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Young People Journey From The Shores Of Galilee To The Empty Tomb

Some 50 young people from parishes across the Eastern Diocese traveled to Huntington, N.Y., last weekend to take part in a Lenten Retreat focused on this year’s Diocesan theme, “Living the Gospel of Christ.” Archbishop Khajag Barsamian, Primate of the Diocese of the Armenian Church of America (Eastern), presided over the activities on March 8-10.


PRESS OFFICE
Diocese of the Armenian Church of America (Eastern)
630 Second Avenue, New York, NY 10016
Tel: (212) 686-0710; Fax: (212) 779-3558
E-mail: publicrelations@armeniandiocese.org
Website: www.armenianchurch-ed.net
March 19, 2013
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Some 50 young people from parishes across the Eastern Diocese traveled to Huntington, N.Y., last weekend to take part in a Lenten Retreat focused on this year’s Diocesan theme, “Living the Gospel of Christ.” Archbishop Khajag Barsamian, Primate of the Diocese of the Armenian Church of America (Eastern), presided over the activities on March 8-10.
“The Armenian Church is the stage upon which we can take up Christ’s ministry,” Archbishop Barsamian said. “Our pious ancestors have created such a rich, beautiful tapestry of traditions and experiences within our church. They created it so you could understand who Jesus Christ is; so you could follow him—and encourage others to do the same.”

The young people at the retreat were all participants in past Diocesan programs for youth leaders, including the 2010 Leadership Conferences and the 2011 and 2012 Youth Pilgrimages to the Holy Land. This month’s retreat gave them an opportunity to study key points of Jesus’ ministry—his preaching at the Sea of Galilee, his feeding of the multitude, the Last Supper in the Upper Room, his night spent at the Garden of Gethsemane, his suffering on the cross, and his resurrection revealed at the empty tomb.
Through these experiences, the young people deepened their understanding of what it means to live the Gospel of Christ, and of how Jesus can guide each of our lives. They were also encouraged to consider how they can put their faith into action at their local parishes.

“I truly appreciate that each of us had these wonderful opportunities, like traveling to our Holy Land or participating in Leadership Conferences together,” said Melissa Megrdichian of Sts. Sahag and Mesrob Church of Providence, R.I. “We are learning to appreciate the small miracles, as well as the life-changing ones.”
The Rev. Fr. Krikor Sabounjian, pastor of Holy Translators Church of Framingham, Mass., led the first two sessions, taking the young participants on a journey to the Sea of Galilee where they learned about Christ’s call to his ministry. Participants viewed a video clip by Rob Bell, a Michigan-based preacher, focusing on simple steps they can take—helping a neighbor shovel snow, for example—to bring change to their communities.
Continuing their journey along the Sea of Galilee, they read about the crowd gathered to hear Christ’s message and the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes. Working in small groups, they discussed how faith, concentration, and love can help open their hearts to God’s call.
“These sessions have reminded me that we should always be listening in order to hear Christ’s call,” said Melissa Mardoian of Sts. Joachim and Anne Church of Palos Heights, Ill.
Next, the Rev. Fr. Stepanos Doudoukjian, pastor of St. Peter Church of Watervliet, N.Y., led the group to the Garden of Gethsemane, where Christ went to pray with his disciples and was betrayed by Judas. They spoke about the importance of being vigilant in our faith despite the distractions and temptations of daily life.
The Very Rev. Fr. Simeon Odabashian, Diocesan Vicar, took the young people to the Upper Room, where Christ washed the feet of his disciples, expressing the true meaning of humility and leadership. They brainstormed ways they could take up leadership roles in their communities, including joining the Parish Council, organizing activities for children, and assisting with other parish events.
With the Rev. Fr. Mardiros Chevian, dean of St. Nersess Armenian Seminary, the group relived the last moments of Christ’s earthly ministry. Viewing the 2004 film The Passion of the Christ, they were reminded of our Lord’s suffering and death on the cross. A discussion followed on the meaning of Christ’s crucifixion.
Finally, the group joined the oil bearing women at Christ’s empty tomb, where they learned about his Glorious Resurrection. They reflected on their role as young leaders in carrying forward Christ’s commission: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations.”
“Christ himself will be the source of your strength and inspiration,” Archbishop Barsamian told the young people. “This weekend, in all those crucial locations, we stood with Jesus. But we should be aware that Jesus stood with us, also.”
Participants said the retreat helped them strengthen their faith and develop new ideas for enriching life in their parishes.
“Having the opportunity to go on a Christian retreat with my peers was a true blessing,” said Armen Kassabian of St. Gregory the Enlightener Church of White Plains, N.Y. “I find that studying the life of Christ with other young people allows me to see more clearly what kind of a role Christ plays in my life.”
On Sunday morning, Archbishop Barsamian celebrated the Divine Liturgy, with young people assisting on the altar and singing in the choir. After the service, each of the participants approached the Primate to receive his blessing.
“I want you to know that here in America, the Armenian Church is truly depending on your leadership. Not at sometime in the future, but right now,” Archbishop Barsamian said. “With our Lord’s help, I pray that you will emerge from this gathering as apostles: as advocates and messengers to your home communities, and to the surrounding society.”
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Photos attached.
Photo 1: Retreat participants pose for a group photo with Archbishop Khajag Barsamian and Fr. Simeon Odabashian.
Photo 2: Participants discuss a Bible passage in small groups. 
Photo 3: Fr. Krikor Sabounjian speaks about the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes.

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