By Seta A. Buchter
“Today is not and should not be about me, but about us—our Holy Trinity Family—and what we can do both collectively and as individuals to say thank you for our many blessings and to give back to our community—both the one we live in here in America and the one we have all originated from in Armenia,” stated “Parishioner of the Year,” Deacon James M. Kalustian, in his remarks during the Annual Church Banquet of Holy Trinity Armenian Church held on Sunday, October 18, 2015.
The Divine Liturgy and the day’s program were presided over by Archbishop Khajag Barsamian, Primate, Diocese of the Armenian Church of America (Eastern), who also offered the homily. The Rev. Fr. Martiros Hakobyan, Pastor of St. Kevork Armenian Church in Houston TX, and a close friend of Deacon Jim Kalustian, celebrated the Divine Liturgy. During the morning, Fr. Vasken A. Kouzouian, Pastor of Holy Trinity Church, led his Eminence to a special visit with the students of the Sunday School. During this warm exchange, his Eminence shared his thoughts on the various topics covered in each grade.
Following church services, the beautifully decorated Charles and Nevart Talanian Cultural Hall was filled with 225 area clergy from New England, parishioners, friends, family and guests who came together to honor Deacon James Kalustian, a devoted and dedicated son of the Holy Trinity parish, the Armenian Church and the Armenian community, to celebrate the 54th anniversary of the consecration of Holy Trinity Church on Brattle Street, and to recognize two outgoing Parish Council members and two outgoing Diocesan Delegates.
Daniel K. Dorian, Vice Chairman of Holy Trinity’s Parish Council, served as Master of Ceremonies. The afternoon’s program was a wonderful and fitting tribute to Deacon Jim Kalustian who has worked tirelessly for his parish, and the Armenian Church and community—both nationally and internationally—and whose leadership and dedication have made a difference. Dr. Albert Kalustian offered the toast in honor of his brother, stating that “Other than golf, the most important things in Jim’s life are family, church and the Armenian community. I believe that for Jim these are all synonymous, as he considers the church and the Armenian community part of his family. So Jim, congratulations and may God give you the strength, wisdom and health to continue to work for your family for many years to come.”
High Sheriff of Middlesex County, Peter Koutoujian, offered his personal gratitude to Deacon Jim for the leadership he offered the Armenian community through the Armenian Heritage Park, and presented Jim with a framed certificate from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Middlesex Sheriff’s Office in recognition of Deacon Jim being honored as Parishioner of the Year and the contributions he has made.
Anthony Barsamian, co-chairman of the Massachusetts Armenian Genocide Centennial Committee and a member of the Coordinating Committee for the Washington D.C. Commemoration, read a congratulatory letter from former Governor Deval Patrick. “You are a most deserving honoree!” wrote the former Governor. “Your work on the Armenian Heritage Park, on the Supreme Council of the Holy See, as Chairman of the Diocesan Council of the Eastern Diocese, and as Co-Chair of the 100th(Anniversary) Commemoration of the Armenian Genocide,” he continued, “attest to your years of exceptional service to and leadership of the Armenian Church and community, and the whole of the Commonwealth. Your grandmother would be proud of you. I know I am. Thank you for your example and friendship.
Gregory A. Kolligian, Jr., chairman of Holy Trinity’s Parish Council, recognized and spoke about the dedication and devotion of two outgoing Parish Council members—Ara Hollisian and Thomas H. Stephanian—and two outgoing Diocesan Delegates-Gerald Ajemian and David DerVartanian. Each was presented with a gift of appreciation.
To the enjoyment of all present, Fr. Mardiros sang a special song in Deacon Jim’s honor-“Horovel” by Gomidas Vartabed.
Fr. Vasken A. Kouzouian, in his tribute to Deacon Jim, stated, “On this 100th Anniversary year of the Armenian Genocide, it is fitting that today we honor a grandchild of survivors. Like so many Armenian Churches across America, Holy Trinity was built on the backs of early Armenian immigrants—seeking to start life over in a land founded on the principle of Hope for a better future. Jim Kalustian, a grandson of survivors from Kharpert, Izmir, and Arapgir, is a powerful fulfillment of their hope. The Jim I have known over the years has always appreciated and honored his Armenian roots, all the while advancing himself through the best this land has to offer. Jim grew up in this church. What he valued came from his parents and grandparents. What he learned, he learned from watching those who came before him. What they instilled in him was: Faith, Hope, and Love for his Heritage and his Country and he has defined himself through both over the years.”
