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Dallas, one of the large cities of Texas.

St. Sarkis Church of Dallas Marks 20 Years

By Mary Mukhtarian

DALLAS, Texas—On Sat., Feb. 4, the Armenian community of Dallas-Fort Worth marked the 20th anniversary of the consecration of the St. Sarkis Armenian Church of Dallas with a banquet at the Hilton Lincoln Centre Ballroom. Diocesan Primate Archbishop Khajag Barsamian presided over the festivities.

Mistress of Ceremonies Maral Aznavourian introduced the evening’s cultural program, which included performances by young local talent. Njteh Keleshian sang an affecting “Giligia”; Lucine Dayian skillfully performed “Erevan Erepouni” on a grand piano; Bedig Bozigian sang “Hayrenik,” accompanied on piano by Stefan Sarokhanian; and Maggie Aznavourian and Lena Ohanian recited poetry in Armenian and English, conveying the pride that all Armenians feel through the words, “We are. We shall be. And we will multiply.”

The young dancers of St. Sarkis Church then performed “Sardarabad” and “Vartavar.” Maral Aznavourian thanked Kristina Kheshvadjian, who had come from California to train the St. Sarkis youth in preparation for the local ArmeniaFest.

The parish council chair and vice chair, Raffi Ohanian and Dr. Vahe Dayian, expressed the community’s appreciation for the presence of the dignitaries. They listed significant parish accomplishments, including its enrollment of 40 students in the Armenian school, its 50 members in the ACYOA, and the countless others who make up the St. Sarkis Sunday School, Women’s Guild, Seniors’ Program, and Social Committee.

Zovig Koulian, a beloved parishioner, was named “Steward of the Church,” to everyone’s delight. Archbishop Barsamian then paid tribute to two parishioners who purchased and donated a plot of land for the future, larger St. Sarkis Church. “It is a joy and pleasure to present the ‘St. Vartan Award,’ which is given for exemplary leadership in the Armenian Church, to Mr. and Mrs. Elie and Ella Akilian,” he said.

On behalf of the couple, Elie Akilian thanked the primate and the community for the honor, and accepted the award on behalf of “all the kind deeds that people did for us through the years.”

The Akilians, and their children Natalie and Michael, have long been supportive members of the community. From humble beginnings in Lebanon, Elie Akilian became a resident of Dallas in the early 1970’s. After years of working as an engineer for local electronics companies, he co-founded, with friend Sam Simonian, Inet Technologies, a successful telecom company that was eventually sold to industry giant Tektronix. He later founded the company that produces the popular Wizard 101 video game, acknowledged as one of the safest, parent-approved games.

The new church property was purchased in October 2011, out of the community’s desire to build a church with traditional Armenian architecture, and spacious enough to include classrooms, sports facilities, and a hall.

To conclude the evening, Archbishop Barsamian reminisced about the day 20 years earlier when he consecrated the St. Sarkis Church, and he praised the parish godfather, Dr. Sarkis Kechejian. He noted that the Dallas church held a special place in his heart, for it was the first one he consecrated as a bishop.

On Sun., Feb. 5, he celebrated the Divine Liturgy at St. Sarkis Church, accompanied by the parish’s deacon-in-charge, Dn. Justin Ajamian.

Diocesan Music Ministry director Maestro Khoren Mekanejian played the organ and directed the choir.

Following services, the Women’s Guild served a luncheon in Kechejian Hall, after which the primate and others drove to tour the new 4.5-acre church property in nearby Hebron.