The Art of Communication a Focus of ACYOA Leadership Conference

13 November 2013

By Armen Terjimanian

Young adults from 18 parishes across the Eastern Diocese gathered in Stony Point, NY, for the annual ACYOA Leadership Conference weekend at the Don Bosco Retreat Center, from November 8 to 10.

Sponsored by the ACYOA Central Council, this year's conference examined effective styles of communication and let participants evaluate their abilities to communicate as leaders in their parishes.

Conference sessions also taught the 41 participants how to effectively communicate the Gospel of Christ in their everyday lives.

Conference sessions included a Bible study led by the Rev. Fr. Kapriel Mouradjian, pastor of Holy Resurrection Church of New Britain, CT; a lecture on the art of communication by Dr. Herand Markarian, playwright and adjunct professor at St. Nersess Armenian Seminary; a presentation on communication through sacred music by Dn. Rubik Mailian, chair of the Sacred Music Council; and a talk on Christian communication and social media by Maria Derderian, youth minister at St. James Church of Watertown, MA.

Other sessions included a presentation on "Ayo!"—a Fund for Armenian Relief-sponsored platform that allows individuals and groups in Armenia to make their philanthropic ideas become reality—by Andre Berg; and a breakout group discussion on how to handle communication mishaps and dilemmas in local ACYOA chapters facilitated by Jennifer Morris, director of the Diocese's Department of Youth and Young Adult Ministries.

Archbishop Khajag Barsamian, Primate of the Diocese of the Armenian Church of America (Eastern), visited the conference Saturday afternoon and presented participants with the Diocese's Divine Liturgy pew book as a gift. Diocesan Vicar the Very Rev. Fr. Simeon Odabashian also joined the group Saturday morning for matins and to interact with the participants during the morning sessions.

"This weekend's theme was so poignant because it allowed us to look at how we communicate our faith through the lens of our everyday interactions," said participant Christine Santourian of St. John Church of Southfield, MI.

Fr. Mouradjian and Rev. Fr. Mardiros Chevian, dean of St. Nersess Armenian Seminary, served as the conference chaplains.

Lorie Odabashian, coordinator at the Department of Youth and Young Adult Ministries, assisted the ACYOA Central Council with organizing and leading the weekend's events.

The Rev. Fr. Abraham Malkhasyan, pastor of Holy Martyrs Church of Bayside, NY, and Garen Karamyan, the church's youth director, also attended the conference.

Six seminarians from St. Nersess Armenian Seminary joined the young adults to learn, grow, and socialize during the weekend.

The conference concluded Sunday with the celebration of the Divine Liturgy by Fr. Chevian. A wrap-up session followed services.

Participants said that they found the weekend inspiring.

"The biggest statement I took away from the weekend is to keep your spiritual truth," said Melissa Mardoian of Sts. Joachim and Anne Church of Palos Heights, IL. "This can be done by communicating your Christian morals and values not only verbally, but also with your actions." 

The skills learned during the conference also helped the ACYOA members to prepare for future leadership roles in their parishes.

"After graduating college, I realized the time for me to become a leader in the parish as a whole is fast approaching," said Christine Hovsepian of Holy Trinity Church of Cambridge, MA. "This Leadership Conference helped me prepare for that day more than I could imagine."