Last weekend, the community of St. Garabed Church of Baton Rouge, LA, celebrated the 10th anniversary of the church’s consecration and the 25th anniversary of the establishment of the parish. Archbishop Khajag Barsamian, Primate of the Diocese of the Armenian Church of America (Eastern), visited the parish on this occasion. He was accompanied by the Rev. Fr. Tateos Abdalian and Maestro Khoren Mekanejian, who trained the choir for the weekend’s services.
On Saturday evening, June 17, three parishioners—David Yessayan, Krikor Dakessian, and Khaching Moutafian—were ordained to the rank of acolyte. This was followed by the anointing of a new khatchkar that was placed into the altar foundation. The khatchkar was crafted in Armenia and donated in memory of the late Hagop Meguerditchian, a dedicated parishioner of St. Garabed Church. Ara Meguerditchian, Hagop’s son, and Michael Meguerditchian, his grandson, participated in the anointing ceremony.
On Sunday, June 18, Archbishop Barsamian celebrated the Divine Liturgy and ordained Krikor Dakessian, Khachig Moutafian, and Simon Soghomonian to the rank of sub-deacon.
Archbishop Barsamian congratulated the newly ordained altar servers and commended them for their dedication.
“It gives me great joy to be here today and to see the spirit of service that is so apparent among the entire Armenian community of Baton Rouge,” the Primate said. “I pray that, as you embark on a new chapter of your history, St. Garabed Church will continue to inspire the next generation of Armenian-Americans growing up in Louisiana to embrace their faith and heritage.”
Last weekend’s ordinations were a first for St. Garabed Church, and parishioners said they felt moved to witness this special ceremony of the Armenian Church. “The most inspirational part of the weekend for me was to see the ordinations performed for the first time in our church,” said parish council chair Vasken Kaltakdjian.
Following services, some 100 parishioners and guests gathered for a celebratory banquet. As they entered, a talented musician rendered Armenian folk songs and hymns on the harp. Mistress of ceremonies Tamar Meguerditchian Gregorian welcomed the guests.
Sarkis and Nora Kaltakdjian and Boghos Moutafian were presented with the “St. Vartan Award” for their contributions to the parish. They were among the original members of the parish council at St. Garabed Church.
Current parish council chair Vasken Kaltakdjian spoke about the work of the Baton Rouge community over the years, and commented on the dedication of its founding members and first parish council.
Fr. Tateos Abdalian, who has been a visiting priest in Baton Rouge for a number of years, expressed his appreciation to the community for their involvement in the life of the Armenian Church. He said that the weekend also marked the 33rd anniversary of his priestly ordination, and remarked that he and Yn. Margaret Abdalian were delighted to share the occasion with the St. Garabed parish.
Vasken Kaltakdjian was then surprised with the “St. Vartan Award,” presented to him by the Primate for his leadership of the parish in recent years.
Archbishop Barsamian congratulated the parishioners on the double anniversary. He encouraged the young people to remain involved and to take part in Diocesan programs, such as summer camps, pilgrimages, and St. Nersess Seminary programs.
The Louisiana Armenian community dates back to the mid-1970s, when Armenians from Syria and Lebanon began to settle in the area. In 1992 then-Primate Archbishop Torkom Manoogian visited Louisiana and appointed a seven-member parish council. As the community continued to grow, it was formally recognized as a mission parish of the Eastern Diocese.
In 2004 the parish purchased a building and converted it into an Armenian-style church. Archbishop Barsamian consecrated the house of worship as St. Garabed Church in May 2006. Following the construction of the church and the adjacent hall, a cemetery was also developed. In 2007, His Holiness, Karekin II, the Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians, visited the St. Garabed Church and blessed the cemetery.
Today the parish is comprised of some 100 Armenian families from the cities of New Orleans, Baton Rouge, and La Place.