Friends, alumni gather for St. Nersess groundbreaking

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]

June 16, 2004


By Jake Goshert

They arrived at St. Nersess Armenian Seminary from Philadelphia and New
Hampshire, and everywhere in between. Some special guests flew in from
London, California, and Canada. The crowd of more than 150 included
senior leaders of the Armenian community and energetic toddlers. They
came to the seminary to honor the past by building for the future.

On Saturday, June 12, 2004, Archbishop Khajag Barsamian, Primate of the
Diocese of the Armenian Church of America (Eastern) and President of the
Board of St. Nersess Seminary, presided over a service blessing the
ground and cornerstones of the seminary’s future His Holiness Karekin I
Theological Center and St. Hagop Chapel.

“This is truly an extraordinary day in the life of the Armenian Church.
It is a day of new beginnings. A day of dreams reaching their
fulfillment. A day for setting our sights high, to a beautiful,
promising vision of the future,” said Archbishop Khajag Barsamian.
“Clearly, it is a day of transforming significance for St. Nersess
Armenian Seminary. It is also a day — I deeply feel — which will have
great and fruitful consequences for the Armenian Church as a whole.
Without a doubt, this monumental new center is our doorway to a bright,
glorious future”


The new Catholicos Karekin I Theological Center, skillfully designed by
architech Armand P. Avakian, will feature a two-story complex which will
include a library that will house the Archbishop Tiran Nersoyan Library
collection of books,a high-tech lecture hall, seminar facilities, and

The St. Hagop Chapel, to be built adjacent to the new academic center,
will serve as a proper place of worship for the seminarians at St.

“I am convinced the Armenian Church has two pillars upon which our
identity rests, and our future rests,” said Fr. Daniel Findikyan, dean
of St. Nersess Seminary. “Our future rests upon our faith, which is
experienced in prayer. Secondly, it rests upon learning and studying
the glorious faith and traditions of our parents, grandparents, and
ancestors. The only road ahead for the Armenian Church in America, is a
road to a church that has in its midst a spiritual and an academic

The new space is needed at the seminary, which this September will have
12 students, including eight studying full-time as they prepare to enter
the priesthood.

“We are reaching a new level in the vision of Catholicos Karekin I, of
blessed memory. His vision, though, remains our challenge: To raise
knowledgeable, able, and faithful clergy to lead our church,” Fr.
Findikyan said. “We have already begun to produce a generation of
clergy in whom we can be proud, a generation which will inspire people
throughout the world with their faith.”


Haig and Elza Didizian, whose ties with His Holiness Karekin I, of
blessed memory, the late Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All
Armenians, go back more than 40 years, personally tended to the
Catholicos during the illness that would ultimately claim his life. It
was during that time that Haig Didizian promised to fulfill Vehapar’s
wish for a theological center of higher education that would benefit all
Armenian clergy.

The Karekin I Theological Center is being funded by Haig and Elza
Didizian, who donated $1.6 million in honor of their late friend the

“The Armenian Church has always been the strongest force in bringing and
keeping the Armenian community together,” said Mr. Didizian during the
ground blessing ceremony. “This center is a necessity, not a luxury,
for coming generations. Ensuring that Vehapar’s wish would become a
reality is an honor and an act of love.

“We are confident Vehapar’s legacy will prove to be immortal,” Mr.
Didizian added. “Our children and grandchildren will be able to know
him through his writings and recordings and, ultimately, through the
institution we are dedicating today.”

Furthermore, Haig and Elza Didizian, their children Marly, Hagop and
Donna, Chris and Caroline, and Haig’s late brother Setrak Didizian’s
fund, will be joined by Haig’s siblings Mr. and Mrs. Albert and
Dikranouhi Margossian, Mr. and Mrs. John and Mary Aslanian, Dr. and Mrs.
Ara Ankine Dakessian, and Dr. and Mrs. Noubar and Elizabeth Didizian, in
donating $800,000 to build the St. Hagop Chapel in memory of their
father and grandfather, Mr. Hagop Didizian, founder of the family
company, established in 1923, and their mother and grandmother, Mrs.
Khengaper Didizian.

The completion of the St. Hagop Chapel and the His Holiness Karekin I
Thelogical Center is scheduled for the later part of 2005.

Haig and Elza are also the sponsors of the publication of the complete
works of the late Catholicos Karekin I. Three of those volumes have
already been published.

