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ACYOA members discuss vocations in New York

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For members of the Armenian Church Youth Organization of America, Memorial Day weekend is marked by a potpourri of activity, ranging from meetings to athletic events and spiritual and cultural activities.

This year’s holiday break was no exception, as ACYOA members from across the Eastern Diocese gathered at the IBM Dolce Palisades Center in Palisades, N.Y., to take part in the organization’s 64th annual General Assembly and Sports Weekend, from May 21 to 25.

As part of this year’s Diocesan theme of “Vocations: The Call to Serve,” young people learned about steps they can take to help strengthen the ranks of the priesthood in the Armenian Church.

A total of 80 delegates and observers – including close to 20 members of the clergy – attended the General Assembly, on May 21-22.

Archbishop Khajag Barsamian, Primate of the Diocese of the Armenian Church of America (Eastern), shared with delegates his personal story of entering the seminary at the Patriarchate of Jerusalem and encouraged young people to think about ways they can serve their church and people.

“The priests and the pastors among us are one way that God makes his presence known to his children,” he said. “Time and again, through courage and moral conviction, priests made the difference in ensuring the survival and advancement of our people.”

The Primate also thanked the ACYOA Central Council and members of the youth organization for their continued involvement in the Armenian Church.

“Our church is blessed by your faithful presence and active embrace,” Archbishop Barsamian said. “Tomorrow you are going to take the leadership role in our Diocese.”

Also addressing the assembly was the Rev. Fr. Hovnan Demerjian, pastor of St. Hagop Armenian Church in St. Petersburg, Fla. Fr. Demerjian spoke about the importance of remaining open to God’s call and working with others to respond to it.

“Calling is a bit like falling in love,” he said, explaining that everyone has the potential to “fall in love with God.”

“As Christians, we are called more to a way of life than a job,” he added. “A way of life which overrides all jobs and relationships, and underpins those.”

The Rev. Fr. Stepanos Doudoukjian, director of Youth and Vocations at St. Nersess Seminary, introduced a group exercise in which delegates discussed how they might encourage their friends, relatives, and each other to find their vocation, and what steps can be taken to encourage potential seminarians.

Among the suggestions were proposals to establish a shadow program for young men to work with priests across the Eastern Diocese and to increase training options for acolytes and deacons at the parishes.

“I think the breakout session on vocations was extremely effective,” said Talin Hitik, vice chair of the ACYOA Central Council. “It was interesting to hear in those small group sessions what other young men had to say on their thoughts about entering the priesthood.”