Every summer, pastors from the Eastern Diocese answer the call to visit Armenia, and to bring their parishioners as well as their personal ministry to the homeland.
For the Very Rev. Fr. Oshagan Gulgulian, of the St. Sahag and St. Mesrob Church (Wynnewood, PA), the call to venture to Armenia came from the monastic brotherhood of Holy Etchmiadzin. He joined some 70 fellow clergymen for the brotherhood’s biennial convocation presided over by His Holiness Karekin II, the Catholicos of All Armenians.
Fr. Gulgulian’s role was as organizer of the conference, which included a week of meetings, a renewing of vows, and five services dedicated to the Mother See and some of the great saints of Armenian history.
The heart of the conference was a pastoral mission to Armenia’s impoverished Gegharkounik region, where the priests visited 25 villages and some 150 homes of families in need. With support from friends and the Fund for Armenian Relief, Fr. Gulgulian organized the clergy into pastoral platoons who prayed with the families and presented them with a substantial charitable gift.
“There is such need in these regions of Armenia,” said Fr. Gulgulian. “It is my prayer and hope that this mission will be continued, to help these families thrive.”
Revealing Armenia’s Wonders
For other Diocesan clergy, traveling to the homeland was a chance to reveal its wonders to American Armenians—many of whom had never experienced Armenia before.
The Rev. Fr. Tadeos Barseghyan, of the St. Sahag Church (Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN), led 36 travelers on a pilgrimage to the land of his birth. Most of the pilgrims were members of his parish, but the group also included people from California, Connecticut, Michigan, Portugal, the United Arab Emirates, and a Coptic nun.
The group visited Armenia’s monasteries, the Genocide Memorial, and other sites. But the highlight came on the first day, with a visit to Holy Etchmiadzin and an audience with His Holiness Karekin II.
“It was a privilege to have His Holiness confer his blessing on the travelers and on our entire trip,” said Fr. Barseghyan.
Excitement Still to Come
Also leading a large group through Armenia is the Rev. Fr. Hratch Sargsyan, pastor of the St. Gregory of Narek Church (Cleveland, OH). As leader of this summer’s Armenia Service Program (ASP) trip of the ACYOA, Fr. Sargsyan is leading some 20 young adults on an interactive tour of their homeland.
The group is taking in the religious and cultural sites, but also lending their time and energy to a children’s summer camp and the FAR Children’s Center.
“The ASP participants are having a wonderful time in in Armenia,” said Fr. Sargsyan. “Along with visiting the holy sites we’re enjoying Armenian language classes, a dolma and lavash-making master class, Armenian dance lessons—with exciting things still to come.”
Click on the link to view photos of the ASP trip, which runs to July 16.