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A New Priest Ordained in Charlotte

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  • A New Priest Ordained in Charlotte

    Diocese of the Armenian Church of America (Eastern)
    630 Second Avenue, New York, NY 10016
    Contact: Karine Abalyan
    Tel: (212) 686-0710; Fax: (212) 779-3558
    E-mail: [email protected]

    December 15, 2014


    A New Priest Ordained in Charlotte

    Archbishop Khajag Barsamian, Primate of the Diocese of the Armenian Church
    of America (Eastern), ordained Dn. Benjamin Rith-Najarian to the holy
    priesthood last weekend at St. Sarkis Church of Charlotte, N.C.

    The two-day ceremony began on Saturday evening, December 6. Dn. Benjamin
    knelt before the altar in a traditional calling service that symbolizes a
    deacon's formal presentation to the Lord as a candidate for the priesthood.
    At the conclusion of the service, Dn. Benjamin recited the great
    proclamation of the Christian faith by St. Gregory of Datev.

    On Sunday, December 7, Archbishop Barsamian ordained Dn. Benjamin to the
    priesthood during the celebration of the Divine Liturgy.

    Also participating in the ordination service were Archbishop Vicken
    Aykazian, Diocesan Legate and Ecumenical Director, Very Rev. Fr. Daniel
    Findikyan, and Rev. Fr. Mardiros Chevian. Fr. Findikyan served as the
    sponsoring priest and Dn. Yervant Kutchukian served as the godfather at the

    Archbishop Barsamian performed the "laying on of hands" ritual, which binds
    all priests of the Armenian Church into the "apostolic succession," linking
    clergy through the generations back to the Apostles Thaddeus and
    Bartholomew-who brought Christianity to Armenia in the 1st century-and back
    before them to Christ himself.

    Archbishop Barsamian later consecrated Dn. Benjamin's forehead and his hands
    with holy muron (chrism), and gave him the priestly name "Samuel." At the
    conclusion of the service, the newly ordained priest gave his first blessing
    to the faithful at St. Sarkis Church.

    In his sermon, the Primate spoke about the priestly vocation and the
    pastor's role in the life of a parish. "He will represent Christ before his
    flock," Archbishop Barsamian said, "and he will also represent his flock
    before God: speaking on behalf of the people, conveying our wants and needs,
    asking for God's mercy and blessing."

    He went on to describe Fr. Samuel's journey to the priesthood-his dedication
    to his studies and his love for the Armenian Church and people.

    "When Fr. Samuel felt that he was being called, he considered carefully the
    road God was calling him to," he said. "And having searched his heart, he
    committed himself to that road with all his strength and determination. As
    he embarks on this noble path of service to the church, we pray that Fr.
    Samuel will always be refreshed by that rare sense of purpose, which comes
    from the love of his people, and the love of God."

    Humility, patience, prayer

    Born in Philadelphia, Fr. Samuel grew up in Bemidji, Minn. His parents, Drs.
    Janet and Stephen Rith-Najarian, instilled in their son the Christian values
    of service and outreach.

    While an undergraduate student at St. John's University in Collegeville,
    Minn., the young Benjamin was inspired by the university's monastic setting
    and the Benedictine monks of St. John's Abbey. In 2002, when a new Armenian
    sanctuary was consecrated in St. Paul, Minn., the Rith-Najarian family began
    attending services at St. Sahag Church.

    Following his graduation from St. John's University in May 2005, where he
    studied the natural sciences and theology, Benjamin continued his studies at
    St. Nersess Armenian Seminary in upstate New York. He also earned a master
    of divinity degree from St. John's University School of Theology.

    Upon the completion of his studies in May 2010, he married Danielle
    DerAsadourian. Together the couple traveled to the Armenian Patriarchate of
    Jerusalem, where Benjamin continued to prepare for the priesthood and
    Danielle taught at the Sts. Tarkmanchatz Armenian School.

    Benjamin has also spent time abroad in Armenia and Damascus, Syria, and he
    has interned at St. Leon Church of Fair Lawn, NJ, under the direction of the
    Rev. Fr. Diran Bohajian, parish pastor. He was ordained to the diaconate at
    St. Leon Church in September 2011. In August 2013, he was assigned as
    deacon-in-charge at St. Sarkis Church in Charlotte, N.C.

