A scene from Armenian Dance Company of Chicago’s performance at Taste of Armenia in Evanston, IL

The celebration has been a Milwaukee tradition since the 1930s. Each summer Milwaukee Armenian Fest brings its heritage and its fun to those who want to learn about the culture and food of the Armenian Community.

Armenian Fest returns on Sunday, July 17, 2022, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on the grounds of St. John the Baptist Armenian Orthodox church, 7825 W. Layton Ave, Greenfield, WI.

Our community invites you to sample the food and music and leave with part of Armenia in your heart.

On Easter day, Christians rejoice over the resurrection of our Lord and the altar curtains are now drawn. The forty-day period of fasting now comes to an end. Armenians celebrate the joyous occasion with eggs that are dyed red, with which children and adults alike play tapping contests. The Easter Bunny tradition that began in the 17th century among Protestants in Europe is now popular all over the world, according to which the bunny hatches colored eggs and brings them in baskets to children. The red egg symbolizes the suffering of Christ and His crucifixion as well as the blood spelled by him. The shell of the egg represents the rock-cut tomb of Jesus, and the cracking is the victory of Jesus over death and the resurrection from His grave.

On Resurrection Sunday, Armenian Christians around the world exchange the Easter greeting: Քրիստոս յարեաւ ի մեռելոց. օրհնեալ է յարութիւնն Քրիստոսի (Krisdos haryav ee merelots! Orhnyal eh harootiunun Krisdosee!) Christ is risen from the dead! Blessed is the resurrection of Christ!

Easter Sunday is followed by a period of 40 days, during which time there are no saints’ days or fasting days. This period, dedicated to the glory of Christ’s Resurrection and to the 40 days He spent on earth after His Resurrection, leads up to Ascension Day, commemorating our Lord’s entry into heaven.



· April 10 Palm Sunday -Opening of the Door Service: 10:00AM, Divine Liturgy: 10:15AM
· April 14 Maundy Thursday – Washing of the Feet Service: 6:00 PM, Tenebrae 7:30 PM
· April 15 Holy Friday -Burial Service of our Lord Jesus Christ 6:00 PM
· April 16 Holy Saturday – Easter Eve, Reading from the Prophecies & Liturgy 5 PM
· April 17 Easter Sunday – Morning Service 9:00 AM, Divine Liturgy 10:00 AM

Parishioners who wish to donate lily plants and / or Altar flowers for the Easter Season may Contact our church office at (414) 282-1670. We invite you to make this a memorial offering for a loved one, or a thankful offering and adorn the Lord’s Holy Temple on these High Holy Days of our Church.

In the Armenian Church tradition, it is customary for the parish priest to visit the faithful of the community during the Easter Season to perform the Rite of Home Blessing. In keeping with this tradition, we encourage our parishioners to have their homes blessed. Please call Fr. Guregh to schedule (414) 282-1670

At the conclusion of the church services on Palm Sunday, our Sunday School teachers and parents of the students, in keeping with their long established tradition, will once again host everyone with their traditional Palm Sunday brunch. We cordially invite our parishioners and friends to attend and support the ministry.

Please use donate.stjohnarmenianchurch.org for your online  youghakin donation. Youghakin (Price of Oil, literally translated) donation for the illumination of the church oil lanterns is an ancient custom which we continue to observe each year during the Easter season.  Your generous donations will be greatly appreciated.

Ս. Զատկուայ Տնօրհնէքի համար հաճեցէք հաղորդակցիլ Տէր Կիւրեղին հետ հետեւեալ թիւով՝ (414) 282-1670: Կը քաջալերենք մեր բոլոր հաւատացեալները որ օրհնել տան իրենց բնակարանները՝ ըստ Հայց. Առաք. եկեղեցւոյ աւանդութեան:

Ս. Զատկի Իւղագին
Հաճեցէ՛ք օգտագործել հետեւեալ հասցեն donate.stjohnarmenianchurch.org Ձեր առցանց (Online) Իւղագինի նուիրատուութեանց համար: Ձեր առատաձեռն նուիրատուութեամբ է որ պիտի կարենանք միշտ վառ պահել Ս. Գրիգոր Լուսաւորչի Կանթեղը մեր եկեղեցիէն ներս:


By David Luhrssen

(Milwaukee, Wis.) On Sunday, November 7, St. John the Baptist Armenian Church celebrated its 79th anniversary with Divine Liturgy followed by a banquet and program. The Diocesan Vicar of the Eastern Diocese, Very Rev. Fr. Simeon Odabashian, was the guest celebrant. Assisting in the services was the parish’s current pastor, Rev. Fr. Guregh Hambardzumyan and his predecessor, Rev. Fr. Nareg Keutelian.

