Society of Istanbul Armenians of Boston Honor Fr. Aljalian at Father’s Day Dinner


Honoree Fr. Arakel Aljalian, with the organizing committee for Father’s Day Dinner: from left, Nektar Aschjian, Vartuhi Ohan, Garo Yavshayan, Berj Yildirim, Fr. Arakel Aljalian, Krikor Shaboian, Dr. Aida Yavshayan, Elizabeth Ganjian, and Arto Kurkjian

From left, Yeretsgin Natasha, Gabriel and Rev. Arakel Aljalian

From left, Dr. Aida Yavshayan, with Zangakner member Ani Belorian, director Hasmik Konjoyan and Christina Konjoyan

By Aram Arkun

Mirror-Spectator Staff

 

WATERTOWN — The Society of Istanbul Armenians of Boston honored Fr. Arakel Aljalian, pastor of St. James Armenian Church of Watertown, as “Father of the Year” at the Society’s annual dinner on Saturday, June 17 at St. James’ Armene and Veronica Tarvezian Hall.

Dr. Aida Yavshayan served as the master of ceremonies, and the president of the Society of Istanbul Armenians of Boston, Krikor Shaboyan, welcomed the guests. Initially some slides were shown without narration of various sites familiar to Istanbul Armenians.

The Zangakner Performing Arts Ensemble, featuring local Armenian children and artistic director and founder Hasmik Konjoyan, sang several Armenian songs for the audience. Its presence enlivened the audience. Konjoyan spoke a few words about the importance of fathers, as well as that of spiritual fathers (i.e. clergymen) in the lives of our families.

Fr. Krikor Maksoudian gave a benediction prior to the meal. A second clergyman, Fr. Aved Terzian, pastor of the Armenian Church of Our Savior in Worcester, was also in the audience.

Yavshayan then introduced several Armenians to speak about Fr. Alajalian. First came George Haroutiounian, who was a good friend and classmate of Fr. Aljalian in high school over thirty years ago in Jerusalem. Their friendship endured and grew stronger years later in Watertown. He said that Fr. Aljalian’s calling to be a priest came early to him as a teenager. Haroutiounian praised Fr. Aljalian’s leadership abilities, and exclaimed, “Your humble, balanced approach to life is inspiring.”

Alex Kalaydjian spoke next. A native of Jerusalem, Kalaydjian has known Aljalian for about 40 years, from when he came from Turkey to study at the Dadourian Saner School, and later at the Armenian seminary. In the mid-1980s, Aljalian came to the US, and two years later so did Kalaydjian. In 1998, they met once more, and now practically see each other every day. Kalaydjian concluded with the words that fatherhood is like the morning dew in a field, both pure and sweet. He wished Aljalian a long life, and strength, health and patience, both as a father and as a leader of the Armenian community. He gave a copy of Matthew Karanian’s book on Western Armenia, Historic Armenia after 100 Years, as a present to Aljalian.

Rita Haroutiounian Meneshian then took the podium. Nineteen years ago, she was astounded and pleased to learn that her former student, with the birth name of Serop, would come to St. James Armenian Church as its next pastor. During the second half of the 1970s, when Meneshian’s sister was emigrating to America in the middle of the school year, she asked Rita to fill her place as a teacher in the Holy Translators School in Jerusalem. Serop was among her students. He first had come to the Dadourian School from Sasoun, in Turkey. The Dadourian School was intended to save Armenian youth in Turkey from assimilation and Turkification. Serop’s brother also came to Jerusalem and became a priest. He now serves the Armenians of Switzerland.

Serop was very kind, respectful and polite, according to Meneshian. He went on to the seminary, and then in 1983 to General Theological Seminary in the US. Meneshian went on to describe Fr. Arakel’s priestly education and training. In 1993 he was ordained a priest. After various other positions, he came to St. James Armenian Church in 1999 as pastor, where he has faithfully served ever since.

Meneshian said, “Our community is very fortunate to have the multitalented Fr. Arakel as the pastor of the most active church of the Armenian [Eastern] Diocese.”

Fr. Aljalian’s wife, Yeretsgin Natasha Aljalian, was then invited to come to the podium. She described her husband as “faithful, dedicated and entirely committed to God and serving his church.” She added that he is very proud to be known as a Sasountsi, as well as to have lived in Istanbul and Jerusalem.

As a family man, she said, the greatest joy of his life (as well as of hers) was when each of their children, Gabriel Simon and Mary Grace, was born. Despite difficulties, she continued, they always tried together to make them smile and enjoy life, even when the cards seemed stacked against them. He manages to lift their spirits up, she said.

To show some of the unofficial or private life of Fr. Aljalian, his wife screened a short video, which elicited many oohs and aahs from the audience, especially with many cute images of the Aljalian children.

At the end of the program, Fr. Aljalian thanked the organizers and participants. He expected a “nice and simple get-together with the Bolsahays,” but it turned into a much bigger affair. He said that all parents must be grateful for the gift of a life that they can share. He was given some special gifts, and then helped cut the Father’s Day cake.

Arden Fereshetian provided music for the evening after the formal program was over. The Society of Istanbul Armenians executive board, Nektar Aschjian, Vartuhi Ohan, Berj Yildirim, Krikor Shaboian, Dr. Aida Yavshayan, Elizabeth Ganjian, and Arto Kurkjian, along with Garo Yavshayan, comprised the organizing committee for this event.