Sunday, September 24 will mark the 35th anniversary of ordination into the priesthood of Fr. Vazken Movsesian. By arrangement of Archbishop Hovnan Derderian, Diocesan Primate and at the invitation of Rev. Fr. Haroutiun Tachejian, Parish Priest of St. James, Los Angeles, the anniversary will be most fittingly marked with the celebration of the Holy Divine Liturgy.
Fr. Vazken was born in Los Angeles to Varougan & Anna Movsesian. He graduated with degrees in Psychology and Religion from USC before entering the Monastery at Holy Etchmiadzin in 1977. Upon his return to the United States, he received his MA in Social Ethics from USC. He did an internship with Fr. Arshag Khatchadourian, serving as his assistant at St. James, Los Angeles.
Then-Primate, Archbishop Vatche Hovsepian found him worthy of ordination into the Priesthood of the Armenian Church and ordained him on the Feast of the Cross of Varak (September 26, 1982) at St. James, Los Angeles with the Fathers Arshag Khatchadourian and Levon Apelian serving as his sponsors. Childhood friend, Stephen Mikaelian served as godfather of the ordination. During the ordination Archbishop Hovsepian named him Fr. Vazken in respect to the Venerable Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians, Vazken I, of Blessed Memory, for in fact, the late-Catholicos had ascended to the Apostolic Seat on the same day some 27 years earlier.
Fr. Vazken married Susan Boranian, daughter of Sam & Jennie Boranian, and together they began a ministry which has been characterized by innovation and progressive ideas for the past 35 years. Archbishop Hovsepian appointed Fr. Vazken to the Santa Clara Armenian Church. There in Cupertino, through his diligent efforts, a new sanctuary was built and consecrated in the name of St. Andrew the Apostle. The church became the focal point of the growing Armenian community where spirituality and Christian instruction were the cornerstone of all activities. Moved by the innovative character of the Silicon Valley, Fr. Vazken established the first Armenian electronic information network, SAIN, in the late 1980s. He produced a weekly video program called “A Few Minutes with Der Hayr” and broadcast through local media outlets. His unique manner of presentation caught the attention of the late Archbishop Tiran Nersoyan, who invited Fr. Vazken to take on the editorial position of the St. Nersess Seminary Journal. But the archbishop passed away before the plans were actualized. It was during that time that Fr. Vazken sparked a friendship with Dr. Hratch Tchilingirian and together they edited and published The “Window,” View of the Armenian Church quarterly, which became a cutting-edge forum within the Armenian Church.
In 1997, Fr. Vazken was called to the Pastorate of the St. Gregory Armenian Church in Pasadena. There he oversaw the construction of the building addition of the Hovsepian Armenian School and initiated the building program for the new sanctuary. He started ACYO evenings with the students, where young people found safe-space to grow emotionally and spiritually. In the year 2000 he established Epostle.net and with a grant from Japonica Partners, he broadcast the Divine Liturgy for the first time over the Internet on Easter Sunday.
Making the Church accessible to young and old and youth activities have always been Fr. Vazken’s priorities. He devoted over 25 years to the Western Diocese Summer Camp program and headed the Camp Committee from 1993 to 2004. From 1997 to 2011, at the invitation of Prof. Dn. H. Richard Dekmejian, he served as Chaplain of the ASA at USC, bringing awareness to the need for reform in Genocide-processing.
In 2003, he was invited to Glendale to head the Youth Ministry Department for the Western Diocese. On a small corner in Glendale, together with Yn. Susan they built the basis for a vibrant and youthful parish situation. Counseling, mentorship and tutoring programs were set up with a cluster of Glendale schools adjacent to the Youth Ministries Center. In 2004, His Eminence Archbishop Hovnan Derderian designated the Youth Ministry Center as a parish of the Western Diocese and consecrated it with the name St. Peter. Under Fr. Vazken’s leadership, the church became a model for Christian outreach programs within the community, extending itself beyond the confines of the Armenian world.
In 2006, Fr. Vazken was invited to Rwanda with a group of educators from USC. This was a life-changing trip for him, as he met with Genocide survivors and correlated stories between the first (Armenian) and last (Rwandan) genocides of the 20th Century. With Armenian youth, they established a new way of looking and reacting to Genocide under the banner “In His Shoes.” Through relevant programming this small group has raised over $1.5Million for relief efforts throughout the world. He produced a video explanation called, “Leveraging Love” which is available on the InHisShoes.org website.
In 2008, it was evident that this ministry needed more room to grow. Necessity prompted the introduction of a full-scale Internet ministry. Under the motto, “Apostolic evangelism for an electronic world,” Fr. Vazken began podcasting a weekly show called “The Next Step with Fr. Vazken.” Suzie Shatarevyan produces all the shows of the electronic ministry be they videos, sermons or audio-blogs, insuring that they are consistently broadcast every week, without exception, for the last nine years and are heard/seen by audiences on five continents.
Archbishop Hovnan Derderian, has encouraged Fr. Vazken to develop the electronic ministry and has given him opportunities to expand on instructional videos. Over the past eight years the Diocesan Media Department has produced with Fr. Vazken, “In Step with Christ” (126 episodes), “Armenian Christianity Today” (115 episodes) and “AC101” (26 episodes), all of which are available on the Diocesan website or on YouTube/Armodoxy.
Currently, Fr. Vazken works closely with the Primate on developing programs that turn the Church relevant for its children living in the secularized 21st Century. Archbishop Hovnan has authorized a unique set of Bible Studies and Armenian Church Vespers in the English language that Fr. Vazken prepares and leads every Monday evening in Glendale. Earlier this year, the “Reclaim” conference was established through his initiative and instituted by the Primate as an ongoing program to attract the children of the Armenian Church.
On Sunday, September 24, Fr. Vazken will celebrate the Divine Liturgy at St. James. Fr. Vazken & Yn. Susan are blessed with three sons and a daughter-in-law who serve as deacons and servers in the Armenian Church: Varoujan & Lauren Movsesian, Sevan Movsesian and Christaphor Movsesian. The Divine Liturgy begins at 10:00AM.