NEW YORK, NY—More than 175 people enthusiastically packed the sold-out Pashalian Hall of the St. Illuminator’s Armenian Cathedral in New York on June 12 to congratulate Archbishop Anoushavan Tanielian, Prelate of the Eastern Prelacy, on the 50th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood.
Eight priests from different parishes were also in attendance, taking seats with attendees at different tables.
As Anoushavan Srpazan humbly (his trademark) entered the hall following Holy Badarak, a long ovation erupted. It took some time before quiet was instituted for the Prelate to share the opening prayer and bless the food.
Master of ceremonies Tamar Haroutunian, Esq. noted, “As a spiritual leader, he has led by inspiring example while also showing gentleness and comfort to the faithful whom he has served with humility that can only come from following the Lord.”
On behalf of St. Illuminator’s Cathedral Board of Trustees, chairman Armen Morian, Esq., congratulated the Prelate on the celebration of this milestone in his life of service. “It’s an honor to host this particular event, at this particular time, and for this particular man,” he said. “We are with you, and we are grateful you are with us.”
Several speakers enumerated Archbishop Anoushavan’s many remarkable gifts and qualities, as a humble shepherd, devoted teacher, passionate preacher and pastor. They noted his compassion and gentility, his giving of comfort, being a unifying voice and a ‘people person.’ He also has been an extraordinary advocate of issues to aid Armenia and Artsakh and a developer of numerous programs for the Prelacy and the Armenian Diaspora at large, especially the community of Lebanon in the last years.
Who can forget his words inspired by the Lord, “I know my sheep, and my sheep know me”?
The many speakers who extolled Srpazan’s deep faith and unique warmth included Very Rev. Fr. Sahag Yemishian, Vicar; keynote speaker Archpriest Rev. Fr. Nerses Manoogian, Pastor Emeritus of St. Gregory the Illuminator Church of Philadelphia, and Executive Council chairman Hagop Khatchadourian.
Rev. Fr. Nareg Terterian of St. Sarkis Church (Douglaston, NY) read messages from the Prelates of the Western and Canadian Prelacies. Rev. Fr. Mesrob Lakissian of St. Illuminator’s Cathedral read a letter sent by writer Vehanoush Tekian.
A group of young award-winning and musical talents, encouraged by the Prelate who has always supported young artists, presented numerous selections. They included violinist Arpi Bakhshian, whose oﬀering of Sayat Nova’s “Chega Kizi Nman” was an appropriate tribute to Srpazan. Other performers included singers Siran Tchorbajian, Karina Vartanian and Anahit Indzhigulyan. They presented several songs by Gomidas: “Kele Kele,” “Bejingo” and “Chinar Es,” with accompaniment by St. Illuminator’s Church organist Ara Dinkjian. A rendition of Edgar Hovannisian’s “Erevan-Erebuni” was especially powerful, as was the violin selection “Azk Parabantz.”
With narration in Armenian by Prelacy executive director Vartan Matiossian, the professionally prepared video, subtitled in English, enumerated the various chapters of Archbishop Anoushavan’s outstanding service. “A shy, quiet, 12-year-old youngster,” Torkom Tanielian, at the Forty Martyrs School in Beirut, inspired by future Prelacy leader Archbishop Mesrob Ashjian, started his 50-year journey to become a dedicated priest, preacher, Vicar and Prelate of the Eastern Prelacy.
The sixth child of a religious family, his mother played a central role in introducing him to God. He was ordained a deacon in 1968 by Bishop Karekin Sarkissian, his most dynamic inspiration. Bishop Sarkissian later became Catholicos. On November 26, 1972, Archbishop Ardak Manougian, Prelate of Iran, ordained young Deacon Torkom a celibate priest and renamed him Anoushavan, meaning “sweet place.”
Catholicos Khoren I bestowed on him the four ranks of Vartabed of the Armenian Church in 1974, which began a decade of the young priest translating into modern Armenian the works of Church Fathers. He also participated in an Armenian translation of legendary writer and philosopher Khalil Gibran’s masterpiece, “The Prophet.”
During this time, Fr. Anoushavan also attended Haigazian College, earning a Master of Divinity degree from the Near East School of Theology. When the tragic civil war broke out in Lebanon from 1975 to 1990, he exclaimed: “During this time, I felt how mighty prayer is. Not only is it a daily necessity, but it is the main source of vitality.”
He traveled to India, Canada and South Korea, participating in assemblies of the World Council of Churches. He also made many visits to Armenia, where he was a guest of Catholicos Vazken I during the preparation of the catalog of manuscripts of the Catholicosate of Cilicia. “During my repeated visits to Armenia, I came closer and closer to my roots. Every monastery that I visited brought me the living memory of past generations who had lived and created our history.”
In 1984, he attended Princeton University, receiving a Master of Theology degree. He earned another master’s degree in philosophy from Columbia University in 1992 and a Doctor of Philosophy degree, also from Columbia in 2003, graduating with “high distinction.”
During his studies, he served at St. Gregory the Illuminator Church in PA and Sts. Vartanantz Church in NJ as preacher, and at St. Sarkis Church in Douglaston, NY, as pastor. While serving at these churches, he organized Bible studies, youth seminars, lecture series and choir conferences. He also started the St. Gregory of Datev Institute and the Lenten Lecture series. His focus has always been on programs for the youth and senior citizens.
On June 4, 2006, His Holiness Aram I, Catholicos of the Great House of Cilicia, performed the Episcopal consecration of Very Rev. Fr. Anoushavan Tanielian in Antelias. On September 8, 2018 at St. Illuminator’s Cathedral in New York, he was elected as the fifth Prelate of the Eastern United States. He was elevated to the rank of Archbishop by Catholicos Aram I on November 4, 2018 and was re-elected Prelate for a second term on May 14, 2022.
Following the video, Archbishop Anoushavan strode to the front, leaping onto the two-foot-high stage with one leg to a thunderous ovation, displaying his healthy physical condition.
Jumping back down to be close to the people, he presented a contemporaneous conversation with the adoring crowd, interspersed with large doses of humor, delighting all present.
The musicians led the crowd in a spiritual rendition of “Giligia,” which brought the special event to a close.
Hardworking and dedicated members of the 50th anniversary committee included the Prelate, the Vicar, Rev. Frs. Nareg Terterian and Mesrob Lakissian, Mireille Babikian-Hanna, Seta Balmanoukian, Maral Doghramadjian, Lilit Indzhigulyan, Sophie Khachatryan, Yn. Ojeen Lakissian, Tamar Lakissian, Nanor Matiossian, Sitta Oranjian and Nayda Voskerijian. Booklet and video production was by Greg Dosttur; printing of the booklet and program by Delta Printing; and food preparation by Anahid Krichian.
Legendary Armenian folk singer Onnik Dinkjian, in voicing the feelings of many said, “In the 93 years of my life, I have known many Prelates, but I feel honored to be here for one of the greatest Srpazans, Archbishop Anoushavan Tanielian for his down-to-earth qualities, his honesty, his humanity.” Becoming emotional, Dinkjian added, “Srpazan is truly an exceptional human being.”
Srpazan Anoushavan has said, “My choice to become a priest was not the result of a whim, but rather it was a long process of fertilization of a call beginning with the early childhood impact and example of my parents’ life, along with the call to monastic life, the inspirational teachings of the instructors, and an inner urge to imitate Christ, followed by a conscious decision to serve.”