Fr. Stephan Baljian was born in Indian Orchard, Massachusetts in 1979, the youngest child of Archpriest & Mrs. Antranig Baljian. At the age of 6, young Nishan began serving by his father’s side at the Holy Altar of St. Gregory Armenian Apostolic Church. He was ordained there by the late Archbishop Mesrob Ashjian, first to the minor orders and later, on March 24, 1996, to the Holy Deaconate.
After graduating from High School in 1997, he matriculated at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, where he studied voice with noted tenor Jon Humphrey and music composition with Robert Stern. He graduated in 2001 with a Bachelor of Music Degree in Theory and Composition.
In the summer of 2001, now Deacon Nishan formally requested candidacy for the Holy Priesthood within the Eastern Prelacy of the Armenian Apostolic Church of America, and was accepted by His Eminence Archbishop Oshagan Choloyan. In October of that year, he left for Antelias, Lebanon, where he would spend the next two academic years at the Theological Seminary of the Great House of Cilicia, following the course of study for the married priesthood. He graduated from the Seminary in 2003.
In the fall of that year, by arrangement of Archbishop Oshagan, he enrolled in the joint graduate program of St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary and St. Nersess Armenian Seminary (Eastern Diocese) in Crestwood, NY and New Rochelle, NY respectively. He received the degree of Master of Divinity on May 21, 2006.
While at St. Nersess he edited and published a volume consisting of the Penitential Mankunk Hymns (in Eight Tones) for use at the Seminary. In addition to this, under the auspices of His Eminence Archbishop Oshagan, he collaborated with Very Fr. Krikor Chiftjian in the production of Deacon’s Guide to Singing the Divine Liturgy (Armenian Prelacy, 2004), in which he accompanied Fr. Krikor’s authoritative renditions of the deacons’ litanies, as well joined him in responding to those parts requiring antiphonal singing.
As part of his training, he successfully completed a summer-long internship in Clinical Pastoral Education at the New England Baptist Hospital in Boston, receiving Certification (Level I) in Hospital Chaplaincy from the Association of Clinical Pastoral Education. As a partial requirement for a course in homiletics, he traveled to Washington, D.C. in March of 2005 to participate in a weeklong seminar at Washington National Cathedral’s “College of Preachers” institute. In May of 2006, he participated in a scholarly conference sponsored by St. Nersess Seminary entitled St. Ephrem the Syrian: Theology in Poetry, Music, Word & Color, offering a presentation on the Armenian hymn to St. Ephrem Vor Hamanman.
He has also contributed to the area of Armenian literary scholarship. His translation of and commentary on An Encomium on the Holy Theoleptic Cross attributed to St. Gregory the Theologian was published in the prestigious St. Nersess Theological Review.
Conjointly with his studies, he was called to serve part-time as a Pastoral Assistant at Sts. Vartanantz Armenian Apostolic Church in Ridgefield, NJ. Upon his graduation from St. Vladimir’s/St. Nersess, he was assigned as Pastoral Assistant to St. Stephen’s Armenian Apostolic Church in Watertown, MA.
He is a long-time participant and the youngest ever graduate of the Prelacy’s St. Gregory of Datev Institute, to whose faculty he was invited to join for the 2007 summer program. He also has a fond association with AYF Camp Haiastan, serving as Resident Chaplain there in 2004 and as an Associate Chaplain and Armenian Studies instructor for the next three summers.
On February 16 & 17, 2008, Dn. Nishan was ordained to the Holy Priesthood of the Armenian Apostolic Church and was renamed Fr. Stephan by Archbishop Oshagan. In July 2008, he was assigned as the pastor of St. Gregory the Illuminator Parish in Granite City, Illinois. During his pastorate, cultural and educational events were held frequently. The small yet vibrant parish achieved growth in membership and stability in average attendance and participation. A major beautification project for the church sanctuary was undertaken in 2012.
Fr. Stephan is an experienced choral singer, and has enjoyed singing with the Springfield (MA) Symphony Chorus, UMASS Chamber Choir, Madrigal Singers & Five College Early Music Collegium, the Boston Symphony Orchestra Tanglewood Festival Chorus and the Newton Choral Society. Between the years 2008-2013, the entire time he was in the Metro St. Louis area, Fr. Stephan sang with the St. Louis symphony chorus. An avid fan of classical music and opera, he enjoys a collection of over two thousand compact discs, including many rare ones. He also enjoys history and geography and has a passion for culinary and visual arts.
He was married to the former Alice Tchobanian on May 27, 2007. A graduate of Northeastern University, Yn. Alice is a Registered Nurse. The two were blessed with their first son, Nishan, in May of 2011. Their second son, Hovhaness “Hovig,” was born in 2013. A baby girl, Mariam, joined the family this past August 20.