The warm hospitality of Watertown’s Armenian community made the annual Awards Banquet of the Eastern Diocese an engaging and memorable affair. Several hundred guests gathered for the occasion on the evening of Friday, May 3, at the Marriott Hotel in Burlington, MA.
Hosted by Watertown’s St. James Church, the banquet was the culmination of the 117th Assembly of the Diocese of the Armenian Church of America (Eastern). The Very Rev. Fr. Daniel Findikyan presided over the banquet as Diocesan Primate. In the course of the evening, several distinguished individuals were applauded for their support of the Armenian Church and community.
Diocesan Legate and Ecumenical Director Archbishop Vicken Aykazian delivered the invocation to open the evening.
Herman Purutyan, who co-chaired the host parish committee alongside Thomas Gengozian, gave a generous welcome to guests from throughout the Diocese.
Diocesan Assembly chair Lisa Esayian offered a heartfelt toast to the health of the health of the Primate and the prosperity of the church.
St. James parishioner and altar server Mark Giragosian splendidly executed the role of Master of Ceremonies, extolling the work of the parish assembly committee and the legion of volunteers for making the week a success.
Works of Beauty and Christian Faith
Boston’s fine Urartu Armenian Women’s Choir sang the anthems of the United States and Armenia under the direction of maestro Artur Veranian. And the city’s Sayat Nova Dance Company, directed by Apo Ashjian, gave a spectacular performance combining quiet grace with high-energy athleticism.
Diocesan Council vice chair Paul Mardoian introduced the evening’s first honoree: Dr. Helen Evans of New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, who received the 2019 “Friend of the Armenians” award for curating last fall’s landmark “Armenia!” exhibit.
“Tonight, we have the opportunity to thank Dr. Evans for organizing the exhibit that became a ‘family reunion’ of our people: a chance for us to gather together, and stand in the presence of the great works of beauty and Christian faith created by the loving hands of our ancestors,” said Mr. Mardoian.
In Dr. Evans’ gracious response, she thanked all Armenians for the “privilege to study the visual voice of your people.”
“I accept this award on behalf of those who enabled me to be a scholar: the scribes and artisans, clerics, royalty, and your ancestors who preserved these great works,” she said. She recalled seeing for the first time the great manuscripts of Hromkla, “that opened my eyes and my heart to Armenian art.” She conveyed gratitude to the generous Armenians who helped fund the “Armenia!” exhibit, and to her scholarly colleagues Thomas Mathews, Nina Garsoïan, and Fr. Daniel Findikyan.
This year’s “Armenian Church Member of the Year” award was given posthumously to the late Edward Guleserian and to his surviving wife Nancy. In introductory remarks, Diocesan Council member the Very Rev. Fr. Aren Jebejian noted the family’s ongoing role as proprietors of Boston’s Sheraton Commander Hotel, and extolled the Guleserians’ long record of “generosity and care for Armenians, the clergy, and anyone who needs help.”
“You do all these things from a clean and loving heart—continuing a family legacy that goes back generations to the great Catholicos Papken Guleserian,” Fr. Jebejian said, in the course of his warm personal remembrances of Edward, Nancy, and their children Michael and Kristine.
Speaking on behalf of the family, son Michael Guleserian surveyed the lifetime of charitable works undertaken, often with no fanfare, by his parents. “In honor of my father’s reluctance to be in the spotlight,” he said, “I accept this award on behalf of the entire Guleserian family.”
Daughter Dr. Kristine Guleserian graciously thanked the Diocese and all the banquet guests for honoring her parents. She paid special tribute to her parents as exceptional role models, who had shown her powerful lessons of generosity and inner strength.
At last, Nancy Guleserian came to the podium, to the warmhearted applause of the entire room. “This is truly Ed’s honor,” she said, “ and I’m grateful to all of you for keeping his memory alive.” In a few graceful words, she summed up the values undergirding the couple’s life together: “Sharing our time, wisdom, and generosity with others; and living a kind and good life.”
Inspiring Achievement, Love, and Beauty
St. James pastor the Rev. Fr. Arakel Aljalian rose to thank his parishioners for their work preparing for the Diocesan Assembly, and touchingly remembered departed leaders of the St. James parish: figures from the past who had left a deep impression on the Diocese as a whole.
To conclude the program, Fr. Daniel Findikyan remarked on the beautiful atmosphere of the evening, and congratulated each of the honorees in turn.
“A lot has changed in our Diocese this year,” he said. “But looking out among you, I am proud to lead a Diocese that inspires such achievement, love, and beauty.”
To his friend and colleague Dr. Helen Evans, the Primate said, “I have enormous admiration for you, Helen. And we as a church are enormously indebted to you.”
He expressed regret for never having had the opportunity to meet Edward Guleserian in life, but added that “I am grateful to have become friends with Nancy, and experience the hospitality so characteristic of the family. I’ve come to admire the warmth they show to all our people.”
Touching on a thematic thread of the 117th Diocesan Assembly, the Primate added that the Guleserians “have brought healing to the lives of real people.”
The Diocesan Assembly Committee of St. James Church was led by Fr. Arakel Aljalian and co-chairs Thomas Gengozian and Dn. Herman Purutyan . The main committee consisted of Mark Giragosian, Sandra Raphalian, Gail Boroyan, Yn. Natasha Aljalian, Maria Derderian, Nancy Kassabian, Janice Kavjian, and Edward Kazanjian—and included dozens of volunteers from the local community. Carolyn Atinizian and Mark Torre, and Kalyn Babikyan, respectively led the banquet and booklet subcommittees.