“I am not going to leave this planet without serving my church,” Roland Telfeyan, now Der Garabed at St. Stephen Armenian Church in New Britain, CT, stated with passion and determination in a recent telephone conversation.
On February 13, the Order of Calling took place at St. Sarkis Armenian Church in Douglaston, NY, a profound act with the priestly candidate walking on his knees from the church door into the center of the sanctuary, led by his sponsoring confessor Fr. Nareg Terterian along with godfather Fr. Vahan Kouyoumdjian. “I was thinking about Christ, humbly going down on his knees and washing the feet of His disciples,” reflected Der Garabed on the unique experience.
On Sunday, February 14, the ceremony continued with the celebration of the Divine Liturgy and ordination. Again, Deacon Roland came on his knees, but this time to the altar with the sponsoring clergyman. Archbishop Anoushavan Tanielian, Prelate, invited the candidate to priesthood, and following insightful prayers he faced the congregation which acclaimed three times, “arjani eh (he is worthy).” The climax of this profound ceremony was the anointing of the candidate with holy muron, when he was renamed Der Garabed. The Archbishop in his inspiring homily, reflected on the ordinant’s new name of Garabed, a title given to St. John the Baptist, the forerunner of Jesus Christ.
“From day one when I met Roland Telfeyan…I felt that he is a Christ-centered candidate, full of love and dedication to the Universal Church in general, and to the Armenian Church and community, in particular,” commented Archbishop Tanielian.
“This action was an act of deep faith. It was the crowning, the anointing and the bonding to Christ, the church and to the blood family,” explained Der Garabed. “One of the most refreshing parts of this journey was studying with Srpazan and the priests and scholars of the Prelacy.” He called this “the gem on the crown of all jewels” and commented that the Prelate was “thoughtful, caring, patient, wise and time-giving.” “He is a father to me, directing my educational plan, and always on top of things,” said Der Garabed.
A FINANCIAL WHIZ
For 35 years, Telfeyan had been deeply involved in the scientific and financial world as a research scientist, engineer, manufacturer and financier. He received an M.M. in music theory from the University of Michigan and is a proficient organist. He also has a B.A. in mathematics and computer science from Northwestern University.
As a graduate student at the University of Michigan, he served as president of the Armenian Students’ Cultural Association. Every Sunday he took students to church and then held an open-house Sunday home cooked dinner for the entire Armenian student body, feeding some 50 kids every week.
When asked how he ended up on this path, he responded, “The Lord has opened the door of every single endeavor in the history of my life: university, marriage, career, and now my calling as a priest. May Christ continue to guide and bless all of us.”
“As a kid, always attending church with my family, I remember hearing the Gospel readings and taking them seriously. I enjoy learning, but I was not fulfilled with math and finance,” said the 58-year-old priest.
Telfeyan was born in Garden City, NY to mother Nora (nee Ohanian) and father Gary, a specialist in military math and physics and in the US Air Force nuclear weapons division. He married Maro Azizian in 1992; they have two daughters, Anahid and Hasmik. Prior to his candidacy, Der Garabed had served in several churches in different capacities, including as a choir director and Sunday School teacher.
LIFE IN ANTELIAS
Why enter the priesthood after a successful career? “Love,” he answered without hesitation and continued to define the selfless act as “the giving of everything without the expectation of anything in return.” “I was also beat up in life,” said Der Garabed, “and experienced the tribulations of being responsible to others.”
Telfeyan studied with the priests and scholars of the Eastern Prelacy from 2019 to 2020. When he went to Antelias to strengthen his spiritual life, he enjoyed the hourly prayers with the lighting of the candles and incense and spending quality time with all the people of the Catholicosate.
“All the people, Aram Catholicos, the bishops, priests, deacons and staff, were all so welcoming and loving, sharing time, respect, and friendship. I miss them every day,” said Der Garabed, “The Catholicosate was deeply involved with the people, providing food, clothing, and basic needs to the Armenians. They impressed me with their compassion and love. This is truly an Armenian mission with the church undertaking the service of philanthropy. I saw love between the people towards each other and to the church.”
He also spent time at the Theological Seminary in Bikfaya and the Bird’s Nest Orphanage in Jbeil where he attended Badarak every Sunday. Before leaving Antelias, Aram Catholicos advised him that when he addresses his flock, he should always remember that “we are all together,” and not “you and me.” “The Catholicos is a loving pastor and father, and his priests should be an extension of him,” commented Der Garabed.
“I am more pleased with [Der Garabed’s] experience in the Armenian Catholicosate in Antelias Lebanon, where he enjoyed the care of His Holiness Catholicos Aram I, and the members of the Brotherhood, which deeply rooted him in his vocation,” said Archbishop Tanielian. “I am positive that he will be a precious asset in our Prelacy, serving the community for the glory of Him who came and taught us the true spirit of serving.”
As a priest, Der Garabed is pledging his time as a partner, a friend and a listener. “I love our Armenian Church and people. Christ loves his children, and we are here to love Christ’s children. There is no other way for us to show love to Christ than by loving his flock. May Christ continue to guide and bless all of us.”