Diocesan Assembly Banquet Honors Bedevian, Governor Patrick, Heritage Park Organizers


Archbishop Khajag Barsamian expressed his gratitude to Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, who accepted his award during the opening session of the Diocesan Assembly.

BOSTON — Some 300 attendees from parishes throughout the Diocese gathered in the Imperial Ballroom of the Boston Park Plaza Hotel on Friday, April 29, to honor several contributors to the Armenian Church and to the greater Armenian community.

Hosted by the Holy Trinity Armenian Church of Cambridge, the Grand Banquet of the 109th Diocesan Assembly was an opportunity to present the 2011 Diocesan awards and celebrate the achievements of the community.

The award for Armenian Church Member of the Year was bestowed upon Sarkis Bedevian of the St. Leon parish of Fair Lawn, NJ, for his lifelong devotion to the betterment of the church in the US and Armenia.

A video presentation told of Bedevian’s journey from his birthplace of Jerusalem to America; his personal story as a self-made businessman and devoted head of a family and of his service and generosity to the Armenian Church — including the construction of a cathedral in Vanadzor, Armenia, which he undertook with his wife, Ruth.

Accepting his award, Bedevian reflected on his life and the influence the church had on him ever since he was a little boy.

“By the age of 5, I was already involved in the St. James Armenian Church in Jerusalem,” said Bedevian. “My mother sewed a shabig for me and I held her hand as we walked to church on Sundays.”

His exposure to the Armenian faith and heritage was not limited to the confines of the church, however. As a student at Jerusalem’s Tarkmanchatz School, he, along with his classmates, learned “that our faith and traditions are all one.”

Strong, Engaged, Inspiring

Gov. Deval Patrick of Massachusetts, the recipient of the Diocese’s 2011 “Friend of the Armenian Award,” was applauded as a leader who has reliably supported the Armenian community in Massachusetts — in particular with the founding of Armenian Heritage Park on Boston’s Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway.

Patrick accepted his award in person on Thursday afternoon, during the opening session of the Diocesan Assembly, before the assembled delegates. But a video clip of his acceptance speech was screened at the Friday night banquet.

In his remarks, the visibly-moved governor forcefully said he knew how important it was to the Armenian community that the Genocide be called by its rightful name; but he went on to add, “I also know that the Genocide is not all that you are.”

He spoke about the “tenacity, resilience and staunch patriotism” he has witnessed among the members of the Armenian community in Massachusetts. “That is also who you are, and what makes this community so rich, so strong, so engaged and so inspiring for me,” Patrick said.

A short film portraying the September 2010 dedication ceremony for the Armenian Heritage Park was also shown at the banquet, as a prelude for a special presentation to the park’s Executive Committee members.

The park itself is a gift to Boston and Massachusetts from the Armenian-American community. Diocesan Council Chairman Oscar Tatosian announced the special award as it was presented to James Kalustian, president of the Armenian Heritage Foundation.

Speaking on behalf of the Executive Committee of the foundation, Kalustian called the project a “truly unified effort of our entire community.”

“This park will stand as a tribute to the Armenian immigrants and to many other immigrant communities who escaped tragedy and found safety on our shores,” he said, before expressing thanks to all the organizations and people involved in helping the park come to fruition.

Kalustian also noted that an endowment associated with Armenian Heritage Park will sponsor an ongoing lecture series on human rights. The series was inaugurated last September with a lecture by Kerry Kennedy.

“God bless America,” Kalustian concluded. “For where else but in America could Armenian immigrants escape persecution, find freedom to worship in their own faith, the opportunity for better lives for their families, and the hope that tomorrow offers endless possibilities?”

Responding out of Love and Responsibility

In his benediction, Archbishop Khajag Barsamian, Primate of the Diocese of the Armenian Church of America (Eastern), reflected on the individuals and causes honored during the evening.

He commented on Bedevian’s leadership in the Armenian Church and community, and praised him and his wife, Ruth, for raising a pious family and passing their heritage down to their children. “Anyone who meets Sarkis immediately appreciates his grand spirit and generous soul,” said the Primate. “He is a man who feels the hand of God in his life, and who responds out of love and a sense of responsibility.”

The Primate reflected on the strength of the New England Armenian community and its ability to support such a significant undertaking as Armenian Heritage Park, despite the challenges it faced.

“The park you have realized is a sign of hope and optimism; and evidence of the power that lay ministry — the ‘Ministry of the Faithful’— can have in our lives, and in the broader society around us.”

He also expressed admiration for Patrick’s strong support of the Armenian-American community in Massachusetts.

“Governor Patrick is himself a man of faith, and our prayers are with him,” said the Primate. “We are proud to have such an honorable friend, adding his voice to our own.”

The Primate concluded by congratulating the entire Armenian Heritage Foundation Executive Committee: Kalustian, Charles Guleserian, Haig Deranian, Karen Derderian, Lucy Hoosian, Bruce Bagdasarian, Fr. Vasken Kouzouian and Walter Nahabedian; honorary chair and vice chair, Peter Koutoujian and Rachel Kaprielian, repectively, and architect Donald Tellalian.

Mezzo-soprano Victoria Avetisyan, accompanied by Nune Hakobyan, provided the cultural portion of the evening, beautifully rendering several songs in Armenian.

Remarks during the evening were offered by the Rev. Vasken Kouzouian, pastor of Cambridge’s Holy Trinity Armenian Church. Also speaking on the occasion were Janice Dorian and Nancy Kasarjian, co- hairs of the host parish’s Diocesan Assembly Committee.