HISTORY OF HOLY CROSS ARMENIAN CATHOLIC CHURCH
A small mustard seed blossoms into a great tree. One man’s vision becomes a dream come true. “The beginning is more than half of the whole,” as Aristotle remarked. To act is to begin, to take the first step, to initiate, to be open to chance—not to have a master plan with all the final details in place and every step of the way predicted. The beginning is always the great moment of an undertaking because it demands effort and sacrifice, trust in God’s Divine Providence, and a noble vision of a lofty ideal of goodness, truth, and beauty. To begin with a pure, unselfish intention for the happiness and common good of others brings many surprises in the course of events. And to look back in retrospect after the passage of many years is to see the hand of God in the design and completion of a great work that began with the most humble of beginnings—where God always begins as the Christmas story of a child born in a manger illustrates. As Cardinal Law wrote in a letter to Father Andonian dated August 8, 1997, “Since the days when a small band of immigrants from Armenia came to the Boston area and established a parish, the faith has taken deep root and has matured and has matured among generations of Armenian Catholic throughout he lives and sacrifices of so many dedicated persons associated with Holy Cross Armenian Catholic Parish.”
Here is a brief summary of the modest beginnings, dramatic surprises, marvelous good fortune, and miraculous growth of Holy Cross Armenian Catholic Church as testimony of the hand of God’s Providence in ordinary human life.
1939 Father Sahag Kogian, a Mekhitarist priest from Vienna, arrives to serve the Armenian Catholic in the Boston area. The community purchased a house on 27 Hillside Road in Watertown to serve as Chapel of the Holy Cross and as a community center for Armenian Catholics. Father Kogian’s love of souls inspired his missionary apostolate.
1949 Father Luke Arakelian, also a Mekhitarist priest from the Vienna, is sent by his monastery to serve as assistant pastor to Father Kogian and then as assistant to Father Michael Akian who was assigned to replace Father Kogian called to the role of Patriarchal Vicar in Beirut in 1951. Through Father Luke’s tireless leadership the parish rectory moved to a larger building at the location of 375 Mt. Auburn Street in Watertown in 1951.
1954 Father Luke’s vision of the purchase a church building for a parish church becomes a dream come true on July 12 with the purchase of The Barclay Club at 100 Mt. Auburn Street in Harvard Square. The generosity of Archbishop Cushing of Boston provided the financial help that bestowed this marvelous good fortune. The visit to Boston of Cardinal Agaganian (regarded in Rome as a possible pope) in this year created a friendship between the cardinal, the archbishop, Father Kogian, and Father Luke that inspired the archdiocese to become a benefactor of Holy Cross Armenian Catholic Church
1956 After major reconstruction of the Barclay Club under the supervision of Armenian artist Ariel Ajemian, His Eminence Richard Cardinal Cushing dedicates Holy Cross Armenian Catholic Church on February 6, and the rectory moves from Watertown to the quarters constructed at the church.
1956-1990 Father Luke Arakelian continues as pastor and founds St. Gregory’s Armenian Language School and Camp at East Falmouth, Massachusetts, to serve the recreational and educational needs of Armenian children—to teach them the joy of fun, an appreciation of the Armenian culture, and the love of God. He writes several books like The A, B, C’s of Armenian to help a new generation learn and cherish the Armenian language.
1990 Upon Father Luke’s illness and death in 1990, Bishop Nerses Setian, the first exarch of Armenian Catholics in the United States and Canada, installs Father Paul Kodjanian as the new pastor. He initiated the idea of building a new church on a different site that would provide more accommodations for parking.
1993 Upon his election as the Abbot General of the Mekhitarist Order in Vienna, Father Raphael Andonian of the Mekhitarist Order in Venice assumes the position of pastor. In 1995 Father Andonian received the title of Chancellor for All Armenians in the United States and Canada.
1995 Under the leadership of Father Andonian, with the financial assistance of Mr. Petros Palandjian and his building firm Intercontinental, with the talents of architects Nishan and Florence Nahikian, and with the gifts of philanthropists Nishan and Margrit Atinizian, the church purchased a plot in Belmont on 200 Lexington Street that became the site for the new church. On July 30 after the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass celebrated by Bishop Terzakian, Exarch of the Armenian Catholics in the United States and Canada, the groundbreaking for the new church followed with the blessing of the new site.
1997 On September 14 Holy Cross Armenian Catholic Church is consecrated and has continued to the present to bless Armenian families with the ancient Armenian Mass and the sacramental life of the Church as it ministers to the spiritual needs of the young and old and Armenians from all over the world.
The mustard seed has blossomed into a flourishing tree. The sublime vision of Father Kogian has become a magnificent reality of beautiful splendor. The simple, modest beginnings awakened unforeseen energies and created great, irresistible momentum. Priests like Fathers Kogian, Arakelian, and Andonian have inspired and attracted benefactors, donors, philanthropists, converts, and new members of the church. The Lord of surprises whose Divine Providence orders all things for His greater glory blesses all who say “Yes” and follow Him and all who listen to the words of His Blessed Mother: Do whatever He tells you.”