On the weekend of June 4-5, 2021, the Armenian Church of the Holy Resurrection in New Britain, CT, and the entire Eastern Diocese of the Armenian Church of America, witnessed the holy sacrament of ordination, culminating in the consecration of a new priest to lead the faithful.
In two moving services—a Friday “Service of Calling,” and a Sacrament of Ordination badarak on Saturday—Diocesan Primate Bishop Daniel Findikyan ordained and anointed Deacon Michael Sabounjian into the holy priesthood, conferring on him the new name “Fr. Haroutiun.” Dn. Michael had been serving as Deacon-in-Charge since February at New Britain’s Holy Resurrection Church.
The sponsoring priest was Rev. Fr. Krikor Sabounjian, Fr. Haroutiun’s father, and the ordination godfather was Stepan Piligian, a longtime friend of the Sabounjian family. Fr. Krikor noted that his son’s priestly name—Armenian for “Resurrection”—was personally meaningful to him, not only for its beautiful intrinsic meaning, but also because it is a name he associates with a dear, now sadly departed, clergy colleague.
The calling service, of about 45 minutes duration on Friday June 4, began in classic fashion, with a column of clergy and deacons processing to the front of the Armenian Church of the Holy Resurrection, with the ordination candidate traversing the distance on his knees.
All approached the presiding bishop, who was seated below the altar. The age-old ceremony proceeded as a series of questions and answers involving the bishop, candidate, and his sponsors, culminating in the declamation from the onlookers that “He is worthy”—in Armenian, “Arzhani eh.”
Addressing the congregation directly, Bishop Daniel compared the calling service to a “rigorous final exam” in which “you are the jury: you are the ones to determine whether Dn. Michael is worthy to be promoted, tomorrow, to the holy priesthood of the Armenian Apostolic Orthodox Church.”
“I’ve been his teacher,” the Primate said; “I’ve known him since he was a boy. The clergy are here to offer their testimony as well, along with his classmates. We’ve all done the best we can to be sure that we are presenting to God a many who is worthy—as worthy as a human being can be—to do God’s work, to lead God’s people, and to do the will of God. That’s why we are here tonight.”
Seeking New Life
More than 170 people attended the Holy Ordination badarak on June 5, while many others viewed the live-streamed Internet broadcast. As during the Calling Service, in attendance was a large delegation of clergy from the region and beyond. In one portion of the service, the elder clergy approached the newly anointed and consecrated Fr. Haroutiun to pay their respect to him by kissing his hand. The rest of the congregation followed suit at the end of the service, congratulating the new priest and his new Yeretzgin Lucine. Clergy also assisted in other parts of the ceremony, including the vesting and anointing of the new priest.
In his sermon, Bishop Daniel returned to themes he had touched on the night before, recalling the newly ordained priest had been his student, and is the son of a priest. “This young priest is very bright, and graced with talents—graced with a fiery love for God which goes back to his very junior years,” he said. “Many of you already in just a few months have caught a glimpse of that … you’ve caught a glimpse of something living and holy.”
He noted the significant, more-than-coincidental circumstances underlying the ordination day: that it was taking place on the Feast of St. Gregory the Illuminator’s Deliverance from the Pit; that the day’s reading from Isaiah 61 proclaimed that “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me…”; and that the ceremony was happening in a church named for the Holy Resurrection, or Sourp Haroutiun in Armenian.
“The Church of the Holy Resurrection: the church of ‘New Life’—that’s what you are,” the Bishop said, gesturing towards the congregation, “on this day of new life for St. Gregory. On this day of new priestly life for a young man. A day of new life for his entire family…. A day of new life for the clergy here, who all feel enriched by another bright priest to do God’s work.”
The Primate also touchingly remembered a beloved priest of the Diocese, the late Fr. Haroutiun Dagley, who departed this world long before his time, and said that the spirit of the late priest was present among them “as another Der Haroutiun steps forward, to bring Good News and New Life to the people who have been entrusted to him. He’ll do that in his own way, with the gifts given to him. And he’ll do that with an awareness of all the intersecting details surrounding his ordination day.”
Bishop Daniel challenged his listeners to be attentive to such intersecting details in daily life, and through them to ask: “How is God inviting me to get a glimpse of that New Life He wants every person to have?”
