By Elizabeth Akian
On May 15, 2016, nearly 300 guests gathered at the Villa Amalfi Restaurant in Cliffside Park, New Jersey to celebrate the 110th anniversary of the Holy Cross Armenian Church of Union City, New Jersey.
The celebration commenced earlier in the day with a special Divine Liturgy presided by Archbishop Khajag Barsamian, Primate of the Diocese of the Armenian Church of America (Eastern). The Divine Liturgy was sung by members of the Gomidas Choir, led by Kris Kalfayan.
The service marked a significant milestone for Matthew Bagdat, currently attending Seton Hall University, who was ordained to the holy order of the sub-diaconate.
In addition, the right side-altar was dedicated in memory of Mr. Nubar Dorian, with a special plaque blessed by Archbishop Barsamian. The late Mr. Dorian, whose family members were in attendance for this ceremony, was a dedicated servant on numerous levels to the Armenian community at large, as well as a beloved member of the parish.
Following badarak, guests traveled to the Villa Amalfi Restaurant for a celebratory banquet. Hirant Gulian served as Master of Ceremonies and welcomed the attendees and introduced the honored guests seated at the dais: Archbishop Barsamian, Armenia’s UN Ambassador Zohrab Mnatsakanyan, New Jersey’s U.S. Senator Robert Menendez, Cliffside Park Mayor Thomas Calabrese, Dr. Vartan Abdo, parish pastor the Very Rev. Fr. Vazken Karayan, Alice Bozoyan, and Lori Zoklu.
The invocation was led by the Very Rev. Fr. Daniel Findikyan. Mr. Gulian then introduced a special Kurdish delegation visiting the United States from Dikranagerd (Diyarbakir, Turkey) that presented the Holy Cross parish with a mosaic artwork for this momentous occasion.
Greetings and reflections were then provided by U.S. Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Ms. Lori Zoklu (banquet chair), Alice Bozoyan (parish council chair), as well as the Very Rev. Fr. Vazken Karayan (pastor).
The keynote address was delivered by Dr. Vartan Abdo, founder and director of the Armenian Radio Hour of New Jersey (ARHNJ), and professor of Mathematics at Seton Hall University. He reviewed the remarkable history of the parish, including the accomplishments of the successive generations of pastors and lay leaders.
His Excellency Zohrab Mnatsakanyan, Armenia’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, extended his congratulations to the Holy Cross parish on the milestone anniversary, and stressed the vital importance of church life within the Armenian community.
The program then moved to a delightful variety of Armenian musical selections performed by Solange Merdinian, mezzo-soprano, and Hayk Arsenyan, pianist.
This auspicious occasion was highlighted by honoring three prominent women for their outstanding service to the Holy Cross community over the years: Diana Burggraf (Women’s Guild chair), Alice Bozoyan (parish council chair), and Alice Yigitkurt (parish council vice chair).
The honorees were individually presented with a Pontifical Encyclical (gontag) from the Primate on behalf of the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin, as well as a jeweled pendant pin with Armenian initials designed and donated by Mr. Gulian.
In their remarks, each of these human pillars gave thanks to their families, as well as to their Armenian heritage. They reviewed their experiences and impressions from the beginning of their affiliations with the parish, through their respective commitments (Women’s Guild, Parish Council, Armenian School, Sunday School, ACYOA, parish events, etc.) up to the present, and their hopes for the future of Holy Cross.
The program came to a close with congratulatory remarks and a benediction by Archbishop Khajag Barsamian.
The members of the Holy Cross Anniversary Committee were: the Very Rev. Fr. Vazken Karayan (President), Lori Zoklu (Chair), Sercan Zoklu (Co-Chair), Sylvia Bozoyan (Booklet/Reservations), Hirant Gulian, Berch Manukian, Ann Dadaian, Elizabeth Akian, Sonya Bekarian, Ruby Gulian, Arsham Bekarian and Nayad Manukian.