St. John was founded in 1942 in nearby West Allis, Wis., one of several industrial cities in the Midwest where Armenians found work and new lives after the massacres of the 1890s and the Armenian Genocide that followed. In 1970 the parish moved to the Milwaukee suburb of Greenfield and conducted worship and other activities in a newly constructed cultural hall. In 1986 St. John’s sanctuary, designed by architect Harold Baylerian according to Armenian tradition, was consecrated by Archbishop Torkom Manoogian, assisted by the parish’s pastor, Rev. Fr. Tateos Abdalian.

At the November 7 program, Fr. Simeon recalled his long association with St. John, which began with a visit as a teenager in the 1970s. At that time, liturgy was conducted on the stage in the cultural hall by the late Very Rev. Fr. Shnork Kasparian. Fr. Simeon was present at the 1986 consecration and as a seminarian, assisted Fr. Tateos with Holy Week services.

The program’s keynote address by Fr. Guregh stressed the challenges that the founders of St. John had to overcome in “a place that bore no relation or resemblance to the land they came from.” The Armenian immigrants found work for themselves and bright prospects for their children but felt a void “that could only be filled by the construction of a new church.” In the decades since the parish was established, St. John has been “a safe haven and a gathering place” for Armenians, a place for spiritual and emotional regeneration, an extension of the Motherland, “a living breathing structure” where people worshiped, mourned, rejoiced and remembered who they were and from where they came, Fr. Guregh said.

In appreciation for his years of service at St. John as a deacon and later a priest, Fr. Nareg was presented with a clay khatchkar from Armenia. He recalled a conversation at the 1986 consecration with a skeptic who said in 25 years, there would be no Armenian community in the Milwaukee area. Thirty-five years later, St. John’s culture hall was crowded for the anniversary celebration and included many participants who weren’t born when the church was consecrated.


Death of Varaz Samuelian

(November 7, 1995)

Everyone has seen, in person or in picture, Yervant Kochar’s iconic statue of David of Sassoun in front of the train station of Yerevan. Fewer people are aware that a second, equestrian statue of the hero of the Armenian epic poem stands in front of the courthouse in Fresno, California. 

Its author was Varaz Samuelian, an Armenian American painter, sculptor, and writer. 

He was born Varazdat Samuelian on April 24, 1917, in Yerevan, to survivors of the Armenian Genocide. He graduated from the Yerevan State College of Fine Arts (now named after painter Panos Terlemezian) in 1938. 

Varaz and WIlliam Saroyan

He was enlisted to serve in the Soviet armed forces in 1939. He first participated in the war of Khalkhin Gol (May–September 1939), where a combined Soviet-Mongolian army defeated the Japanese forces that had invaded eastern Mongolia to create a base for future attacks on the Soviet Far East.  

Afterwards, he was sent to the Western front after the German invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941. He was taken prisoner by the Germans, but escaped from the POW camp and joined the forces of the Resistance in France. During his time in Paris, Samuelian studied with renowned painters such as Othon Friesz, André Lhote, and Fernand Léger.  

After the war, like many other Armenian former prisoners of war, he was confronted with the risk of returning to the Soviet Union and being sent to Siberia for having fallen prisoner to the Germans. He remained in Europe as a displaced person (DP) and came to the United States in 1946, sponsored by his older brother Dickran. He lived with another brother, Jack, in Burlingame, California, for several years. During that time, he began to paint and started a business as a sign painter.  His business success allowed him to move to Belmont, California, where he lived for many years and married his wife Ann. The couple moved to Fresno, California, to be near her family, in 1957. There, “Varaz” Samuelian, who simply signed Varaz, continued his work in painting, began writing in earnest, and developed a large number of sculptures.   

Varaz’s oeuvre encompassed a wide range of media, including sculpture (bronze, stone), painting (oil, acrylic, watercolor), lithography, pen and ink, and pencil. He created around one thousand works of art during his career. Along with his statue of David of Sassoun, he is also noted for his bronze bust of William Saroyan at the entrance of the Fresno Convention Center. He had a decades-long friendship with the famous Armenian American writer. Saroyan wrote a short novel dedicated to the artist entitled “Who is Varaz?” in 1965. Four years after Saroyan’s passing, in 1985, Varaz Samuelian published his memoir Willie and Me.  

