Summer Conference Alumni Hold St. Nersess Close to their Hearts
Recently, the seminary embarked on a campaign to reconnect with summer conference alumni. In the first of a series, we interviewed two alumni who have maintained their connection with the seminary since their first exposure as teenagers. Renee Ferraro and Karyn Bilezerian both attend the Armenian Church of the Holy Translators in Framingham, MA, and shared how St. Nersess has touched them personally.
Q: What year/session did you first attend a Summer Conference?
I began attending summer conferences in the early-1980s when I lived in NY. That was when Dn. Mike (now Fr. Mardiros) ran the program and Sophie was in the kitchen!
My first time was a Jr. High session in the mid-1980s when I lived in NJ.
Q: How have you stayed connected to or currently support the seminary?
I participate in the Leadership Giving Circle annual giving program because St. Nersess has held a special place in my heart since I was a young adult. I feel it is important to support the seminary’s mission. I also check the website and Facebook frequently to keep up with the events occurring at the seminary. Because my children have had the privilege of attending summer conferences, I have also helped to support students from Jerusalem attend conferences, so that other children can have the same benefits!
I remain connected to St. Nersess in a few different ways. My first time was returning as a counselor at a summer conference while in college. Now my husband, Keith, and I donate to St. Nersess regularly, including helping to sponsor a student from Jerusalem each year for a summer conference as well as participating in The Path Forward brick campaign. Last, but certainly not least, is our connection to Fr. Mardiros, who led the summer conferences when I attended. Der Mardiros married Keith and me, baptized both of our children, and even presided over our vow renewal last summer in Cana when he accompanied our parish’s trip to Jerusalem.
Q: Do you have a child who now attends a summer conference?
My three children – Ariana, Neil and Lucas – have attended summer conferences and the boys have been to the Deacons’ Training Program.
My son, Kyle, attended St. Nersess for the first time last summer as a participant in the Deacons’ Training Program. Although the seminary is now on a new campus, the spiritual connection and experience is the same!
Q: How did your St. Nersess experience help you become active in your local parish?
St. Nersess is special for many reasons. It was a place where I could meet other Armenian kids and I developed friendships that endure today! It was a place where I felt safe and enjoyed a loving environment during the rocky and lonely adolescent years. It was a place where I developed a more personal relationship to God and developed a deeper connection to my Armenian faith. I’ve carried these experiences and lessons with me into my adult life, into my parish, and into raising my family.
At the Summer Conferences, participants from many different parishes come together and become a family. I learned that when each person is assigned a specific chore to keep the rooms of the “home” clean or organized, we humbly work to contribute to the good of the whole. That lesson has carried over to my involvement as a member of my parish, which is my spiritual home and the congregants are my church family. I have served on Parish Council and in the Sunday school and various church committees, because I learned many years ago that when a group of people comes together to form a family, each person needs to use his or her God-given gifts for the greater good.
Q: How would you describe your love for St. Nersess in a few words?
Love, acceptance and a foundation to build my faith and life.
Serenity, friendship, blessings