Sun shines on bright future for Ararat Center

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]

July 27, 2004


By Jake Goshert

It was more than the brilliant sun that made the day exhilarating. When
more than 650 guests descended upon the Eastern Diocese’s new Ararat
Center for an open house and consecration on July 24, 2004, they were
quickly inspired by the site.

They explored the seven buildings on the site, marveled at the
possibility afforded by the location’s 65 acres, and were moved by the
inspirational consecration of the land, making it Armenian.

“This is truly an extraordinary day in the life of our Diocese,” the
Primate told the crowd following the consecration, which featured dozens
of priests and sharagans sung by the St. Vartan Camp participants.
“This is a day of beginnings; a day of dreams reaching their
fulfillment; a day of seeing our dreams come to fruition and setting
beautiful dreams for the future.”

The Ararat Center was palpably transformed during the consecration
service when soil from Armenia was buried in the site and, with the
promise of success to come, an altar stone was blessed and consecrated
for use in a future on-site chapel.

“With the founding of the Ararat Center, a new horizon of amazing
possibilities has opened up for our church,” the Primate said. “Summer
camps, religious retreats, all manner of programs for young and old –
the Ararat Center promises all this and more to our future generations.”

As the consecration continued, the transformation into a truly Armenian
site was noticeable. In that simple ceremony the Ararat Center became a
home for all Armenians.

“Being Armenian, I think the idea of having the Ararat Center in
beautiful New York State is so rejuvenating for the community. It will
revitalize the Armenian community,” said Sona Jones of Tenafly, NJ. “We
don’t have the real Ararat anymore, but we are happy with the


The historic beginning was several years in the making, and only came
about thanks to boundless dedication by many individuals.

The efforts began during the 2000 Diocesan Assembly in Philadelphia,
when a call for the purchase of a permanent home for the Diocesan summer
camp program was lead by the late Fr. Haigazoun Melkonian. He was
encouraged by the generous and then anonymous donations from the late
Acabe Boornazian. Both Fr. Melkonian and Mrs. Boornazian will be
honored in memorial plaques at the Ararat Center site.

“They and others truly felt the Holy Spirit guiding them. We can only
pray everyone, young and old, who utilizes this facility will feel the
same spirit in their hearts,” the Primate said. “We have never ceased
calling upon the Lord, and indeed the Lord has heard us, and has set us
free to realize our deepest longings. This beautiful center is another
way He has blessed us; another way He has shown us that His loving
kindness will endure forever.”

That dedication did not go unnoticed by the attendees of the open house,
many of whom traveled hundreds of miles just for the celebration.

“I think it’s beautiful. I like that we accomplished something, that we
realized our dreams,” said Lynn Hajatian, a parishioner of the Holy
Trinity Church of Cheltenham, PA. “I am hoping the parishes use it. It
would be unfortunate if they didn’t.”

Along with the support of lay leaders, the Ararat Center project came to
fruition because of the dedication of a number of clergy, including the

“Archbishop Barsamian saw the potential here and brought the right
people together to make this dream a reality,” said Stephen Hovnanian,
chairman of the Ararat Center Advisory Committee.


The Diocese purchased the expansive Ararat Center in January 2004 for
$1.2 million. Already nearly $1 million in cash and pledges has been
raised. During the consecration, many people, moved by the testimony of
supporters and the potential of the site, gave another $25,000.

“Today, as you have toured our 65 magnificent acres, it is time to
celebrate,” said Rose Najarian-Kedeshian, a member of the Ararat Center
advisory committee. “It is the new home of every single one of you. It
only happened because we made this happen. We felt the spirit and
passion and acted. We must now make sure we use every inch of soil of
this magnificent place.”

The committee is also working on raising funds for an endowment, which
will ensure the Ararat Center can operate independently and not take
money away from the ministries and programs of the Diocese. One early
donor, Papken Megerian, a parishioner from the Sts. Sahag and Mesrob
Church of Wynnewood, PA, who had already pledged to give $1,000 every
year he is alive was moved by seeing the actual site and pledged to give
$1,000 to the endowment every year after he passes away.

“We thought this is the best thing we could do so our children don’t go
to camp in Odarland,” Megerian said. “Now we have a camp with an
Armenian soul.”


