The Armenian Sisters of the Immaculate Conception Order at Work

The Iranian-Armenian poet Varand wrote:

Photos Courtesy of Sisters Haguintha and Srpouhi of Dashir, Armenia, and Anahid Yapoudjian of Lyon, France.
Photos Courtesy of Sisters Haguintha and Srpouhi of Dashir, Armenia, and Anahid Yapoudjian of Lyon, France.

‘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.

Photos Courtesy of Sisters Haguintha and Sprouhi of Dashir, Armenia, and Anahid Yapoudjian of Lyon, France.
Photos Courtesy of Sisters Haguintha and Srpouhi of Dashir, Armenia, and Anahid Yapoudjian of Lyon, France.

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.’

Knarik O. Meneshian

Knarik O. Meneshian

Knarik O. Meneshian was born in Austria. Her father was Armenian and her mother was Austrian. She received her degree in literature and secondary education in Chicago, Ill. In 1988, she served on the Selection Committee of the McDougal, Littell “Young Writers” Collection—Grades 1–8, an anthology of exemplary writing by students across the country.” In 1991, Knarik taught English in the earthquake devastated village of Jrashen (Spitak Region), Armenia. In 2002–2003, she and her late husband (Murad A. Meneshian), lived and worked as volunteers in Armenia for a year teaching English and computer courses in Gyumri and Tsaghgadzor. Meneshian’s works have been published in "Teachers As Writers, American Poetry Anthology" and other American publications, as well as Armenian publications in the U.S. and Armenia. Knarik is the author of A Place Called Gyumri: Life in the Armenian Mountains. She has also authored a book of poems titled Reflections, and translated from Armenian to English Reverend D. Antreassian’s book titled "The Banishment of Zeitoun" and "Suedia’s Revolt" She began writing at the age of 12 and has contributed pieces to The Armenian Weekly since her early teens.
Knarik O. Meneshian

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  1. A very moving yet uplifting story. We can always count on these wonderful Armenian sisters to carry the burden of the Armenian nation in their own spiritual way.

    May god bless them.

    Pls let us know how we can donote funds towards this worthy cuase.


  2. It took me a few tries to read this article. I attended a boarding school administered by these nuns. It was terrible and there was not much love going around. I can tell you that much.

    Just in case you decide to canonize them I thought you should know….

  3. My mother had attended the Immaculate Conception school right after arriving in Aleppo at the age of 5 by foot from Aintab, Turkey around 1920’s with her extended family! She always talked favorably about the school and the Catholic Armenian nuns. At that period, the nuns did a lot of good work with the orphans, but, of course, their education system was based totally on religion, and matrimonial values for girls to bring them up as wives and mothers only. We cannot compare the education system to our current education values and standards.

    • No, Betty I am not comparing the education system of the 20’s to current education values and standards. I am talking about physical abuse. My cousin and I still talk about how much they hurt us and the awful things they used to do. Once they beat me so hard, because I asked them what immaculate conception meant. I was only 7 for Christ’s sake!!!

  4. my sisters also went to IC in Aleppo and they did have horror stories to tell. The one in Aleppo was shut down and no one shed a tear. But I am assuming these sisters in Armenia are compassionate and caring. At least from what the author says.

  5. In response to a reader’s request, donations to the Armenian Sisters in Armenia and Javakhk may be sent to:

    The Armenian Sisters of the Immaculate Conception Order
    C/O Ms. Therese Sajonian
    213 Bramber Drive
    Broomall, Pennsylvania 19008-3702

    Please indicate ARMENIA ACCOUNT, and specify the location–Gyumri or Dashir in Armenia, or Heshtia in Javakhk, Georgia, or all three.

    Dear Readers,

    I thought you might like to know a little about the “behind the scenes” story of the little boy being held so lovingly by Sister Haguintha (Dashir, Armenia) in the photo above. The child’s father is in the background. The little boy is the youngest of five children. Before receiving aid from the Sisters, and also a place to live, the mother and father and their five children were homeless. In return for the help they received from the Sisters (when no one else would), the father and mother help the Sisters with whatever needs to be done around the Center. Unfortunately, because the Sisters in Dashir don’t have the means to pay the father a regular salary, the father will soon be leaving for Russia in search of work so that he can support his family. When he announced his plans to Sisters Haguintha and Srpouhi, he said, “Sisters, I leave my family in your hands.”

    In addition, the little boy in the photo, who recently recovered from a lengthy bout of pneumonia, has a large tumor on his leg. Because of the efforts of the Sisters, a kind-hearted doctor in Yerevan has offered to perform the surgery at no charge once the child is strong enough.

    There are other such stories, numerous stories, of the work of the Armenian Sisters in Armenia and Javakhk, Sisters that my husband and I got to know quite well during our year-long volunteer work in Armenia some years ago. The work of the Armenian Sisters is not easy, just like being a parent is not easy. I’ll never forget how the Sisters in Javakhk regularly would go to the home of an elderly dadik (grandmother) to bathe her because no one else wanted to do it. And in Gyumri, I’ll not forget how a young girl was brought to the Center one day. She had been sold by her father to a man, who “bought” the girl to save her, and then brought her to the Sisters. The young girl thrived at the Center, and received a good education. These are merely a few examples of what I witnessed, but as I look at the larger picture of what the Armenian Sisters do on a daily basis from early morning until late at night, all week long, all year long, I cannot help but marvel at what they have accomplished, and what they continue to accomplish for their Nation.

    Knarik O. Meneshian

  6. Hi Annie,

    I think we are related. Try to send me an e-mail. I will really appreciate it since one of our cousins has prepared an extensive family tree. My e-mail is:

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