As part of the Armenian Genocide centennial year observance, Sts. Vartanantz Church of Chelmsford, MA, completed a “Remembrance Bench Project” this summer, through which benches were installed on the church grounds bearing the names of people who perished in the Armenian Genocide.
On Saturday, October 3, Archbishop Khajag Barsamian, Primate of the Diocese of the Armenian Church of America (Eastern), traveled to Chelmsford to dedicate the three new granite benches, which were installed at the existing Sts. Vartanantz Martyrs Memorial.
The weekend culminated in another celebration on Sunday, as the parish gathered to honor its pastor, the Rev. Fr. Khachatur Kesablyan, on the 10th anniversary of his ordination into the holy priesthood.
Saturday’s events began at the outdoor Sts. Vartanantz Genocide Memorial. Archbishop Barsamian, assisted by Fr. Kesablyan, blessed the benches, which are engraved with the names of 60 individuals who perished in the Armenian Genocide of 1915. For their descendants, it was an emotional and moving service. The entire project was spearheaded by Dn. James Magarian and the parish’s Memorials Committee.
The Primate then led a procession into the sanctuary for the consecration of the parish’s icon of the Holy Martyrs of the Armenian Genocide—a replica of the icon that was unveiled last April, during the canonization service at Holy Etchmiadzin. ACYOA members assisted the Primate during the service by washing the icon with water and wine.
On Sunday, Fr. Kesablyan celebrated the Divine Liturgy. Archbishop Barsamian ordained parishioner Arman Shirikyan to the rank of acolyte.
In a sermon on the significance of the Holy Muron—which was blessed at Holy Etchmiadzin in a special ceremony last month—Archbishop Barsamian said that the holy oil “is the symbolic proof that God is present and at work among our people: blessing us, protecting us, transforming us to perform our Lord’s will on earth.”
He went on to speak about how Fr. Kesablyan was anointed with the Holy Muron a decade ago, when he answered the call to become a priest in the Armenian Church. “I know that this parish has been guided and inspired by Der Khachatur’s example,” Archbishop Barsamian said. “We have all witnessed the love he feels for our church and our people, which has its beginning and its end in God. That divine love is the spiritual gift he received from the Holy Muron—which I pray will sustain and nourish the life of this community for many days to come.”
The Primate presented Fr. Kesablyan with a pectoral cross in recognition of his devoted service to the Armenian Church. He was also presented with new vestments by Gary and Beverly Koltookian.
Following church services, a banquet in honor of Fr. Kesablyan was held in the church’s Kazanjian Memorial Ballroom, where more than 200 people gathered for a special program of remarks and musical performances. James Kalustian, Diocesan Council chair and a close friend of Fr. Kesablyan, served as master of ceremonies.
Congratulatory messages were offered by banquet co-chairs Denise Oldham and Sara Martinian; ACYOA corresponding secretary Isabelle Kapoian; and parish council chair Bruce Kayajanian. Remarks were also made by the Rev. David Rinas, pastor of the neighboring Trinity Lutheran Church.
Dr. Ara Jeknavorian narrated a slide presentation about Fr. Kesablyan’s spiritual journey. The Sunday School presented their pastor with a photo album which highlighted his ministry with the parish youth. Mezzo-soprano Victoria Avetisyan and pianist Levon Hovsepian offered a selection of popular Armenian songs.
Fr. Kesablyan said that he is guided by, and draws inspiration from, Psalm 25: “To you O Lord, I lift up my soul. O my God, in you I trust; Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all day long.”
He described his experience serving as a young altar server in Armenia, and later enrolling at the Gevorkian Theological Seminary. Other influential experiences early in life, he said, included his service as a chaplain in the military and at St. Mesrob Mashdots Church in Khapan, Armenia.
In the United States, he interned at Holy Trinity Church in Cambridge, MA, and served as a visiting pastor of the Cape Cod mission parish. In addition, he was named a director of the Diocese’s St. Vartan Camp program. Fr. Kesablyan has been serving as the pastor of Sts. Vartanantz Church for eight years.
He expressed his gratitude to the entire parish for their support, and for organizing a memorable celebration. He also thanked his wife, Yn. Anna, and his children, Maria and Narek.
“I am deeply grateful to so many people,” he said. “I feel truly blessed to serve this Diocese and this wonderful parish in Chelmsford.”