    "As Christians, children of God, we are all universally called to live and
    to preach the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, loving God with all our
    heart, all our soul, and with all our mind, and loving our neighbors as
    ourselves," Fr. Samuel said. "Within the church, we are all called to do
    this in different ways. As a priest, the critical responsibility is to feed
    the Lord's flock, to share God's love with all."

    He went on to recall a passage in the Gospel of John when Jesus asks Peter
    to nurture his flock. "This means caring for those in need, serving both the
    physical and spiritual needs of God's children, and illuminating the
    presence of God in the monumental as well as the ordinary everyday moments
    in the lives of our people," Fr. Samuel explained. "This, first of all,
    requires that I be a faithful disciple of Christ, through humility,
    patience, and prayer."

    "Tuned to a life-giving frequency"

    At a celebratory banquet on Sunday afternoon, some 200 people-including the
    ACYOA Central Council and Diocesan Council chair James Kalustian and vice
    chair Paul Mardoian-gathered to congratulate Fr. Samuel and his family.
    Archbishop Aykazian opened the gathering with a prayer.

    Master of ceremonies Diane Tudor, who also chaired the banquet committee,
    welcomed guests. Remarks were also made by parish council chair Hagop
    Sarkissian and Dn. Yervant Kutchukian.

    Fr. Daniel Findikyan recalled meeting the young Benjamin 12 years ago in St.
    Paul, Minn., working with him through the St. Nersess summer conferences,
    and later mentoring him when he enrolled as a seminarian at St. Nersess.

    "One of the greatest blessings I have enjoyed as a priest of the Armenian
    Church has been the privilege to accompany a number of young men on the path
    of discerning and responding to God's call for them to serve our church as
    priests," Fr. Findikyan said. "What I can testify as Fr. Samuel's sponsoring
    priest, teacher, friend, and brother in Christ, is that with our prayers and
    the loving support of the St. Sarkis Church community, Fr. Samuel will
    always keep his heart and mind tuned to the life-giving frequency of our
    Lord's love, and he will eagerly, compassionately, and creatively share that
    love with all those whom the Lord entrusts to his care."

    Women's Guild member Noelle Sarkissian presented Fr. Samuel with a hand
    cross on behalf of the organization, with which he has worked closely while
    serving as deacon-in-charge at St. Sarkis Church. Alex Manucharov presented
    Fr. Samuel with a Bible on behalf of the parish ACYOA. Several parishioners
    presented a musical program of piano, violin, and duduk performances.

    Parish council chair Hagop Sarkissian said the parish is very excited to
    work with Fr. Samuel to enrich existing programs and to launch new
    initiatives. "He is well liked by everybody," Mr. Sarkissian said. "He has
    reached out to the elderly and to young people. He has been training altar
    servers and taking an active part in our community life, and we are looking
    forward to this new chapter in the history of St. Sarkis Church."

    Fr. Samuel said he is passionate about Christian education programs. "In the
    Armenian Church, this means finding ways to make our beautiful and unique
    traditions, customs, and practices through which we come to know God
    accessible to the modern world," he said.

    "At St. Sarkis, we already have in place regular ACYOA Bible studies, we
    have reopened the Sunday School, and we are planning to reopen the Armenian
    School in the near future. I also look forward to developing more
    opportunities for community members to serve and minister to those in need,
    such as visiting sick or homebound parishioners."

    Archbishop Barsamian congratulated Fr. Samuel and Yn. Danielle. "May Christ
    our Lord inspire, guide, and protect Fr. Samuel, as he embarks on this new
    ministry. May he bless Yn. Danielle, who will stand beside and strengthen
    Der Hayr in the years to come," he said.

    The newly-ordained Fr. Samuel will complete his 40-day seclusion period of
    fasting, meditation, and prayer at St. Nersess Seminary.

    Maestro Khoren Mekanejian, the Diocese's Music Ministry coordinator,
    directed the choir during the weekend's services. Following Saturday's
    service, the Women's Guild hosted a reception. Later that evening, parish
    council member Ara Yessayan and his wife Dr. Sylvie Bastajian Yessayan, who
    is a parish delegate, hosted a reception for out-of-town guests.


    Photos attached (by Andrew Hagopian).
    Photo 1: Dn. Benjamin Rith-Najarian kneels before the congregation during
    the ordination service.
    Photo 2: Archbishop Barsamian consecrates Dn. Benjamin Rith-Najarian's hands
    with holy muron.

    Photo 3: Yn. Danielle DerAsadourian receives Fr. Samuel's blessing at the
    conclusion of the service.

    From: A. Papazian