Finding a balance between home and the church

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]

March 8, 2005


It is hard enough for lay people to balance their work life and family
life. But when you’re a clergyman, and your work can deal with life or
death issues — and you could be needed any time of the day, any day of
the week — it is tougher to find that balance.

Finding that balance was the focus of three regional Lenten clergy
retreats this year, which brought together all the clergy of the Diocese
of the Armenian Church of America (Eastern) to discuss this issue, pray
and reflect on their ministry, and meet with Archbishop Khajag
Barsamian, Primate of the Diocese.

“Finding the right balance is something we don’t think about very much,
but we quickly realized that we haven’t addressed it as much as we
should. These retreats were a good awakening to acknowledge that we
have a responsibility to ourselves as well as to the church,” said Fr.
Karekin Kasparian, coordinator of the Diocese’s pastoral support
ministry who organized the three regional retreats.

“It’s a serious issue. We discovered it is more serious than we
thought. Many clergymen are on duty 24 hours a day, to the exclusion of
their families. They devote themselves to church work and don’t realize
the damage that causes to their families,” he added.

Even celibate priests can have problems finding the right balance, Fr.
Kasparian said. While they may not have wives and children, they do
have parents and other loved ones to care for.

“Many celibate priests have family members who live with them or are in
their care,” Fr. Kasparian said. “The priests need to care for their
loved ones and care for themselves. Physical exercise, mental
stimulation, spiritual nourishment — all these are part of the
obligations of the clergy to keep themselves healthy and sane.”

Foreign-born priests are especially likely to put the needs of their
family and self to one side, Fr. Kasparian said, because it was drilled
into them early in their career that that is how a good priest acts.

However, Fr. Kasparian said when a priest wears himself out or ignores
the needs of his family, he can not be an effective pastor no matter how
much time he devotes to his flock.

“The Lord comes first, but it was repeatedly said during these retreats
that if you are not healthy and happy in yourself, you cannot serve
others,” he said. “We need to be more aware and exercise more care in
maintaining that balance so neither part of our lives will suffer.”

— 3/8/05

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

PHOTO CAPTION (1): Archbishop Khajag Barsamian, Primate of the Eastern
Diocese, meets with clergymen from the Mid-Atlantic region, during one
of three regional Lenten retreats in 2005.

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