College campuses are hubs of activities in the fall, and this year Armenian students in Michigan added a new event to their busy calendars: pastoral visits from the Armenian Church.
“Children grow up in our parishes with the church being central in their lives,” said the Very Rev. Fr. Aren Jebejian, pastor of the St. John Church of Southfield, MI. “They participate in Sunday worship, church schools, and youth activities. But often, when they leave home for college, the church becomes distant, and not a part of their busy lives.”
“We wanted to change that by bringing the church to them—just as the original apostles traveled to deliver the word of Christ to God’s children,” he said.
With that encouragement, St. John’s assistant pastor the Rev. Fr. Armash Bagdasarian, along with parish director of youth activities Lisa Mardigian, hit the road to spend time with Armenian students of the University of Michigan (in Ann Arbor), Michigan State University (East Lansing), and Wayne State University (Detroit).
Fr. Bagdasarian offered a brief but impactful message to the students: Just as Jesus was there when his disciples needed him, so too would the church be there for students—even though they might be living far from home.
A Piece of Home
Each visit lasted about 75 minutes, during which students met and ate together, sometimes at a local restaurant. Each student was given a prayer card with the Lord’s Prayer printed on one side, and contact information for the St. John Church on the reverse.
“Nothing relieves the stress of the week like a little pizza and prayer,” said Sarkis Dagley, a junior at the University of Michigan.
His fellow UMich junior Zaven Dadian agreed. “It was great. They filled our stomachs, but also filled our spirits with true Christian fellowship.”
Ani Misirliyan, a junior at Michigan State University added, “It was nice to have a piece of home at school with us for the night.”
Fr. Jebejian, Fr. Bagdasarian, and Lisa Mardigian are already planning more campus visits, and the students are looking forward to continuing the fellowship.
“Bringing a sense of familiarity and community to us is just what we need,” said Gasia Oknayan, a freshman at the University of Michigan.