Photos courtesy of Armenian Prelacy
Deacon Vahan Kouyoumdjian was ordained to the holy priesthood of the Armenian Church on Friday and Saturday, February 8 and 9, at Sts. Vartanantz Church in Ridgefield, New Jersey. The ordination services were celebrated by the Prelate, His Eminence Archbishop Anoushavan, with the participation of the clergy serving the Eastern Prelacy. Deacon Vahan’s sponsor was Very Rev. Fr. Sahag Yemishian, pastor of Holy Trinity Church in Worcester, Massachusetts, who was recently appointed Vicar of the Prelacy. The Godfather of the ordination was Hovig Koushagjian.
The process of ordination began Friday evening with Vespers and the Order of Calling to the Priesthood. The candidate walked on his knees down the main aisle of the church as a sign of his humility and readiness to serve God. He was escorted by his sponsor and two priests, Rev. Fr. Hovnan Bozoian, pastor of Sts. Vartanantz Church, and Rev. Fr. Stephan Baljian, pastor of Saint Gregory Armenian Apostolic Church of Merrimack Valley. Through a series of questions the Prelate confirmed the worthiness of the candidate and his willingness and ability to serve as a priest in the Armenian Apostolic Church.
The next morning, in the tradition of the Armenian Church, the ordination service took place intertwined with the Divine Liturgy, as this is the liturgical context in which the priest will serve most visibly.
After presenting his candidacy and laying his hands on the candidate, as attested to in the New Testament, Archbishop Anoushavan invested him the priestly yoke, or poroorar, as a sign of his become a presbyter or elder of the Holy Church.
Following the scripture lessons of the day and the Nicene Creed, the ordination ceremony continued with the Archbishop praying for the grace of God to descend upon the ordinand during the anointing and upon all the people of the church as well. After being vested in part by the Prelate, Deacon Vahan was led into the vestry and vested fully in his priestly vestments for the first time. Sponsoring priest, Fr. Sahag Yemishian carried the dove-vessel containing the Holy Chrism (Muron) in procession around the church.
Anointing the forehead, right and left hands of the new priest, Srpazan Hayr consecrated him as "Der Vahan" Kahana. In his soul-stirring and heartfelt message, Srpazan Hayr reflected upon Der Vahan's strong faith in God, years of service to the Armenian Church and successful career as a psychiatrist, during which he has already been a servant of God by helping people overcome their spiritual illnesses.
He remarked that although it is customary for a new priest to receive a new name at his ordination, he decided to keep the name "Vahan" in deference to the seventh century Saint Vahan of Koghtn, a young nobleman from Armenia who gave up immeasurable wealth and prestige in order to join the army and fight as a simple soldier. During one of his deployments he was martyred for his faith in Christ and gained even greater riches and glory in the Kingdom of Heaven. Srpazan Hayr also noted that "Vahan" is already a fitting name for this man of strong faith, since vahan in Armenian means "strong shield."
At the conclusion of his sermon, during the Kiss of Peace, all the clergy ascended the altar to greet their new brother in Christ. At the conclusion of the Divine Liturgy, a special blessing was said over Yeretsgin Maggie and Der Vahan's three children Aram, Anoosh and Nishan. At this point, all the Yeretsgins in attendance were invited to kneel before the Prelate for a special blessing.
A celebratory banquet took place in the church's lower hall, hosted by the Saints Vartatnantz Church Ladies' Guild and the A.R.S. Shakeh Chapter. A large cake was presented to Der Vahan and his family. Der Hovnan Bozoian presented him with the gift of a new hand cross to use in his ministry.
After two weeks of seclusion at the Prelacy office building in New York, Der Vahan will celebrate his first Divine Liturgy at St. Stephen Armenian Apostolic Church in New Britain, Connecticut, after which he will serve as long term visiting pastor of the parish.
Der Vahan was born in Lebanon and baptized at Soorp Asdvadzadzin Church in Bourdj Hammoud, where he later served as an acolyte and sub-deacon. He also taught Sunday School in Beirut. He attended the Vahan Tekeyan Elementary School and the Hovagimian-Manoogian High School.
Der Vahan’s devotion to the Armenian Church began at an early age. His grandfather, Mikael Kouyoumdjian, and great uncle Nishan Kouyoumdjian served as priests in Beirut and Marseille.
Continuing his studies, he graduated from the Yerevan State Medical University with a “Doctor of Medicine” diploma. He relocated to the New York/New Jersey area in 1993 to begin his Residency in Psychiatry at Westchester Medical Center in Valhalla, New York. Soon after his relocation he was ordained a deacon of the church by Archbishop Mesrob Ashjian, of blessed memory, and ever since has served as a deacon in the Eastern Prelacy, mainly at Sts. Vartanantz Church in New Jersey.
From 1975 to 1980 he was a member of the Armenian Ecclesophillic Union (an activist group supporting the Armenian Church under the auspices of the Catholicosate of Cilicia). He served in Sunday Schools, attended youth educational conferences and programs organized by the Catholicosate. He regularly participated in Bible Studies and studied the history and tenets of the Armenian Church.
In 1995 he married Maggie Tekeyan, a devoted and active member of Sts. Vartanantz Church. They have three children, Aram, Anoosh, and Nishan. All three children are graduates of the Prelacy’s St. Gregory of Datev Summer Institute, and continue to attend and participate in postgraduate programs and volunteer workers. For more than twenty years Deacon Vahan and Maggie have been volunteers and teachers at the St. Gregory of Datev Institute.