Watertown, Mass. – Young people attending the ACYOA General Assembly in the Boston area last week had the opportunity to hone their leadership skills and to learn about ways they can become more actively involved in organizations at their local parishes.
Meetings were held on May 27 and 28 at St. James Church of Watertown, Mass. The General Assembly was followed by Sports Weekend activities on May 29-31, hosted by the St. James Church ACYOA chapter in downtown Boston. The weekend coincided with the annual Hye M’rtsoom event, which the St. James Church hosts for ACYOA Juniors every year.
More than 100 delegates and observers from 29 parishes, including members of the clergy, took part in the ACYOA General Assembly – setting an attendance record for the past decade. The assembly was chaired by George Macarian of St. David Church in Boca Raton, Fla.
Archbishop Khajag Barsamian, Primate of the Diocese of the Armenian Church of America (Eastern), outlined ways young people can take up leadership roles in the Church and encouraged participants “to bring your own voices, your own creativity, your own sense of vision to the mission of your local parish, our Diocese, and the Armenian Church as a whole.”
“This is your moment to shine as leaders of the Armenian Church of America,” the Primate said. “Our Diocese is committed to giving you the tools you need as church leaders. And I am committed to supporting you as leaders of your parishes: to encouraging our pastors and parish councils to open their doors to you, and to recognize your voice and responsibility in the parish.”
Archbishop Barsamian called on young people to think of initiatives they might support outside typical ACYOA activities and asked them to consider “lasting efforts that will make our church stronger.” As examples, the Primate spoke about possible outreach efforts to the broader community, and projects to expand membership and facilities in local parishes.
The Primate also challenged ACYOA members to come up with “spiritually-uplifting projects to undertake in our homeland,” and to work with the Fund for Armenian Relief to realize such efforts in Armenia.
Randy Sapah-Gulian, chair of the board of directors of the Fund for Armenian Relief, gave participants an overview of the organization’s programs and shared stories of individual beneficiaries who have received opportunities through FAR, ranging from scholarships and job placement to medical assistance and programs for the elderly.
Mr. Sapah-Gulian stressed that in the 20 years since its establishment following the 1988 earthquake in Armenia, FAR has transitioned from serving the immediate needs of the Armenian people to creating long-term development programs. In the past two decades, FAR has allocated $280 million in humanitarian assistance and developed more than 220 programs in Armenia, including initiatives to bolster education, infrastructure, and medicine.
Also representing FAR at the General Assembly were Garnik Nanagoulian, the organization’s executive director; Arto Vorperian, projects director; and Andre Berg, director of development. Together they invited young people to consider how they might play a role in Armenia’s growth.
This summer, the ACYOA’s Armenia Service Program is partnering with FAR to focus volunteering efforts on FAR projects in Gyumri, Armenia. During the trip, scheduled to run from June 29 to July 20, the ASP group will work at FAR’s Ounjian School, which is undergoing renovations, and at the FAR Soup Kitchen, which serves Gyumri’s elderly community.
Inspired by Sapah-Gulian’s presentation, ACYOA members at the General Assembly passed a proposal to work with FAR to adopt outreach projects in Armenia. In the coming months, the ACYOA Central Council will select a project and appoint a committee to develop and implement an action plan by the end of the year.
“We are very excited to work with the Fund for Armenian Relief,” said Central Council vice chair Danny Mantis. “This is a wonderful opportunity to learn from a well-established humanitarian organization and to explore fresh outreach approaches that ACYOA members might pursue in Armenia in the future.”
Inspiring new leaders
During the meeting, members of the ACYOA Central Council delivered an organization-wide report, highlighting the success of activities such as the Young Adult Leadership Conference, which was held in Tarrytown, N.Y., in March, and the formation of new ACYOA chapters, which has brought the total number of chapters across the Diocese to 26.
Delegates at the assembly also heard Jennifer Morris, Youth Outreach coordinator at the Diocese, speak about Diocesan Summer Camp programs, where many ACYOA members serve as counselors. The Rev. Fr. Stepanos Doudoukjian, director of Youth and Vocations at St. Nersess Seminary, spoke about summer conferences and deacons’ training seminars scheduled at the seminary.
In this Diocesan year of “Vocation: The Call to Serve,” the assembly passed a proposal calling on individual ACYOA chapters to donate 10 percent of their income this year to St. Nersess Seminary on a voluntary basis. The proposal is intended to support the seminary’s mission and the larger Diocesan-wide effort to recruit you men to serve as priests in the Armenian Church.
Delegates also elected new members – George Macarian of St. David Church in Boca Raton, Fla., and Alex Ouzounian of St. Mesrob Church in Racine, Wis. – to the ACYOA Central Council. They thanked outgoing chair Alex Derderian and vice chair Talin Hitik for their dedication and hard work. Delegates also expressed their gratitude to the Primate and to ACYOA Executive Secretary Nancy Basmajian for their support of the organization’s initiatives.
The new Central Council was blessed by the Primate after the Divine Liturgy on Sunday, May 30.
Lydia Kurkjian, of St. Gregory the Enlightener Church in White Plains, N.Y., will serve as chair; Danny Mantis, of St. Mesrob Church in Racine, Wis., as vice chair; Danielle DerAsadourian, of St. James Church in Evanston, Ill., as secretary; George Macarian as treasurer; Gevork Vartanian, of Sts. Sahag and Mesrob Church of Providence, R.I., as programming coordinator; Ara Janigian, also of Sts. Sahag and Mesrob in Providence, as public relations coordinator; and Alex Ouzounian as chapter relations coordinator.