Houston Honors Two Leaders as They Receive Pontifical Medals

Two parishioners of St. Kevork Church of Houston, TX, were honored this month with pontifical medals from His Holiness Karekin II, the Catholicos of All Armenians.

Vreij Kolandjian and David Onanian were each conferred with the “St. Nersess Shnorhali Medal” in a special ceremony and community gathering on May 2, 2021.

Presiding over the event was Diocesan Primate Bishop Daniel, who congratulated the honorees and addressed parishioners virtually, via a live Internet call. Also attending virtually were Diocesan Legate and Ecumenical Director Achbishop Vicken Aykazian, and other clergymen of the Eastern Diocese.

Due to the limitations imposed by the pandemic, only a small party of close relations could attend the ceremony in person. However, many parishioners took part in the event via the Zoom video conference platform. Well-wishers included friends, family, and parish council members.

Houston pastor Fr. Martiros Hakobyan conferred the medals in the church sanctuary, where he read aloud the Pontifical Encyclicals directed to Mr. Kolandjian and Mr. Onanian. In the encyclicals, the two were praised by the Catholicos for their devoted services to the local community, the Eastern Diocese, the Armenian Church as a whole, and the Armenian nation.

After Fr. Hakobyan pinned the St. Nersess Medals onto the honorees, Bishop Daniel congratulated the two recipients, noting their long terms of service and expressing his wish that they would feel encouraged to continue their efforts with renewed energy, to set an even greater example for future generations.

In their own remarks, Vreij Kolandjian and David Onanian expressed gratitude to His Holiness for conferring the honor of the St. Nersess Medal on them, and to the Primate

As a musical tribute for the occasion, Hasmik Vardanyan played classical Armenian selections on the cello, with Alisiya Boiko accompanying on piano. Fr. Hakobyan then led the gathering of family outdoors to an elegant reception in St. Kevork’s Khanoyan Park.

Click here to view photos. A lovely booklet was produced for the award ceremony, which can be viewed by clicking here.

Excerpts from the Pontifical Encyclicals

Catholicos Karekin II’s encyclical to Vreij Kolandjian stated in part:

Your service as a pious Armenian for the benefit of the church has been marked with many praiseworthy deeds carried out in parish and diocesan life for the adornment of the spiritual and national life of the community, as well as for encouraging activity and progress in the spiritual life. You have attained many God-loving achievements in various areas of responsibility, having held the office of Parish Council chairman of St. Kevork Armenian Church for twelve years, and today you continue your service as a Diocesan Delegate in a productive manner for the good of the church.

Of particular praiseworthy note are your humanitarian activities bringing assistance to our Syrian Armenians in overcoming the difficulties brought about by war and their move to the Motherland. You also brought your kind assistance to the Ararat state’s center for homeless and needy children. Indeed you have put your faith into action and with that same patriotic spirit today you continue to support the initiative to provide jobs for our Syrian Armenians living in Armenia as well as the humanitarian projects which help the areas destroyed and harmed during the tragic earthquake of 1988.

The Catholicos’ encyclical to David Onanian stated in part:

It is a joy for us as Catholicos of All Armenians to acknowledge your selfless service which has been marked with decades of continuous and praiseworthy deeds done for the prosperity and progress of the spiritual-ecclesiastical life of the American Armenian community. As an acolyte you brought your devoted participation to the celebration of the divine services. Later on you assumed the role of Parish Council chairman and you contributed new initiatives and put forth efforts for the edification and brightness of the divinely protected Diocese. Your example of patriotism and work undertaken for the good of the Church was also productive in your service as a Diocesan Delegate.

You also have a great legacy in the area of the education of the new generation. With all zeal and responsibility you have used your talents and time for this lofty goal, having served as coordinator, chairman and vice-chairman of the Armenian Church Youth Organization of America. It is laudable that as a worthy son of the Armenian people, being on the Board of Directors of St. Nersess Armenian Seminary, you have labored successfully for the preparation of the new generation of clergy. With your experience and organizational skills you assumed the responsibility of chairman of the committee created by St. Kevork Armenian Church to assist and support those in need as a result of the flood of 2017, thereby witnessing to the ever burning Christian love in your soul toward the neighbor.

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