He was also the author of other books, including A History of Armenia and My Life: Writing and Drawing (1978).  He held exhibitions in Paris, Nice, Marseilles, Barcelona, Mexico City, and at several New York galleries, as well as locally in Fresno. 

The prolific artist passed away on November 7, 1995, at the age of 78, in Fresno. He willed most of his paintings and sculptures to the Armenian Studies Program of California State University at Fresno. The Varaz Samuelian Cultural Center was inaugurated in the village of Artik, in the province of Shirak (Armenia), on September 1, 2010. The 6,000 square feet building serves as a cultural resource center for the village. The center includes an art gallery, auditorium and a computer room.  

Source: The Armenian Prelacy

By David Luhrssen

(Milwaukee, Wis.) The physicians gave photographer Hrair Hawk Khatcherian only 10 days to live. As Khatcherian told the audience at his Oct. 24 slide show and talk at St. John the Baptist Armenian Church, he made a vow: if he survived lung cancer, he would travel to every country in the world with at least one Armenian church and take pictures. “I wish I had just offered madagh,” he joked. Although keeping his promise proved to be a larger than anticipated investment in time and money, the Canadian Armenian traveled to 48 nations for the photos he chose to include in his 2013 book, One Church, One Nation.

Genocide Memorial Courtyard at St. John Armenian Church of Milwaukee

Khatcherian devoted most of his presentation as part of Armenian Cultural Month observance at St. John in Milwaukee, to his latest book, Khatchkar. Beautifully produced and photographed, the 500-page coffee table book an impressive document of Armenian religious stone carvings. Included are not only the khachkars that dot the Armenian countryside but bas-reliefs in churches and monasteries displaying events from the life of Christ and iconic images of Jesus and Mary the Mother of God.

With many visual juxtapositions, Khatchkar is designed to reveal common themes across different media by contrasting images of stone carvings with illuminated manuscripts, metalwork and fabric. Many of the khachkars he photographed were difficult to access. He clambered along slippery cliffs, stepped carefully through a Soviet-era minefield, braved the threat of Azeri snipers and ventured into the vicinity of Mount Ararat without alerting soldiers at a nearby Turkish army base. Several khachkars he photographed rise to 16 feet in height. Another difficulty involved photographing khachkars with natural light sufficient to reveal their detailed carvings. Because they face east, the best time of day for capturing the standing stones is between noon and 2 p.m.

Khatcherian photographed khachkars in Armenia, Artsakh, the Crimea, Iran, Lebanon, Georgia, Turkey and the Holy Land. “It took 26 years and 100 trips to Armenia and Artsakh,” he said, describing a search that revealed khachkars in their diversity was well as commonality and their fate. They remain objects of reverence in Armenia. However, in Kurdish regions khachkars were used as building materials, many have been deliberately defaced in Turkey and others were bulldozed by the Azeris. Several khachkars photographed by Khatcherian were evacuated from Artsakh to Etchmiadzin at the close of the 2020 war.

Saturday, April 10, 2021 @ 10:00 am

The Eastern Diocese is pleased to announce that Diocesan Primate Bishop Daniel will ordain Deacon Albert Hambardzumyan to the Holy Order of Priesthood, on Friday and Saturday, April 9 and 10, 2021.

The Service of Calling to the Priesthood and Ordination and Consecration will take place at St. John the Baptist Armenian Church of Milwaukee, WI, where Dn. Albert has been serving as the Deacon-in-Charge since October. Very Rev. Fr. Norayr Kazazian will serve as Dn. Albert’s sponsoring priest, and Dr. Garo Garibian as his ordination godfather.

A native of Yerevan, Dn. Albert Hambardzumyan is a 2019 graduate of St. Nersess Seminary, who served a pastoral internship at the St. Hagop Church of Pinellas Park, FL, before his assignment to Milwaukee. He and his wife Sylva have an infant son.

“About thirteen years ago, I embarked on the journey to priesthood and now the time is finally approaching for my priestly ordination,” said Dn. Albert. “During these past years, I have been blessed to study in Jerusalem and at St. Nersess and St. Vladimir’s seminaries, where I have served in many capacities including deacon and choir director. Now God is calling me to take on my shoulders His responsive and sweet yoke and serve Him and our Holy Church as a priest.”

A celebratory banquet will take place after the service on Saturday. Following his ordination, the new priest will spend 40 days in seclusion and prayer at St. Nersess Seminary before returning to St. John Church as its new pastor.

Click on the following links to:

  • LEARN MORE about Dn. Albert’s ordination.
  • RESERVE for the banquet on Saturday, April 10.
  • WATCH the ordination live on the St. John Church Facebook page.

