participants for dinner and an engaging dialogue related to current challenges and experiences teens face and how to grow in faith.
The following day, Bishop Daniel Findikyan, former primate of the eastern diocese, spent the evening with the group offering another interactive Q&A session, together with the Rev. Fr. Karekin Kasparian, fondly known as the founder of the St. Nersess Summer Conferences. Der Karekin started the summer sessions 60 years ago in 1963 and has continued to enjoy his interaction with the students through the years even at his young age of 93!
During the afternoons, the students explored fellowship time in the Grace Jelalian and Paul Shahinian Recreation Complex playing ping-pong and pool or outside playing soccer, volleyball, and basketball. On Thursday, July 27, the participants traveled to Hammonasset Beach in CT for the afternoon followed by bowling in White Plains. There was also a movie night and discussion as well as the coveted Talent Show, a long-standing tradition which made its return this year.
On the first Sunday of the conference the participants traveled to St. Gregory the Enlightener Armenian Church in White Plains, NY, for Divine Liturgy and fellowship. Fr. Mardiros Chevian was the guest celebrant and homilist as the pastor, Fr. Mesrob Hovsepyan, was in Armenia. Participants served on the altar and sang in the choir. The conference concluded on Sunday, July 30, with Divine Liturgy in the St. Hagop Chapel led by the Rev. Fr. Bedros Kadehjian, a seminary graduate. Following the service, and before the participants departed, everyone filled the Arsen Keleshian Dining Hall for the last time to enjoy a brunch prepared by Wilma Petrossian, Manager of Food Services, who also prepared the meals throughout the week.
“This year’s High School Summer Conference was a great joy to plan,” shared Dn. Adam Bullock. “We had participants from three dioceses plus Jerusalem who formed strong bonds in faith and friendship, and an incredible leadership team who made it all possible. Thank you to everyone who supports the seminary and these summer programs. They truly make a difference in the lives of our youth. From the East to the West, I think every conference participant would agree – St. Nersess is the best!”
“It’s amazing what time at St. Nersess can do – within a few short days this group of strangers became a family,” exclaimed Maria Derderian. “The High School conference gives youth the opportunity to step away from their lives and live together in true Christian fellowship – praying and studying together, learning and growing in faith. Sixty years have passed since the first conference, but the St. Nersess spirit is stronger than ever. I was honored to be part of this year’s leadership team.”
There were tears when the high school students departed and promises that they would return next summer. We hope they return to their home parishes spiritually refreshed and inspired to serve! Click here for more photos.