By David Luhrssen
(Milwaukee, WI) Although he marked his 64th year as a clergyman this year, Archbishop Yegishe Gizirian showed little evidence of slowing down on Sunday, November 14 while celebrating the 70th anniversary of St. John the Baptist Armenian Church. The Damascus-born cleric, who served in several U.S. parishes before his two-decade tenure as primate of Great Britain, is living now in Philadelphia. The faithful gathered for the Sunday liturgy noted his booming, powerful singing voice. And during the reception that followed, he spoke loud and clear without the aid of a microphone.
In his sermon and during the afternoon program, the archbishop spoke in biblical parables of the wise man who built on solid rock and the foolish man on sand, and in folklore of the butterfly and the bee. When the storms of adversity come, as they inevitably do in life, the wise man will persevere while the fool will be swept away. The butterfly may be proud of its bright wings, and criticize the bee, but the bee’s tireless work is what sustains the ecosystem the butterfly enjoys. The archbishop also stressed the importance of the Mother Church of Armenia as the guiding light that sustained Armenian spirituality and culture through the ages.
St. John’s parish priest, Rev. Fr. Nareg Keutelian, also spoke during the program of the important role of parents and church leaders in sustaining the community through their example. “We like to speak of our children as the future, but in reality they must be our present,” he reminded listeners. One of the congregation’s teenagers, Donnie Rask, entertained the audience by playing Mendelssohn on piano, and two other young members, Angela Rask and Mary Keutelian, received college grants from the Michael Aram Vartanian Scholarship Fund in honor of their service to the local Armenian community.