Dn. Albert Hambardzumyan will be the third priest ordained by the hand of Bishop Daniel since the latter was consecrated to the episcopal rank in 2019.

The Untold Story of How the YMCA Saved Lives During the Genocide

By David Luhrssen




(MIlwaukee, Wis.) During the beleaguered years of the First Armenian Republic (1918-1920), two Americans traveled the length of the country in a rickety motorcar over unpaved roads on a mission to aid the refugees. They may have saved as many as 100,000 lives and left behind a priceless documentary record of the Genocide.


On Sunday, April 7, Dr. Rouben Adalian, Director of the Armenian National Institute in Washington DC, spoke at St. John the Baptist Armenian Church about those two Americans, John Elder and James Arroll. They were YMCA volunteers, initially sent to Russia to boost morale in America’s World War I ally. With the rise of the Bolsheviks, Elder and Arroll found themselves in Russian Armenia. The challenges they faced were catastrophic in scale.


From May through October 1918, Elder and Arroll witnessed the carnage as Turkish forces drove across the border into the fragile Armenian Republic. The YMCA volunteers organized relief in Armenia as part of an overall American effort to aid millions of hungry and displaced people across Europe and the Near East, yet Elder and Arroll had fewer assets at their disposal than their counterparts in Belgium and other countries. For many months they were the only Americans in Armenia and served as their country’s unofficial representatives to the republic. The resources they worked with were slender. They established an orphanage consisting of nothing more than an empty room without beds or furnishings of any kind, only a roof to keep out the rain.


Elder and Arroll were also responsible for a trove of photographs showing the ravaged faces and emaciated bodies of refugees, the mass graves and the decimated towns left by the retreating Turks. One especially chilling image, displayed by Adalian in PowerPoint, shows a woman picking a dirt field looking for scraps of food.


Elder and Arroll’s work was long forgotten until Adalian, who earned a Ph.D in history under Richard Hovannisian, pieced together their story. However, as he conceded, many things remain unknown about the pair of humanitarian adventurers who played a decisive but unsung role in assisting Armenia during a time of great peril.

Click to access american_relief.pdf


(Prepared by the Armenian National Education Committee)


Birth of Varoujan Khedeshian
(April 7, 1937)


Varoujan Khedeshian was one of the most innovative directors of Armenian theater in the Diaspora during the second half of the twentieth century.

He was born on April 7, 1937, in Aley (Lebanon). At the age of sixteen, he debuted in the Hamazkayin “Kaspar Ipekian” dramatic troupe, directed by Georges Sarkissian, another famous name of Diasporan theater.

In 1960 he went to London to study at the Webber Douglas Academy of Dramatic Art. He graduated in 1965 and returned to Lebanon, where he joined the Hamazkayin “Levon Shant” dramatic troupe. Two years later, he founded the “Theatre 67” dramatic troupe, which had a very important role in the Lebanese Armenian community until the beginning of the civil war in 1975. Khedeshian was noted for staging works from the Armenian and international repertoire that went outside the mold of tradition, introducing the audience to contemporary works by playwrights like Arthur Miller, Peter Weiss, Edward Albee, and Neil Simon. He would maintain this approach when he took over the direction of the “Kaspar Ipekian” from 1989-2000. He translated a total of 22 plays from English into Armenian.

Some of the works he directed included, along with “Ancient Gods” and “The Emperor” (Levon Shant), “By the Road of Heaven” and “Up to Where?” (Hagop Oshagan), “Alafranca,” “The Oriental Dentist,” and “Brother Balthazar” (Hagop Baronian), “The Piper of the Mountains of Armenia” (Hamasdegh), world-famous works like “The Merchant of Venice” (William Shakespeare), “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” (Edward Albee), “Marat/Sade” (Peter Weiss), “The Crucible,” “View from the Bridge,” “The Price,” and “All My Sons” (Arthur Miller), “The Prisoner of Second Avenue” and “Barefoot in the Park” (Neil Simon), “The Master Builder” (Henrik Ibsen), “Romulus the Great” (Friedrich Dürrenmatt), “The Venetian Twins” (Carlo Goldoni), “The Caretaker” (Harold Pinter).

From 1979-1987 Khedeshian staged five dramatic performances in Armenia, both in Yerevan and Leninakan (now Gyumri), and received the “Bedros Atamian” medal in 1987, becoming the first Diasporan Armenian who earned this award during the Soviet period.

