More than 200 people gathered at Holy Trinity Church in Cheltenham, Pa., last Sunday to mark Archbishop Yeghishe Gizirian’s 65th anniversary of ordination into the holy priesthood.
Archbishop Gizirian celebrated the Divine Liturgy. A luncheon and program followed the service in the church’s Santerian Hall.
Messages were read from His Holiness Karekin II, the Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians, and Archbishop Khajag Barsamian, Primate of the Diocese of the Armenian Church of America (Eastern).
“In all the aspects of your ministry, you have always kept your priestly promise to our Heavenly Father, and shown your love and dedication to the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin,” His Holiness wrote. “May our almighty Lord keep you strong and protect you.”
Archbishop Barsamian expressed his appreciation to Archbishop Gizirian for his dedicated service. “The holy priesthood is an unbroken chain linking us back to Christ; and this spiritual truth is clearly evident in Archbishop Yeghishe,” the Primate wrote. “His preaching is done with such authority; yet his personal example is one of humility and quiet grace. He is a leader of great inner strength and conviction; yet his greatest strength is the tender compassion he shows to all—a quality that has made him beloved wherever he has served.”
Other clergy spoke about the humility and devotion that Archbishop Gizirian has brought to his ministry. The Rev. Fr. Karekin Kasparian, pastor of St. Gregory the Enlightener Church of White Plains, N.Y., who studied with Archbishop Gizirian at the seminary in Antelias, Lebanon, spoke about their close friendship and their ministry in the Eastern Diocese.
The Rev. Fr. Hakob Gevorgyan, pastor of Holy Trinity Church, said that Archbishop Gizirian has been a mentor to him and to other young priests in the Diocese. “He carries love in his heart, and shares it with everyone he meets,” Fr. Gevorgyan said. “He is a role model and a source of inspiration for young seminarians and newly-ordained priests.”
Remarks were also made by the Very Rev. Fr. Oshagan Gulgulian, pastor of the nearby St. Sahag and St. Mesrob Church of Wynnewood, Pa., who reflected on Archbishop Gizirian’s tireless service in the vineyard of the Lord.
The program included a video highlighting Archbishop Yeghishe’s path to the priesthood, produced by the Diocese’s Communications Department, as well as a musical performance and poetry recitations. Antranig Garibian served as the master of ceremonies.
In his remarks, Archbishop Yeghishe shared memories about his ministry and about the people who have inspired him. He also spoke about the importance of carrying forward the mission of the Armenian Church and keeping alive its ancient traditions for new generations of faithful.
“Despite all the disappointing events of our time, we Christians strongly believe that there is an everlasting source of strength and hope in this divine institution that we call the Church,” he said. “The basis of everything is the love of God, and the Armenian Church was established on that divine love.”
Also attending the program were guests from the Armenian Martyrs Congregational Church and the Armenian Sisters Academy.
A native of Damascus, Syria, Archbishop Gizirian studied at the Seminary of the Catholicosate of Cilicia in Antelias, Lebanon. He was ordained a celibate priest in 1947 by the late Bishop Terenig Poladian.
He came to the United States in 1951, where he served as the pastor of the Holy Cross Church of New York City; St. John the Baptist Church of Miami, Fla.; Holy Mother of God Church of Newark, N.J.; the Holy Savior Church of Worcester, Mass.; St. John the Baptist Church of Detroit, Mich.; Sts. Sahag and Mesrob Church of Wynnewood, Pa.; and Holy Trinity Church of Cambridge, Mass.
In 1982, Fr. Gizirian was ordained a bishop in the Cathedral of Holy Etchmiadzin by His Holiness Vasken I, the late Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians. In March of that year he began serving as Primate and Pontifical Legate of the Armenian Church of England. In 1993, he was elevated to the rank of archbishop.
After 20 years of service in the United Kingdom, he retired and returned to the United States, where he divides his time between visiting parishes, representing the Diocese at official functions, and serving as the spiritual father of St. Nersess Armenian Seminary in New Rochelle, N.Y.