On Sunday, September 25. 2011, Archbishop Khajag Barsamian, Diocesan Primate, presided over the 25th Anniversary celebration of the construction and consecration of Milwaukee’s St. John the Baptist Armenian Church’s present sanctuary.
The day began with celebration of Divine Liturgy by the Rev. Fr. Tateos Abdalian, the former pastor of St. John Church who was instrumental in encouraging and organizing the community in their effort to construct the sanctuary in 1985. Until then the church services were being held in the cultural hall.
The Rev. Fr. Nareg Keutelian, the pastor of St. John’s served as the deacon during the Liturgy. “It was a moving experience serving as a deacon during today’s celebration” said Fr. Nareg as he served the same parish as a deacon 25 years ago when Fr. Tateos Abdalian was the pastor. "It brought back treasured memories".
At the conclusion of the service, Archbishop Khajag Barsamian orda
ined two Altar servers—Michael Kashian and Thomas Hammer—to the rank of acolyte. Both have been working with Fr. Nareg to prepare for the ordination. Both newly-ordained parishioners received Certificate of Ordination from the Primate, who congratulated them on their accomplishment and encouraged them to continue their service to the Armenian Church.
The Primate also conducted a Thanksgiving Service for the Republic of Armenia on the occasion of its 20th anniversary of independence.
During the banquet and program attended by some 100 parishioners and friends, Archbishop Khajag Barsamian spoke on the Diocesan theme of "Ministry of the Faithful". He reminded the faithful of Christ’s call to follow Him, saying that "over and over again, our Lord uttered this call to people from every stage in life."
In his keynote address, Fr. Abdalian spoke about the importance of community, and working together to achieve goals as a parish. He stressed that the Church is the body of Christ, and noted that all parts of the body are essential to ensure the healthy development of parish life.
Fr. Abdalian said he was emotionally overcome during the celebration of the Divine Liturgy at St. John the Baptist Armenian Church. "I felt the presence of my parents, in-laws, and family members-those who had served at the Holy Altar during my pastorate, as well as past parishioners of St. John, all who had entered their eternal rest," he said. He expressed a feeling of "being together as one through the Holy Sacrament. As celebrant, I could not have asked for more."
Other highlights of Sunday’s banquet included remarks by William Seabrook, on behalf of the Altar servers. William, who was ordained an Acolyte two years ago, reflected on the continued Altar Server training classes conducted by Fr Nareg. “With our participations in these training sessions, attending St. Nersess Summer Conferences and Midwest Hye Camp, our understating of the Divine Liturgy is enriched and our faith deepened” he concluded.
Donnie Rask, a multitalented young musician, performed Rachmaninoff pieces on the piano. He along with William Seabrook and Arek Kashian was ordained Acolyte two years ago. Donnie also plays the church organ during Divine Liturgy frequently.
Fr. Nareg acknowledged the parents for their selfless sacrifices in bringing these young men and women to church for training and ensuring their participation in the various Diocesan Programs.
The program concluded by singing of “Der Getso” by Fr. Nareg and Benediction by the Diocesan Primate.
St. John the Baptist Church began as a mission parish in West Allis, Wis., in 1940, and saw the consecration of its first house of worship in 1942.
The cornerstones for the new church were blessed in 1986 by then-Primate Archbishop Torkom Manoogian, with the assistance of Fr. Abdalian, who served the parish from 1984 to 1989. The completed building was consecrated by Archbishop Manoogian in November of that year.