The 2019 ACYO Sports Weekend concluded with an episcopal celebration of the Divine Liturgy at St. Paul Armenian Church of Fresno. The day’s celebrant was H.E. Archbishop Hovnan Derderian, Primate of the Western Diocese of the Armenian Church of North America who was assisted at the Holy Altar by the Rev. Fr. Yessai Bedros, Pastor of the host parish, the Rev. Fr. Khajag Shahbazyan, Pastor of St. Leon (Srbots Ghevontiants) Armenian Cathedral and the Deacons. The Rev. Fr. Avedis Abovian, Pastor of Holy Apostles Armenian Church and Youth Director of the Western Diocese, also participated in the service.
In his homily, the Primate exhorted the youth to become ambassadors and imitators of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ as a way spreading the light of His Gospel within their respective communities.
Below is an excerpt from the Primate’s homily.
In a few days, the Church will be celebrating the Ascension of our Lord, the faithful day of His Glorious Resurrection, which marks the birth of the Church, for it is on this day when the Lord commanded His apostles to go into the world and carry on the mission He took upon Himself.
“Go therefore and baptize all the nations in the name of the Father, the son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And, lo, I will be with you to the end of eternity.” (Matthew 28:19-20).
My dear youth, Christ our Lord speaks to you and commands you as He did to His apostles. You are the living Church and bear within you God and reflect the love of God and the wisdom of Christ, our Lord. Christ calls on you to preach and spread His Gospel.
The key question which remains with you is this: How can you fulfill the commandment of the Lord?
My response to that is a simple one – Imitate Christ.
Christ calls on us all to reawaken within us the calling to live a life responsibly as an apostle and feel in the depth of our hearts the privilege of being entrusted a God-pleasing mission. It is my prayer and wish that you lead your life with prayer so that you may stay closer to God.
How can we define the mission of a Christian? To live with and to imitate Christ. Therefore, your presence will grace your spirituality with the love and wisdom of Christ and empower you to become apostles of Christ.
During the service, Archbishop Derderian commended the pastoral leadership of the Rev. Fr. Yessai Bedros exhorting the young priest to renew his calling to service and ministry with the help of the auxiliary bodies of the parish and the community.
The Primate also commended the outstanding youth ministry leadership of the Rev. Fr. Avedis Abovian, wishing him continued success in his God-pleasing mission.
Archbishop Derderian also acknowledged the unrelenting dedication of Dn. Barlow Der Mugrdechian to the Armenian Church, noting Dn. Barlow's decades of steadfast service to St. Paul Armenian Church of Fresno.