“There’s an old Armenian expression that sums up someone like Jim, ‘Partzratzeer, yev Partzratsoor’-‘Raise yourself up, then raise up others.’ And Jim has done exactly that. He has worked for the betterment of the Armenian Church and Community his entire adult life,” Fr. Vasken said.
“In this 100th Anniversary year,” concluded Fr. Vasken, “Deacon Jim Kalustian, a grandson of survivors, a son of Holy Trinity, and a leader of the Armenian Church, is Holy Trinity’s ‘Parishioner of the Year.'”
Greg Kolligian in his remarks, reflected upon the three most influential people in his life at Holy Trinity Church—Deacon Gregory Krikorian, Fr. Vasken Kouzouian, and now Deacon Jim Kalustian. Greg was grateful to Deacon Jim for his mentorship—offering advice, perspective and support whenever asked—during Greg’s years serving on the Parish Council. On behalf of the parish, Greg thanked Deacon Jim for all he has done for Holy Trinity, the Diocese of the Armenian Church of America, the world-wide Armenian Church and all Armenians throughout the world. Greg stated, however, that all this would not be possible were it not for Deacon Jim’s parents, Martin and Mimi Kalustian, to whom he also expressed thanks and gratitude.
Greg then read a letter from Deacon Jim to Fr. Vasken in which Jim wrote that the Church would be receiving a gift of $75,000 for the design, development and construction of the “Martin and Mimi Kalustian Learning Lab” in the Peter Adamian Hall complex area. This gift would also include the installation of Wi-Fi and/or wiring for the entire Sunday School complex. Jim stated, “While the message and teachings of our church have remained constant for generations, it is my belief that the means by which we teach and educate our community needs to evolve. It is my desire to create a learning lab that will utilize the latest technology and interactive teaching methodology for the betterment of all generations of our church community.”
“My parents always emphasized the importance of family, faith, heritage and education. I feel this will be a fitting tribute to their unwavering commitment to those tenets,” concluded Jim.
A gift of appreciation from the Holy Trinity parish was presented to Deacon Jim who then began his remarks by talking about being a descendent of Genocide survivors, what his grandparents endured, and what lessons it taught him through stories told by his parents. “For while I am so proud to be American, the legacy that was passed from my grandparents helped me to realize that it was our responsibility to make sure that we let the world know that we are not victims of the Genocide but in fact are victors. Our rich heritage, our presence here today and all that we have accomplished in our church communities throughout the United States bears witness to the fact that we as a people have triumphed over those who sought to eradicate us from the face of the earth.” Jim stressed that today was not about him, “but about us—our Holy Trinity Family—and what we can do both collectively and as individuals to say thank you for our many blessings and to give back to our community” both in America and in Armenia. His remarks focused on three areas: (1) give thanks for what you are and what you have; (2) conduct a self-assessment-who am I? What have I done? What have I contributed? and last, (3) look to the future: What can I become and what is there left for me to do? Deacon Jim emphasized that “We should also remember that service to others is not an obligation but a privilege.” He also took this opportunity to thank some fellow parishioners who helped shape his sense of service.
Archbishop Khajag Barsamian, in his closing remarks, spoke about the importance and significance of this past year when the Holy Martyrs of the Armenian Genocide were canonized as saints of our church. He stated that “Today, you are honoring a gentleman who exemplifies the way the ‘Legacy of Our Martyrs’ can be an inspiration, and a force for good in our society. For Deacon James Kalustian, I know that his inspirational legacy begins with his grandparents: Genocide survivors from Kharpert, Smyrna, and my own native city of Arapkir. That legacy was reinforced in Jim through his dedicated parents, Martin and Mimi. And I know he took special inspiration from his godfather, Mark Kalustian: a man of deep learning with a thirst for knowledge, who lovingly built one of the great collections of Armenian artifacts.”
“Through the example of such people, Jim came to experience and understand the meaning of sainthood. And he has applied that meaning to his daily life—whether in business, community action, and especially service to the church. The Legacy of Our Martyrs has inspired Jim to take up service on the altar of our Lord, and to accept leadership roles in our church at the local, national and even international levels. And in a spirit of honoring that legacy, he has succeeded in making the story of our martyrs known within the broader reaches of this city and American society.”
In congratulating Deacon Jim on this honor, during this very special milestone year, the Primate presented Jim with an Armenian-motif ornament by New York artist, Michael Aram.
The day’s program came to a conclusion with the benediction offered by the Primate.
Banquet coordinators were William and Karen Martin. Sincerest thanks and appreciation were expressed to them and to all those who underwrote many of the banquet expenses.