The Journey Continues with a
Special Silver Anniversary
Onnig Terzian, son of Sima and Ara Terzian,was born in 1955 and resided in Istanbul,Turkey where he attended the Esayan Armenian elementary school and served as an acolyte (tbir) at the Holy Resurrection Armenian Church. He established friendships with several other Armenians and together they enjoyed playing soccer. At the age of 14, he and 55 young Armenian boys departed their homes in Turkey to continue their education at the St. James Monastery of the Armenian Patriarchate in Jerusalem. After graduating with high honors from the Jarankavorats (high school), he received a four-year scholarship to attend Haigazian College in Lebanon. Having yet to make the commitment to become a priest, he planned to go to Lebanon with the aspiration of earning a teaching degree. Unfortunately, his plan was interrupted by the outbreak of civil war in Lebanon and consequently, with no choice, he returned home to Istanbul. As he was no longer a student, Onnig was obligated by law to begin a two year period of mandatory military service in the Turkish Army.
As God works in mysterious ways, a close friend and fellow seminarian from Jerusalem, Deacon Bedros Sarkissian, who was enrolled at the St. Nersess Seminary in New York, spoke to the Primate on Onnigís behalf. Subsequently, it was at the Primateís invitation that Onnig, at the age of 19, came to the United States in February of 1975. With no family here in America, he lived at the Diocesan Complex in New York. His Beatitude Archbishop Torkom Manoogian, Armenian Patriarch of Jerusalem, who at that time was the Primate of the Eastern Diocese of the Armenian Church of America, played an influential role in Onnigís life and decision to become a priest. In 1978, on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of St. Vartan Cathedral, Onnig was ordained a Deacon by Archbishop Manoogian. As time passed, he grew very close to Archbishop Manoogian who became like a second father to him by monitoring his education, social maturity, and spiritual development. Onnig then proceeded to earn his Bachelorís Degree at Concordia College in Bronxville, NY, and in 1979, he continued his studies at the General Theological Seminary. While working on his Masterís Degree, he had the honor of accompanying the Primate at many events and religious functions. During this time, he was appointed Director of the Avaks (Senior Citizens) program at the Diocese. This program served as a model for subsequent Avaks programs that were established throughout the Diocese. He was also appointed Deacon in Charge of the Northern Westchester Parish where he performed Sunday services. Onnig earned his Master's Degree in Divinity from General Theological Seminary in 1982. After graduation, Deacon Onnig came to Worcester with the then Very Reverend Father Yesnik Balian and began to serve the Armenian Church of Our Saviour.
On June 2, 1984, Deacon Onnig married Vivian (Vartoukian) at St. Vartan Cathedral with the Primate presiding. Six weeks later, Deacon Onnig was ordained into the Holy Priesthood by his spiritual mentor, Archbishop Torkom Manoogian. Following the tradition of the Armenian Church, the Primate was given the honor of choosing the newly ordained priestís name. He named him Der Aved which is a shortened version of the Primateís own birth name - Avedis. Der Aved and Yeretzgin have been blessed with two sons; Onnig (given his fatherís birth name), born in 1985, and Raffi who was born in 1988.
As the longest serving pastor of the Armenian Church of Our Saviour, Der Aved has overseen many momentous occasions: the 100th Anniversary of the first ArmenianChurch in America, the 50th Anniversary of the Church being located on Salisbury Street, and the 1988 Armenian Earthquake Relief Effort which resulted in the collection of medical supplies, equipment, clothing, and $850,000.
During his tenure, Der Aved coordinated the restoration and renovation of the Church and its facilities; he also served as a catalyst for the establishment of the Memorial Endowment Fund which has generated a continuous flow of income for the Church. Der Aved has worked with other Armenian clergy and lay leaders in the promotion of Armenian Unity which has resulted in the Armenian community coming together for Genocide Commemorations, Christmas Eve Services, and the creation of the Greater Worcester Armenian Chorale. He has also worked closely with non-Armenian church leaders in order to develop an Ecumenical Spirit within our Church. He has established close relationships with the cityís mayors as well as Massachusetts state legislators.
Der Aved has nurtured and maintained a positive relationship with the Churchís neighbor, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, at which he has offered commencement prayers and provided crisis counseling in the nearby fraternities. In 1984 he participated in a Task Force that would introduce holocaust studies to the curriculum in the Worcester Public Schools. He has served on the Community Partnership Committee for Police and Clergy, the City Managerís Coalition on Bias and Hate, the St. Nersess Seminary Board, and as an advisor to the Dean of Students at Clark University.
Looking back over the past twenty five years, Der Aved believes that some of his greatest accomplishments have been the creation of a closer relationship between his congregation and God, a more widespread understanding of our Armenian Faith, an appreciation for our rich Armenian culture, and a spirit of cooperation in working for the church. Never content with his ministry, Der Aved strives to welcome new ideas and foster new programs while keeping long honored traditions. Der Aved is thankful that the people of Worcester have embraced him and his family, and have been generous with their love and respect. Being a priest is not a job, but is a calling that is not easily described or understood. As a representative of Christ, he tries to bring hope and comfort to everyone who is faced with lifeís challenges.
It gives me great pleasure to greet the people of the historic Armenian Church of Our Saviour, of Worcester, Massachusetts, and to congratulate my brother in Christ, the Reverend Father Aved Terzian, on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of his ordination into the holy priesthood of the Armenian Church. Through his intelligence and diligence, no less through his warm personality, Father Aved has rendered many valuable services to our Diocese, our church, and our people in general. He has been a true soldier for our church. With Yeretzgin Vivian and their sons, Der Hayr has provided a wonderful example for the parish and the community at large.
During this year, as our Diocese focuses its attention on the priestly vocation, and on the need to encourage young men to take up the pastoral staff on behalf of our church, it is truly gratifying to be able to say of Father Aved that we are blessed and proud to have such a clergyman guiding, teaching, and inspiring our flock in this country
I know the people of this parish feel fortunate to have enjoyed Father Avedís pastoral leadership for so long. Americaís first Armenian Church is a great monument to our presence in this country. Under Father Avedís leadership the people of this parish have not only upheld the legacy of the past, with honor, but have also advanced the parish into a promising future. As we honor the 25 years of Father Aved Terzianís ministry, this is also an appropriate occasion to reflect on the incredible, 118-year journey of this parish, and the many wonderful people who have contributed to it. May God bless the souls, and preserve the memories, of those He has called to His kingdom, and may He inspire all of you to carry on the precious legacy you have inherited, with reverence, honor, and holiness.
Archbishop Khajag Barsamian
Primate June 7, 2009