ACYOA Members Gather for Chapter Workshop

19 June 2013

A group of 31 young people from 13 parishes in the Eastern Diocese met in St. Petersburg, Fla., last weekend for the 5th Annual ACYOA Chapter Workshop. The June 14-16 workshop was sponsored by the ACYOA Central Council and hosted by St. Hagop Church of Pinellas Park, Fla.

The parish's pastor, the Rev. Fr. Hovnan Demerjian, served as the workshop chaplain and opened the weekend program with a session on the importance of understanding the Armenian Christian faith. Participants spoke about ways they put their faith in action in their daily lives.

Outgoing ACYOA executive secretary Nancy Basmajian, who designed the workshop, made a presentation titled "Twenty-somethings, God, and the Church" in which she talked about young people's involvement in the church and the challenges they face in today's secular world. 

In another session titled "What's Your S.H.A.P.E.," Basmajian helped participants identify areas through which they can better serve the Lord. These included their spiritual gifts, passion, skills, personality traits, and their life experience.

"I was very pleased with how seriously the group approached the morning sessions which were very faith-oriented," Basmajian said. "We need to provide our young people with more opportunities to grow in their faith and think about ways they can commit their lives to God and their community."                 

The afternoon sessions focused on the mission and work of the ACYOA. Participants spoke about re-defining the organization for the 21st century, shared practical tips and tools to use in strategic planning, and developed regional goals and program ideas.

The Very Rev. Fr. Simeon Odabashian, Diocesan Vicar, led a discussion titled "ACYOA: What's in Our Future?" Outgoing ACYOA Central Council chair Danny Mantis and the newly-elected chair Jonathan Pelaez facilitated a presentation on how to approach chapter growth.

Participants then split up by region and considered goals and priorities for their parishes. They also began to design programs for the 2013-14 ACYOA season. Each group then shared its ideas and received constructive feedback.

The ACYOA members were proud to note that three of the workshop participants are currently serving on the parish council at their parishes. The three are Mallory Maslar of Pinellas Park, Fla.; Jon Simonian, Jr. of New York, N.Y.; and Armen Terjimanian of Washington, DC.

On Saturday evening, Fr. Demerjian and Nancy Basmajian joined the young participants for a dinner at a local restaurant. The event was organized by Mallory Maslar of the St. Hagop Church ACYOA, who served as the parish liaison to the Central Council.

On Sunday morning, the young people took part in the Divine Liturgy at St. Hagop Church. Later they joined the parish for its Father's Day picnic. Harry Kezelian, chair of the ACYOA Chapter of St. John Church in Southfield, Mich., entertained the crowd on the clarinet. 

During the weekend, participants also had an opportunity to pray together at matins and vespers services and take part in meditations led by Fr. Demerjian.

"I'm excited because I met so many people with whom I hope to establish lasting relationships," said Christina Azarian of Holy Trinity Church of Cambridge, Mass. "It was nice to see so many young people really concerned and passionate about the future of the ACYOA."