The weather was nasty but that did not prevent Bishop Anoushavan Tanielian from fulfilling his mission to St. Gregory Church in North Andover.
It was the 45th anniversary of this small congregation, located in the heart of Merrimack Valley, and he had his favorite companion seated in the passenger seat next to him.
God has always been his co-pilot and chief navigator on these sojourns, whether it’s been half-way across the country or somewhere relatively close.
The snow was flying, remnants of a nor’easter that had battered the region. The three lanes which covered this highway from Vermont into Massachusetts had suddenly merged into two and ultimately one lane as traffic inched its way along.
For one brief second, the Bishop squelched his headlights and watched Mother Nature’s beauty work its magic. The snowflakes that hovered over his car on this evening appeared like tiny crystals from the sky, caught in the radiance of other vehicles.
A week or two before, the Vicar General had fallen on black ice, only to get back up and go about his business. The mission goes on at all costs.
It’s been this way over the past 43 years since he was ordained, adding greater impetus over the past decade as Vicar General. Extensive travel is part of his itinerary, complementing the likes of his Prelate, Archbishop Oshagan Chololyan.
Both have been an impeccable voice of the Armenian community over these decades, whether it’s been a church anniversary, AYF Olympics or a simply homily. The words often speak for themselves and add credence to the moment.
Hours later, the Bishop arrived at his destination. Instead of a respite at the hotel he was staying, off he went to the new home of pastor Stephan Baljian for a blessing. They have known each other since the cleric’s boyhood years when a life of clergyhood was more than just a lark.
You may also call him a “blue-collared” bishop for the manner in which he caters to his flock. At a typical NRA convention, don’t count on beating him to the hotel gym unless you arrive there at 6:30.
The customary liturgical garb is exchanged for workout attire as he starts his day with exercise.
When you’re on the road, the dinners and luncheons can become gregarious to one’s health. The Bishop uses this moment for spiritual guidance, catching the unsuspecting visitor off balance.
Come spring, he’ll stage another incognito and ride his bike from New Jersey to the Prelacy quarters on East 39th Street, pumping through traffic as if it were standing still.
North Andover was blessed this day by his presence. As usual, the children steal the show at these affairs. The smile on the Srpazan’s face stretches from ear to ear as the younger generation serves to entertain.
A piece of artwork. A poem, song or recitation, confirming our nation’s proud heritage. There is no greater reward for this Bishop than the future of his church— our church.
And so it was on this day. An anniversary marking the 45th year. While some of us were being recognized for our work as Sunday School instructors, up to the podium we went. As words were being uttered and accolades rendered, there beneath the seat of our Bishop looked like what appeared to be a dollar bill. It must have fallen from his pocket.
Upon closer scrutiny, it turned out to be a crisp $100 bill, landing perfectly on its front. Did he place it there purposely? And for what reason? When it was brought to his attention, the Bishop could only smile with a statement of his own.
“Does this church not have a cigar night?” he inquired. “And are you not raffling off a Mercedes this year? I believe tickets are $100 so count me in.”
Maybe it had something to do with the Prelacy’s Eagle Award some years back or the “eagle eye” of a newspaper reporter that earned me a living. The Bishop wanted the ticket to go in my name because I was the first to find his bill. Unthinkable!
If you recall two years ago, when the NRA Convention took place in Washington, who won the raffle? And what did the Vicar General do with the money. Back it went to the church where it originated.
It’s often the path we choose which gets us there. And the road to prosperity is always glistened with halos when you’re this Bishop.