Taking the next step

Diocese of the Armenian Church of America (Eastern)
630 Second Avenue, New York, NY 10016
Contact: Jake Goshert, Coordinator of Information Services
Tel: (212) 686-0710 Ext. 60; Fax: (212) 779-3558
E-mail: [email protected]

May 13, 2004


By Jake Goshert

The Eastern Diocese’s newly established college ministry program
completed its first full semester this spring, during which it partnered
with the St. Peter Church of Watervliet, NY, to hold a series of visits
in the Albany area.

“We want to send a welcome to these students, let them know they’re
always a part of our church family,” said Jason Demerjian, the Diocese’s
college ministry facilitator. “We’ve been working to be visible on
campuses, to meet with students, and to answer their questions. College
is a difficult time, and we want them to know we’re there for them
anytime they need our help.”


In the Albany area Demerjian and Fr. Stepanos Doudoukjian, pastor of St.
Peter Church, visited with students at the State University of New York
in Albany, Siena College, and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Their
first visits were a discussion on the Armenian Christian faith and how
it fit into the concept of Armenian identity.

“This is a good experience to get knowledge of our people,” said David
Mahserjian of Siena College. “I appreciate those of you who support us
and let us continue the things we do as Armenians.”

The campus gatherings brought out dozens of Armenian students to explore
their tradition. The visits were also a chance for students to explain
their faith to non-Armenian friends.

“As a member of the Roman Catholic Church, I found the visit to be
informative and an encouraging sign that faith is important to college
students,” said Meaghan Horn, a student at Siena College. “We want to
hold an inter-church prayer service next year, as something that further
affirms the idea that faith is important to college students.”


In response to the desires of the RPI students following the initial
visit, Demerjian and Fr. Doudoukjian organized a follow-up barbeque
party. It was a chance for the students to be social, but also served
as the starting point for what could become an officially recognized
Armenian students club at the school.

“The visits were an excellent start to what I hope will turn into a
monthly club meeting, for Armenian college students to gather and
recognize their culture,” said Haig Seferian, a student at RPI. “I
think it was an excellent introduction to how we can get things started.
Thank you Jason and the Diocese for coming up with and initiating this.”

The core group of students at RPI are going to work in coming months to
plan cultural and religious events at the school. They’re also going to
organize service projects for Armenia that can involve the non-Armenian
student population as well.

“We finally took the all-important step of starting a club,” said Jason
Garabedian from RPI. “The school has always had an Armenian population,
and now Armenian kids will have more of a reason to attend RPI, besides
the fact that it is a good school.”


This is the first full semester for the Diocese’s new college ministry
effort. Along with the ventures into the Albany area, Demerjian also
went on a number of successful visits to colleges around Boston, MA.

The goal of the college ministry program is to work with local parish
clergy and lay leaders in identifying students and coordinating
follow-up contacts. Since Demerjian is the sole staffer, he cannot make
regular visits to all campuses with Armenian populations. That’s why
the success of college ministry outreach will depend on people in the
local parishes such — as Fr. Doudoukjian, who has taken an interest in
the success of the Albany area.

“I feel there’s a great need for ministry to college students,” said Fr.
Doudoukjian, who as a deacon in 1993 worked to reach out to college
students. “When 17- and 18-year-olds go to college, there’s a newfound
independence. And with that comes a desire to carve out who they are as
individuals. That’s one of our last opportunities to reach out to youth
through campus ministry. If we come to their home territory on campus
and say, ‘Yes, the Armenian Church cares,’ and provide guidance, the
results can be unbelievable.”

Fr. Doudoukjian also said parents need to take action when their kids go
away to school, so their children can get connected to those new
ministry efforts.

“The parents need to get involved, and let the Diocese and local
parishes know when their kids go away to school,” he said. “Will all
this work and make them involved in the life of the church? If you’re
not in there doing ministry, you have little chance at all. If you are
out there and affecting people’s lives in a positive way, the chance is
greater. You plant the seed, and never know what fruit will blossom.”

— 5/13/04

E-mail photos available on request. Photos also viewable on the Eastern
Diocese’s website,

PHOTO CAPTIO (1): A group of students at Rensselaer Polytechnic
Institute (RPI) in the Albany, NY, area gather for a barbeque this
spring with Jason Demerjian, the Eastern Diocese’s college ministry
facilitator, and Fr. Stepanos Doudoukjian, pastor at the St. Peter
Church of Watervliet, NY.

PHOTO CAPTION (2): With the energy provided by the Eastern Diocese’s
college ministry program, students at RPI in Albany, NY, are now working
on creating an on-going Armenian cultural association.

PHOTO CAPTION (3): Social gatherings organized through the Eastern
Diocese’s new college ministry outreach program — such as this barbeque
at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute near Albany, NY– give the local
priests and Diocesan staff a chance to get to know and serve as role
models for Armenian college students.

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