MONTEBELLO—On the evening of Wednesday, January 6, more than 500 guests gathered at “Bagramian” Hall of Holy Cross Cathedral in Montebello for the traditional New Year and Christmas Dinner hosted by Western Prelate Archbishop Moushegh Mardirossian.
The annual dinner organized by the Ladies Auxiliary brings together dignitaries, representatives of parishes and community organizations, benefactors, sponsors, and friends of the Prelacy for an evening of Christmas merriment. The dinner was this year hosted by Mr. and Mrs. Gaizak and Anahid Ohanesian, who unfortunately could not attend due to health reasons.
This year’s dinner was unique in that it also served as a commemoration of the legacy of our holy martyrs. The reliquaries containing the relics of our martyrs, blessed and consecrated by the Prelate the previous month, were displayed in front of the podium next to the manger, and at the end of the evening were presented to parishes’ representatives for permanent display in each of our churches. The event was also extraordinary in the level of moral and financial support demonstrated.
The official program began with welcoming remarks by Master of Ceremonies Very Rev. Fr. Boghos Tinkjian, who greeted the guests and wished for the New Year to bring light, love, peace, and justice to the world, and joy and prosperity to all.
Thereafter, candles in hand, the Prelate and clergy entered the hall in a procession singing Christmas hymns. The Gospel account of the Birth of Christ was read by Archpriest Fr. Razmig Khatchadourian, which was followed by the “tatakh” ceremony. The Prelate delivered the invocation, after which guests enjoyed a traditional Christmas meal, during which soloist Elina Avanesyan sang Christmas hymns, and later guests enjoyed a performance by the Greg Hosharian quintet.
During the dinner guests watched the video message of His Holiness Aram I, who spoke on the Christmas message of renewal. His Holiness stated that the very purpose of the incarnation of the Son of God in Jesus was to restore God’s image in man. Thus, our Pontiff emphasized that renewal must become the driving force of our individual and community life, while remaining faithful to our traditions, values, and identity as Christian Armenians. In conclusion, His Holiness expressed his full trust that the new generations will bring new vitality, creativity, and vision to our community life, and commended the Prelate and Councils for their dedicated service to their mission.
On behalf of the organizing committee, Ladies Auxiliary member Tina Kasbarian welcomed the guests and wished a happy New Year for all. Executive Council Chair Vahe Hovaguimian delivered his message, speaking on the importance of serving with renewed commitment and vigor. Mr. Hovaguimian expressed gratitude for the Prelate’s meritorious leadership and wished him many more years of service, and thanked the volunteers and sponsors for their service and support.
On behalf of the Consulate General of Armenia, Consul Razmik Stepanyan conveyed New Year and Christmas well wishes to all, and spoke of the importance of working together with brotherly love and harmony as children of God for the prosperity of our nation.
Archpriest Fr. Vazken Atmajian, who also served as MC, acknowledged the presence of special guests, among them Counsellor Razmik Stepanyan, Consul Armella Shakaryan, Central Executive member Khajag Dikijian, ARF Central Committee Chair Dr. Viken Hovsepian and members, Armenia’s first Foreign Minister Raffi Hovanissian, Glendale Mayor Ara Najarian, Montebello Councilmember Jack Hadjinian, representatives of Forest Lawn Mortuaries, Dignity Health Glendale Memorial Hospital, Board of Regents, CASPS, ARS, Homenetmen, Hamazkayin, and media outlets. Fr. Vazken thanked the sponsors who throughout the past year contributed to the successes of our Prelacy and community events, expressing special thanks to the Khatchatourian Foundation, Mrs. Tina Carolan, Forest Lawn, Prelacy Ladies Auxiliary, and Mr. and Mrs. Sarkis and Nune Sepetjian, who were the evening’s patrons.
Guests then viewed a video clip of the blessing and consecration of reliquaries conducted by Prelate on December 8 at Holy Martyrs Church. A performance by Lilia Dance Studio students followed.
Fr. Boghos Tinkjian briefly reflected on the “Year of Service” proclamation of His Holiness Aram I, and then invited the Prelate, whom he stated embodies the true spirit of service, to deliver his message.
Prior to delivering his message His Eminence thanked the MC’s and congratulated Fr Boghos on recently earning his Master’s Degree. The Prelate also took a moment to reflect on the numerous losses the Prelacy family experienced in the past year, and especially at the end of the year, most notably the untimely passing of Executive Council member Vahrij Pilavjian.
The Prelate began his message by thanking God for the gift of another year and for granting the opportunity for the Prelacy family to once again come together to collectively celebrate Christmas, and wished all a New Year with an abundance of good health, happiness, peace, and prosperity. The Prelate next reflected on some of the highlights of the past year, including the blessing of Holy Muron at the Holy See of Cilicia and Etchmiadzin, the canonization of our martyrs, the commemoration at Dzidzernagapert, the special Mass at the Vatican by Pope Francis with the participation of our two Pontiffs, various ecumenical services, the building of numerous memorial monuments, the massive March for Justice, and the ceremonies in Washington presided by our two Pontiffs. He also spoke of the events held within and under the auspices of the Prelacy, most recently the construction of the Armenian Genocide Memorial Courtyard on the Prelacy grounds which will feature replicas of the Genocide memorial monuments at Dzidzernagapert and Bikfaya, and thanked Mr. and Mrs. Osko and Yeran Karaghossian for graciously sponsoring the special courtyard and also the cross reliquaries. The Prelate thanked also all the sponsors who throughout the year lent their support to the various Centennial commemorations and to Prelacy activities, acknowledging in particular the generosity of longtime Prelacy friends and supporters at Forest Lawn, headed by President Mr. Darin Drabing, who for the third consecutive year contributed $20,000 to the Good Samaritan Fund within our Prelacy, in additional to their annual dinner sponsorship. His Eminence also announced a bequest of $100,000 to establish the Larry Barnes and Seda Der-Garabedian Barnes Memorial Fund at the Prelacy by the efforts of St. Garabed Church of Las Vegas.
Speaking on the endeavors of the coming year, the Prelate touched upon the “Year of Service” proclamation by His Holiness Aram I, highlighting the importance of collective efforts for the successful realization of the endeavors of our churches, schools, and community organizations. The Prelate thanked the clergy, Executive Council, parish delegates and board, ladies guilds, committees, and staff for their dedicated service, and announced that soon the Prelacy will have two young members of the Holy See of Cilicia Brotherhood who are being called to serve within the Western Prelacy, Very Rev. Fr. Dajad Ashekian who will serve as pastor of Holy Trinity Church of Fresno, and Very Rev. Fr. Barouyr Shernezian who will serve as pastor of St. Gregory Church of San Francisco. “As children of God and brothers and sisters of one family, we all have a duty to contribute to the advancement of our faith and nation. Let us pledge today that we will continue the unity and collective efforts we displayed in the Centennial year and work together with even greater vigor and resolve to preserve and foster the values and institutions so dear to us, stated the Prelate, and once again thanked the multitude of church and community activists, servants, volunteers, sponsors, and supporters. The Prelate concluded his message by once again conveying his wishes for a joyous and peaceful New Year and for the Christmas spirit and tidings to inspire us throughout the year to serve with brotherly love and goodness for the glory of God and the prosperity of our nation.”
At the conclusion of the Prelate’s message, Arch. Mardirossian presented the cross reliquaries to parish pastors and representatives in the presence of Gofather Mr. and Mrs. Osko and Yeran Karaghossian
The evening came to a close with the benediction, Cilicia, and Pontifical anthem.