On Sunday, May 31, Archbishop Khajag Barsamian, Diocesan Primate, traveled to Providence, RI, for a special celebration at Sts. Sahag and Mesrob Church.
More than 250 parishioners gathered to honor their pastor, the Rev. Fr. Shnork Souin, on his 20th anniversary of ordination into the holy priesthood; to recognize two longtime community members for their dedication to the Armenian Church; and to celebrate the ordination of three young men to the sub-diaconate.
At the beginning of services, Archbishop Barsamian presented Fr. Souin with a floral phelónion-a black liturgical vestment worn during morning, evening, and other special services in the church-in recognition of Fr. Souin’s two decades of service in the vineyard of the Lord.
Fr. Souin celebrated the Divine Liturgy wearing the same vestments he wore during his ordination in the 1990s. The vestments were generously refurbished for the occasion by the church secretary, Fran Armstrong.
Three young men stepped forward to receive the rank of sub-deacon. Antranik Antranik, Garen Megrdichian, and Adam Parnagian have worked alongside Fr. Souin to prepare for their new responsibilities as sub-deacons.
“In the four years I’ve been serving at Sts. Sahag and Mesrob Church, all three of these young men have been serving at the altar and they have been working very hard,” Fr. Souin said. “I am proud of their accomplishments, and I look forward to their continued commitment to the Armenian Church.”
In a sermon delivered by Archbishop Barsamian, the Primate spoke about martyrdom, giving the examples of the martyrs of the Armenian Genocide of 1915 and the third-century martyrdom of St. Hripsime, St. Gayane, and their sister nuns.
“Christ came to abolish sin, to correct the fallen world,” Archbishop Barsamian said. “It is God who takes the sacrifice and martyrdom of the innocent, and turns them into something glorious-whether this means the conversion of an entire nation, the canonization of a million martyrs, or the inspiration of a single soul.”
He went on to discuss the importance of leaving our own legacy for future generations. “Every Armenian descendant of the Genocide generation has inherited an important and irreplaceable legacy. You, and your children after you, should be proud to walk in their footsteps,” he said. “We must honor them by dignifying their sacrifice with our own good works.”
A banquet followed services in the church’s Egavian Cultural Center. Steven Megrdichian served as master of ceremonies and welcomed clergy and guests to an afternoon of celebration and fellowship. Among the clergy in attendance were the Rev. Fr. Simeon Odabashian, Diocesan Vicar, and the Rev. Fr. Mardiros Chevian, dean of St. Nersess Armenian Seminary, who was instrumental in Fr. Souin’s early vocational discernment. Also present were the Rev. Fr. Anthony Perkins of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and the Rev. Fr. Mattias Shaltan of the Syriac Orthodox Church.
Vahan Gregorian played acoustic guitar and sang Armenian songs. Konstantin Petrossian performed classical pieces on the piano, and Fr. Shnork’s daughter, Elizabeth Souin, sang the song “The Blue Horizon.”
An award was presented to parishioner Aram Garabedian, who was instrumental in arranging transportation to New York City for the April 26 Divine Liturgy and Times Square commemoration of the Armenian Genocide centennial. The parish presented him with a plaque bearing the map of Armenia on the eve of in 1915, and an inscription acknowledging his efforts in this centennial year.
Two longtime parishioners-Edward Eranosian and Steven Zaroogian-were presented with the Diocese’s “St. Vartan Award.” Both have served Sts. Sahag and Mesrob Church in many capacities, including on the parish council, as Diocesan delegates, and on other committees.
“They have given a lifetime of service to the church,” Fr. Souin said. “They were both humble in accepting this award and they expressed their love for the Armenian Church.”
In warm remarks about his father, Fr. Souin’s son, Conner, said that he felt privileged to be raised in the ancient traditions of the Armenian Church. He spoke about how proud he felt of his father, and noted that the latter is the first Canadian-born priest to serve in the United States.
Taking the podium, Fr. Souin spoke about hearing the call to serve God in the Armenian Church. He said he experienced a mixed sense of humility and pride-an awareness of his human shortcomings and the fulfillment that came with helping others embrace their Armenian Christian faith.
He also reflected on his experiences serving three parishes in the past two decades, including St. Gregory the Illuminator Church in St. Catharines in Ontario, Canada; St. Mary Church in Livingston, NJ; and Sts. Sahag and Mesrob Church of Providence.
Fr. Souin was ordained on May 29, 1994, at Toronto’s Holy Trinity Church by Archbishop Hovnan Derderian, who was Primate of the Armenian Diocese of Canada at the time. (This spring actually marked the 21st anniversary of his ordination, but due to preparations for the Providence church’s centennial last year and the Genocide centennial this spring, Fr. Souin requested that the observance of his own milestone be postponed.)
The parish council presented their pastor with a set of new vestments. Katherine Kazarian, a member of the Rhode Island House of Representatives, read a citation issued on the occasion. A citation was also issued by Mayor Scott Avedisian of Warwick, RI.
“It was overwhelming to see so many people there, and to know that so many people of all ages worked to make this special event happen,” Fr. Souin said.
Archbishop Barsamian congratulated the day’s honorees, the newly ordained sub-deacons, and Fr. Souin. He expressed his appreciation to the entire Providence community for their warm welcome and their continued commitment to the Armenian Church.