That Armenian soul makes the Ararat Center the perfect site for prayer
retreats, seniors’ weekend get-aways, and leadership seminars.

“I’d like to see our parish come up here, because it would be like
camping for seniors. It’s a good place for us to come up and enjoy the
fresh air,” said Dick Kalagian, a parishioner from the St. George Church
of Hartford, CT. “It would be better to bring parish groups up here for
retreats, because you’ll be away from the parish and your normal lives.
You can think more and take more time to focus on whatever you’re doing
up here.”

The first group to use the facility, formerly known as Balsam Shade, was
the Diocese’s St. Vartan Camp program. More than 200 campers and staff
stayed at the center for two two-week sessions this July. Their new
home — with tennis courts, a swimming pool, and plenty of nature —
quickly won rave reviews.

“At first it was difficult to deal with the new environment,” said
camper George Vartanian, who spoke for the campers along with St. Vartan
Camp Director of Programs Charis Yousefian and Camp Director Yn. Arpi
Kouzouian. “But in less than two days, Balsam Shade became the Ararat
Center and it felt like our new home.”

The next group to use the site will be the Association of Armenian
Church Choirs of America (AACCA), which will hold a four-day junior
choir leadership retreat there starting August 4.

The day’s festivities also brought out special local guests, such as the
mayor of neighboring Troy, NY, Harry Tutunjian. Music was provided by
the Philly Kef Band, and the Sipan dance group of Albany, NY, performed.
Desserts were prepared by local Women’s Guild chapters. The joint
community and Diocesan effort could not have happened without the help
of countless volunteers from several parishes, especially the St. Peter
Church of Watervliet, NY, and its Yn. Paulette Doudoukjian, a member of
the Ararat Center Advisory Committee.

— 7/27/04

E-mail photos available on request. Photos also viewable in the News
and Events section of the Eastern Diocese’s website,

PHOTO CAPTION (1): Fr. Krikor Sabounjian, pastor of the Armenian Church
of the Holy Translators in Framingham, MA, buries soil from Armenia in
the ground of the Eastern Diocese’s new Ararat Center during its
consecration on July 24, 2004.

PHOTO CAPTION (2): Archbishop Khajag Barsamian, Primate of the Eastern
Diocese, blesses a cornerstone and cross to be used for a future
Armenian chapel on the site of the Ararat Center, located 30 miles south
of Albany, NY.

PHOTO CAPTION (3): Dozens of clergy joined the Primate for the
consecration service at the Diocese’s new Ararat Center on July 24,

PHOTO CAPTION (4): Khoren Mekanejian, coordinator of music ministry for
the Eastern Diocese, leads the St. Vartan Camp campers in singing
sharagans during the Ararat Center consecration service on July 24,

PHOTO CAPTION (5): More than 500 people from several states came to the
Ararat Center open house and consecration on July 24, 2004.

PHOTO CAPTION (6): Several parishes organized bus trips to the Ararat
Center open house, including this bus from St. Mark Church of
Springfield, MA.

PHOTO CAPTION (7): Michael Zeytoonian, a member of the camp committee
that found the Ararat Center, leads one of the many tours of the seven
buildings and 65-acres of land during the Ararat Center open house on
July 24, 2004.

PHOTO CAPTION (8): Following the Ararat Center consecration service,
guests were entertained by the Sipan dance group of Albany, NY.

PHOTO CAPTION (9): Guests at the Ararat Center open house dance to live
music by the Philly Kef Band, whose members donated $1,200 towards the
purchase of the new youth and conference center.

PHOTO CAPTION (10): Papken Megerian, a parishioner from the Sts. Sahag
and Mesrob Church of Wynnewood, PA, tells the crowd at the Ararat Center
open house why he is donating to the efforts.

PHOTO CAPTION (11): Speaking on behalf of the St. Vartan Camp campers,
George Vartanian says they quickly came to love their new home, the
Ararat Center, located 30 miles south of Albany, NY.

PHOTO CAPTION (12): More than 650 lunches were served during the Ararat
Center open house and consecration by volunteers, from the St. George
Church of Watervliet, NY, as well as other parishes. Desserts were
provided by parish Women’s Guilds.

From: Emil Lazarian | Ararat NewsPress