The Iranian-Armenian poet Varand wrote:
‘To love does not cost anything,
To be loved, a little,
But if you love,
And are loved…
It is worth everything.’
The Armenian Sisters of the Immaculate Conception Order is a sublime example of love. Ever since the order was founded in Constantinople on June 5, 1847, the Sisters have humbly served the Armenian People and Nation with that innate quality. As a result, generations of Armenians have been enriched in countless ways by their compassion, devotion, and selflessness.
The Armenian Sisters in Gyumri and Dashir, Armenia, as well as Javakhk, Georgia, have worked tirelessly for their people since their arrival to these regions after the 1988 earthquake in Armenia. After much prayer and hard work, and with the generosity of Diasporan Armenians, the Sisters in the village of Heshtia in Javakhk recently finalized the construction and the details in the operation of their sorely needed medical center. As a result, earlier this month the doors of the clinic were opened to begin serving the people of Heshtia and several surrounding villages, among them Jdanovakan, Toria, and Ujmana. Sisters Tatevik and Narine (both from Georgia) regularly visit the area’s infirm and elderly, bring comfort to the bereaved and aid to the indigent, and teach religion at the various schools in the region.
In Dashir, Armenia, the Sisters recently completed the construction of their center where 22 orphans and half orphans are nurtured by Sisters Haguintha (from Lebanon) and Sprouhi (from Armenia), and 10 local volunteers. At the newly constructed center, the children attend the center’s after-school program during the school week, where they are served nutritious meals, helped with school work, and taught art, computers, etiquette, and music, including choral, needlework, and religion. Later in the evening, after dinner with the Sisters, the children go home to their families or guardians. In addition to their duties at the center, the Sisters make regular home visits and assist the people in the area, especially the sick, the poor, and the most vulnerable. In the summertime, the Sisters and local volunteers provide camp-like activities for the area’s children.
At the Our Lady of Armenia Convent and Boghossian Educational Center in Gyumri, orphaned, abandoned, and poverty-stricken boys and girls are cared for by Sisters Arousiag, Superior (from Syria), Alice (from Armenia), and Arpine (from Syria). Recently, a vocational school, called the Diramayr Vocational School, and a day-care center for the elderly, called the Nadine Basmadjian Day Care Center, have been added to the complex with the kind support of Diasporan Armenians. At the vocational school, students are offered courses in the fields of culinary arts, restaurant service, web design, plumbing, and electrical work. Upon successful completion of their courses, diplomas or certificates are awarded to the students. The Our Lady of Armenia Summer Camp in Tsaghgadzor continues to bring joy to numerous underprivileged children from all over Armenia. The Our Lady of Armenia Choir at the Center, under the directorship of Maestro Robert Mlkeyan, gives concerts not only in Armenia but abroad as well. This coming spring, a special occasion will be celebrated at the center when a young novice from the Shirak province, who has been studying in Rome, will return to Gyumri to take her vows.
In Tehran, Iran, Sisters Mariet (from Syria) and Rebecca (from Lebanon) serve the Armenian community and teach religion at the Mariam Armenian School, a day school (ages 3 to 18) that was established in Nor Joogha, Iran, in 1936, and 2 years later was relocated to Tehran, Iran, where its doors have been open to Armenian students ever since. Since 1936, a total of 45 Armenian Catholic nuns have taught at the school, with each nun teaching at the school for a number of years. The school has 3 sections: a boys’ section with 179 students, a girls’ section with 193 students, and a kindergarten section with 50 boys and girls. In addition to their regular courses, the students also study Armenian and English. They attend school five days a week—Saturday through Wednesday—and upon graduation continue their education at various universities.
Just as the buds of spring bring forth blooms, so too does the work of the Armenian Sisters.
‘Love towards God,
Love towards the Armenian Church and Nation
Is the power and the supreme ideal of the Armenian nun.’