Oct. 16 seemed like an ordinary Sunday… Instead, it ended up being a historic and memorable day for St. Illuminator’s Armenian Apostolic Cathedral in New York.
It is certainly not unusual for a priest to receive a phone call from someone wishing to make a donation to the church. In this particular case, Rev. Fr. Mesrob Lakissian, pastor of the Cathedral, remembers that everything was far from usual.
Der Mesrob was addressing his flock, gathered in Pashalian Hall on Sunday, following the Divine Liturgy that was presided over by the Prelate, Archbishop Oshagan. Ms. Azadouhi Zarukian and her cousin Mikael Istepanian, who was visiting from Germany, attended church and offered a hokehankisd (memorial service) in memory of her brothers, Ardashes and Haroutioun.
Der Mesrob explained the story of how last May, Ms. Zarukian called him and expressed the wish to make a substantial donation to the Cathedral. No amount was mentioned. Last month, when Der Hayr, Ms. Zarukian, and her cousin Mikael went to the bank to finalize the donation, the amount of the donation was revealed. Der Hayr shared his amazement and deep emotion when he found out that Ms. Zarukian was donating four million dollars to the Cathedral.
A rousing ovation greeted the announcement, with everyone in attendance standing in testimony of the appreciation for the elderly woman seated amongst them.
“The amount will remain untouched,” Der Mesrob announced. A financial committee is looking into the best way to invest the money, with the active participation of the donor. She will also be part of another committee to be appointed that will make decisions on the use of the proceeds. The donor has expressed her wish that the proceeds be used for specific charitable and educational purposes. Details will be announced after all outstanding legal and other expenses are paid.
In his message to the gathering, Archbishop Oshagan reflected on the mission of service that defines the Holy See of Cilicia that was deeply ingrained into Der Mesrob during his years of study at the seminary in Antelias. Der Mesrob was appointed pastor of the Cathedral in 2006 and given the mission of renovating the Cathedral and reinvigorating its pastoral mission.
“Der Hayr’s indefatigable spirit of service and tireless devotion has earned him unanimous praise over the past ten years that was a renaissance for the hundred-year-old Cathedral. In a certain way, this magnificent donation represents an unexpected, yet well-deserved recognition for the work being carried out,” the Prelate said.
Oshagan Srpazan praised Der Mesrob’s dedicated vocation and the exceedingly generous gesture of Ms. Azadouhi Zarukian. He encouraged all present to follow her example, as the biblical story of the widow’s offering shows, by bringing their contribution to the church and helping fulfill its continuing mission.
Ms. Zarukian was offered a gift as a token of appreciation on behalf of the Cathedral. After lunch those in attendance had the opportunity to greet Ms. Zarukian and personally express their gratitude to her.
An ordinary Sunday became an extraordinary event in the annals of the history of St. Illuminator’s Cathedral, the first Armenian Cathedral in the United States.