By: Florence Avakian
NEW YORK—The annual Mother’s Day luncheon sponsored by the Prelacy Ladies Guild is always an event not to be missed. On Mon., May 10, close to 170 attended this much-awaited and festive event at the elegant Palace Hotel, located in midtown Manhattan.
His Eminence Archbishop Oshagan Choloyan, Prelate of the Eastern Prelacy of the Armenian Apostolic Church of America, presided over the luncheon and delivered the invocation and benediction. Also in attendance were Bishop Anoushavan Tanielian, vicar of the Prelacy, Archpriest Fr. Nerses Manoogian, pastor of Philadelphia’s St. Gregory the Illuminator Church in Philadelphia, and Yeretsgin Marie Hagopian, widow of the late Archpriest Arsen Hagopian who served as the parish priest of Philadelphia’s St. Gregory Church for many years. The latter two had come, along with a host of other Philadelphians, specifically to witness the honor bestowed on Grace Keshgegian as the 2010 Mother of the Year.
Iris Papazian, the director of communications and publications at the Prelacy, served as the afternoon’s MC. She warmly welcomed the guests seated at flower-bedecked tables in the chandeliered banquet hall, lined with classical paintings. She related that the year 2010 is the “Year of the Armenian Woman,” as decreed by His Holiness Aram I, Catholicos of the
Great House of Cilicia. Women who have always performed many roles as Armenian mothers are known for their sacrifice, loyalty, as life-givers, and as a source of vitality for the community, she said.
Following a delicious luncheon, Papazian noted that Philadelphia has always been supportive of this event, but that this year they were here in full force, having traveled in a large bus that included family members, friends, the parish priest, and many fellow parishioners of Grace Keshgegian, the honored mother of the year. And this, Papazian said addressing the honoree, is testimony to the love and respect the Philly community has for you.
Papazian described the honoree’s dedication to her family and to her parish of St. Gregory, where she has served as Board of Trustees member and chair—the first women elected to that position—as well as chair of the Ladies Guild and delegate to the National Representative Assembly. Above all, she has served for decades as a faithful and supportive member of St. Gregory Church and its community.
Following the Armenian tradition of supporting church and school, Keshgegian has given many years of devoted service to Philadelphia’s acclaimed Armenian Sisters Academy. She is the granddaughter of Rev. Fr. Nishan Papazian, who was ordained Vartabed after the death of his Yeretsgin. Keshgegian inherited his dedicated and stellar legacy, and has been a model mother and faithful friend with a lifetime of service, said Papazian.
Dedication from faith
Presenting the award to Keshgegian, Archbishop Oshagan said that her dedication springs from her strong faith in the Armenian Church which she has served with love and devotion. “The church is her life. It is vital for her, like air. She is an inspiration and a source of strength for all,” he said.
The archbishop reminded the attendees of the timeless words of the legendary Armenian poet Vahan Tekeyan, who wrote that in the final analysis what remains in life, strangely, is that which is given to others. Giving is receiving, and this is Grace Keshgegian, whose service to others is the joy of her life.
In an inspiring address, the Prelate congratulated all mothers here, and not here. “Blessed are those who still have their mothers. Being an Armenian mother means forming an exemplary family with family values. Without the attributes that come from an Armenian mother, we wouldn’t be the nation we are. And we can show these values to other nations,” he said.
Highlight of my life
In her remarks of appreciation, Keshgegian described the day as “the highlight of my life.” She paid tribute to her grandparents who taught her to be God loving and fearing. Her grandfather, Der Nishan, “always stressed God and family first, and that’s what I live by,” she said with obvious emotion. She also made special mention of the greatest man in her life, her husband, the late Dick Keshgegian, as well as her children and grandchildren. “I have truly been blessed.”
In a delightful musical interlude, Yerevan musician, actor, and entertainer Hovannes Babakhanyan, with his unique Armenian inflections and dramatizations, recited and sang popular Armenian songs from Sayat Nova, Arno Babajanian, and other composers.
Nayda Voskerijian led the enthusiastic raffle drawing and distributed to the winners the more than two dozen elegant prizes with the help of other Ladies Guild members. In a charming turn of events, two of the prizes were won by Bishop Anoushavan Tanielian, who promptly presented the gifts to the two ladies seated next to him.
In bringing the inspiring afternoon to a close, the MC expressed thanks to the members of the Prelacy Ladies Guild for their tireless work on this event, as well as other events they host for the Prelacy, and then invited the Prelate to offer his closing message and the benediction.
Members of the Prelacy Ladies Guild include Seda Andrikian, Sima Artinoff, Marion Boudakian, Linda Chirinian, Amy Gostanian, Lilian Hairabedian, Gemma Melik Vartanian, Lilian Merdinian, Diana Minassian, Seta Nalbandian, Annie Pampanini, Anna Piliguian, Lucille Sahagian, Anna Semerdjian, Silvia Setrakian, Ovsanna Tatarian, Rita Tatevossian, Nayda Voskerijian, and Silva Zadourian.