From Istanbul to Worcester

Special Tribute Retirement Celebration 

Served from 1982-2022

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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 Onnig’s behalf. Subsequently, it was at the Primate’s 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 Onnig’s 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 Bachelor’s Degree at Concordia College in Bronxville, NY, and in 1979, he continued his studies at the General Theological Seminary.

While working on his Master’s 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 priest’s name. He named him Der Aved which is a shortened version of the Primate’s own birth name – Avedis. Der Aved and Yeretzgin have been blessed with two sons; Onnig (given his father’s 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 city’s mayors as well as Massachusetts state legislators.

Der Aved has nurtured and maintained a positive relationship with the Church’s 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 Manager’s 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. Archbishop Vicken Aykazian said in his sermon following a reception and banquet held on November 18, 2022 in Der Aved’s honor, “Fr. Aved’s ministry will not end on December 31, 2022. He will no longer be your pastor, but his ministry will continue as an instrument of the Lord.”