His decades-long theatrical activity earned him multiple accolades and several distinctions late in life. In 2000 he was decorated with the “St. Mesrob Mashdots” order of the Holy See of Cilicia by Catholicos Aram I and the Hamazkayin order by the Central Executive Board of this organization. In 2008 the Ministry of Culture of Armenia awarded him its gold medal, and Catholicos of All Armenians Karekin II bestowed upon him the “St. Sahag-St. Mesrob” medal of the Armenian Church. Meanwhile, in 2004 he had received the order of the Institute of Arts of Lebanese University, where he had taught dramatic art from 1971-1999.

Varoujan Khedeshian passed away on December 28, 2015, in Beirut, at the age of sixty-eight.

Bishop Karekin Servantzdian


(Prepared by the Armenian National Education Committee)




Birth and Death of

Bishop Karekin Servantzdian

(November 17, 1840 – November 17, 1892)


Together with his mentor, Khrimian Hayrig, Bishop Karekin Servantzdian was a remarkable ecclesiastic who worked actively for the well-being of Armenians in their historical territories and even engaged in political activities. At the same time, he became a founder of sorts of Armenian folklore studies.


Servantzdiants was born in Van on November 17, 1840. He studied in his birthplace, and then graduated from the seminary at the monastery of the Holy Cross of Varak, where he was designated as teacher. When Khrimian became the superior of the monastery in 1858, he resumed the publication of his paper Ardzvi Vaspurakan, which had initially been printed in Constantinople (1855-1856), and named young Servantzdiants deputy editor of the weekly from 1860-1862.


Khrimian and the future ecclesiastic toured the Armenian provinces in 1860-1861. Servantzdian depicted the painful situation of the Armenian working class, subject to exploitation by Turks and Kurds. The Ottoman authorities took him under surveillance. He also collected samples of folkloric texts and sayings. His initiative contributed to the opening of schools in various places. In 1862 he became principal and teacher of the seminary attached to the monastery of Surp Garabed in Moush, and edited another publication by Khrimian, Ardzvi Darono (1863-1865), a biweekly. In 1866 he published a textbook, New Reader, in Constantinople.


In 1867 Servantzdian was ordained a celibate priest in Karin (Erzerum) and sent to Van as preacher. Soon he became general director of the schools of Karin, and two years later, he was designated deputy abbot of the monastery of Surp Garabed.


While a champion of popular education and culture, Servantzdian did not shy away from engaging in more difficult tasks. In 1872 he participated in the foundation of the clandestine political group “Union and Salvation,” created in Van. He was designated vicar of the diocese of Van in 1879. Patriarch Nerses Varjabedian sent him to tour the Armenian provinces in 1879-1880 and prepare exhaustive reports about the situation of the population. At the same time, he also recorded many samples of oral literature and described rites, customs, and beliefs.


By then, Servantzdian was actively publishing his findings. His book of 1874, Գրոց ու բրոց (Krots oo prots, loosely “From Written and Oral Sources”), consecrated his name as the discoverer of the Armenian national epic David of Sassoon. The young priest recorded for the first time an account of the epic, which has been regarded as one of the best among 150 recorded published and unpublished accounts. He published another book of written texts, From Old and New, in the same year. New books appeared in the next decade: Manna (1876), where he included folkloric material and the description of the neighborhoods and historical monuments of Van; Toros Aghpar (1879), where he spoke about the economic situation of the country, and the Armenian emigration; and With Taste and Smell (1884), which included a description of Armenian places, historical monuments, and weather, and also literary sketches of various figures of the past and popular tales.


In 1881 Servantzdian participated in the organization of another patriotic secret organization, “The Black Cross,” and by order of the government had to leave Van. He became vicar of the diocese of Bitlis and then took the same position in Kharpert. He traveled to Echmiadzin in 1885 and was ordained bishop the next year. Then he was designated primate of Trebizonda and then of Daron, at the same time becoming abbot of Surp Garabed.


Servantzdian’s patriotic activities and stance triggered the displeasure of Sultan Abdul Hamid II. Consequently, Patriarch Haroutioun Vehabedian (1885-1888) fired him from his positions in Daron and had him sent back to Constantinople. Under strict surveillance, he worked as preacher at the Holy Trinity Church of the district of Pera, teacher at the Getronagan School, and chairman of the Religious Council. His contributions to the fields of ethnology and archaeology earned him an honorary membership in the Imperial Academy of Archaeology of St. Petersburg (Russia).

After a long illness, Bishop Karekin Servantzdian passed away on the day of his fifty-second birthday, November 17, 1892. His legacy became a stepping stone for the development of Armenian ethnology and folklore studies in the twentieth century.


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