About 100 community leaders attended a dinner hosted by Archbishop
Khajag Barsamian at the Diocesan Center in New York City on Friday, June
11, 2004 — organized by Vicki Hovanessian and emceed by her husband,
Dr. Raffy Hovanessian, a member of the St. Nersess Board who served as
master of ceremonies during the ground blessing service — to pay
tribute to the Didizians. During the dinner, several friends spoke of
the love and generosity of the Haig and Elza Didizian.

“Haig proved he was really a friend of Vehapar, because he has been
doing everything humanly possible to make sure people don’t forget him,”
Mr. Kevork Hovnanian said. “We both believe the church has been our
anchor for 1,700 years, and it is important to have a strong church.
And to have a strong church, you have to have able clergy, which was
Vehapar’s dream. I hope that dream will be accomplished when we see
graduates from St. Nersess who have studied at this library and prayed
at this chapel.”

“When Haig and Elza love somebody their love is limitless,” said Dr.
Haroutune Mekhjian. “Their love to Vehapar was legendary. During his
illness, they moved their home and business from London to New York City
to be with him. Every detail was taken care of. I remember how
tenderly Haig took the glasses of the Vehapar in his hands and gently
cleaned them. It is not surprising Haig and Elza decided to immortalize
our dear Vehapar by being benefactors of this theological center.”

The friends praising the Didizians’ generosity and love towards the
Vehapar, also detailed the immense need for the seminary’s expansion.

“The preparation of Armenian clergy with American backgrounds is
essential for the future of the Armenian Church,” said Mr. Hagop
Kouyoumdjian. “This princely donation is a way to achieve that. I hope
it will become an example for other benefactors.”

During the dinner held in honor of the Didizians, the Primate presented
the pair with the St. Vartan Award for their ongoing generosity and
devotion to the Armenian Church.

“This gift is truly an extraordinary example of the love and respect of
the Didizians,” Archbishop Barsamian said during a special dinner
honoring the Didizians at the Diocesan Center on Friday, June 11, 2004.
“They are true models of the virtues and blessings of the Armenian
Christian way of life. Their love for each other and their family, as
well as for the Armenian Church is beautiful to behold.”

— 6/16/04

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

PHOTO CAPTION (1): Haig and Elza Didizian — flanked by Archbishop
Khajag Barsamian, Primate of the Eastern Diocese and Archbishop Yeghishe
Gizirian, former Pontifical Legate and Primate of the Armenian Church of
Great Britain — break ground on Saturday, June 12, 2004, at what will
soon be the Catholicos Karekin I Theological Center and St. Hagop Chapel
at St. Nersess Seminary in New Rochelle, NY.

PHOTO CAPTION (2): Hagop and Christopher Didizian join their parents as
the Primate blesses one of the cornerstones (donated by the Armenian
Mission Parish of Charlotte, NC) for the new center and chapel for St.
Nersess Seminary.

PHOTO CAPTION (3): Priests, seminarians, and deacons sing during the
ground blessing service for the new academic center and chapel complex
at St. Nersess Seminary on Saturday, June 12, 2004.

PHOTO CAPTION (4): A computer-generated view of what the completed
Catholicos Karekin I Theological Center and adjoining St. Hagop Chapel,
designed by architect Armand P. Avakian, will look like when completed.

PHOTO CAPTION (5): More than 150 people join in prayer during the
ground blessing ceremony for the new complex to be built at the St.
Nersess Armenian Seminary in New Rochelle, NY.

PHOTO CAPTION (6): Archbishop Barsamian presents Haig and Elza Didizian
with the St. Vartan Award during a dinner at the Diocesan Center in New
York City honoring the couple on Friday, June 11, 2004.

PHOTO CAPTION (7): Guests look at the architectural drawings of the new
St. Nersess academic center and chapel complex during a dinner at the
Diocesan Center in New York City honoring the benefactors who are
underwriting the construction project, Haig and Elza Didizian.

PHOTO CAPTION (8): Armenian media interview the team from Armand P.
Avakian and Associates, the architects of the Catholicos Karekin I
Theological Center and St. Hagop Chapel to be built at St. Nersess
Seminary, during a special dinner on June 12, 2004, honoring the
benefactors of the project, Haig and Elza Didizian.

PHOTO CAPTION (9): Mr. Hagop Didizian, in whose memory, and that of
Mrs. Khengaper Didizian, the Didizian family is building the St. Hagop
Chapel at the St. Nersess Seminary.

PHOTO CAPTION (10): Mr. and Mrs. Haig and Elza Didizian.

# # #