“God has anointed Der Haroutiun today; and through him, He has called all of you to be ministers of God’s will, God’s new life, God’s resurrection in the world.”
Work of the Entire Community
Growing up in Massachusetts, for most of his youth Fr. Haroutiun was a member of Holy Translators Church in Framingham, where his father has long served as pastor. He received his Bachelor of Arts degree in Philosophy, while minoring in Music and French, from Boston College. He then graduated from St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary and St. Nerses Armenian Seminary in 2018 with a Masters of Divinity and a certificate in Armenian Studies, respectively. He completed a pastoral internship under the guidance of the Fr. Shnork Souin at the Sts. Sahag and Mesrob Church in Providence, RI.
Fr. Mardiros Chevian, St. Nersess Seminary’s dean, described Fr. Haroutiun’s seminary studies as “a three-year program studying a host of subjects, including theology, church history, and Scripture. It also involved spending time overseas in an Armenian monastery abroad.” Fr. Haroutiun has spent time in Jerusalem as well as Armenia.
Fr. Haroutiun is married to Lucine Sabounjian. His parents are Fr. Krikor Sabounjian and Yeretzgin (and now also Diramayr) LuAnn Sabounjian.
The ordination represented the fifth priestly ordination performed by Bishop Daniel since his own elevation to the episcopal rank in 2019, and his third in as many months.
In a message made in the days prior to his ordination, then-Deacon Michael had said: “I ask everyone for their prayers, that Christ might embolden me in my faith, strengthen me in my perseverance, and guide me in my ministry. It is clear to me that no success in my pastorate will come as a result of my own efforts, but rather from each member of our parish coming together in Christ’s self-sacrificial love. In that spirit, I pray that the Holy Spirit might direct all that I do in this new chapter of my service within the Body of Christ.”
Bishop Daniel said that ordaining Fr. Haroutiun was a pleasure, having known his family for many years. “My role as the bishop is to make sure we have leadership, shepherding, and care within our church communities,” said the Primate of the Eastern Diocese of the Armenian Church of America.
Fr. Haroutiun’s transition to become the pastor of Holy Resurrection Church was greatly assisted by two parish committees. The first was a Transition Committee chaired by Dn. Matthew Cannata, and the second an Ordination Committee chaired by Elisa Griego and Robbin Haboian. The Transition Committee focused on welcoming Dn. Michael to the parish and introducing him to the faithful; the Ordination Committee attended to every detail of the sacred weekend, culminating in a well-attended banquet at Tunxis Country Club in Farmington, CT. Both committees received invaluable guidance and direction from seminary dean Fr. Chevian.
The banquet following the ordination provided an opportunity for fellowship and public reflections on Fr. Haroutiun, the Armenian Church, and its role in the lives of its faithful.
Gary Hovhanesian served as an able Master of Ceremonies for the banquet program, bringing a blend of solemnity and humor to the occasion. Guy Simonian, chair of the Holy Resurrection Parish Council, stated that the church had been impressed with what Fr. Haroutiun had accomplished as a deacon, and looked forward to working with him as their new priest.
Poignant observations were also offered by Fr. Krikor Sabounjian, godfather Stepan Piligian, and Fr. Haroutiun himself. Bishop Daniel inspired all in attendance with his stirring closing remarks and challenges.
As is customary following an ordination, the new priest has entered a 40-day period of seclusion, during which he will devote his time to prayer, reflection, and preparation. He will spend his time at St. Nersess Seminary, where he will reflect on his new ministry and the responsibilities of the priesthood of Jesus Christ in the Armenian Church.
On Sunday July 18, Fr. Haroutiun will celebrate the Divine Liturgy for the first at the Armenian Church of the Holy Resurrection, his new parish.
By Harry Mazadoorian and Chris Zakian
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CLICK THE FOLLOWING LINKS TO:
VIEW photos from the ordination.
WATCH a recording of the Service of Calling.
WATCH a recording of the Ordination of Fr. Haroutiun Sabounjian.
Above: Bishop Daniel before the altar of Holy Resurrection Church in New Britain, CT, flanked by the newly-ordained Fr. Haroutiun Sabounjian and Yn. Lucine, and sponsoring priest (and parents of the ordained) Fr. Krikor Sabounjian and Yn. LuAnn.