OUR LADY QUEEN OF MARTYRS ARMENIAN CATHOLIC CHURCH
Early in this century and prior to World War II, the relatively few Armenians living in Los Angeles worshipped in one of two apostolic churches, Holy Cross and St. James, or joined the Evangelical congregation. There were a number, however, who professed as Armenians Catholics and attended services in local Roman Catholic churches--these were the nucleus of our Armenian Catholic community in Los Angeles.
In the years immediately after World War II and during the ensuing migration of great numbers of people in Europe, many Armenians, displaced by the German war effort or by Communism, were brought to Germany to work in the fields or factories until the end of the war. Thereafter, they were relocated to a camp for Displaced Persons in Stuttgart.
To their great credit, the Mekhitarist Fathers of Vienna recognized the spiritual needs of their displaced brothers and sisters and dispatched Father Michael Akian to Germany to be their spiritual leader. He worked tirelessly for four years in serving the needs of his people, some of whom he had already known and assisted in Vienna with Father Vahan lngillisian and others of the Mekhitarist Congregation.
A large number of people from this camp eventually immigrated to California and settled in East Los Angeles and Montebello, where they were fraternally received and sponsored by their fellow Armenians who had been established in Los Angeles for many years.
In 1951, Gregory Cardinal Agagianian, Patriarch of Armenian Catholics, was invited to visit Los Angeles by James Francis Cardinal McIntyre, the Archbishop of Los Angeles. To the delight of Armenians living there, he celebrated the Armenian Liturgy in the cathedrals of Los Angeles, Fresno and San Francisco.
It was in that same year that Father Akian arrived in Los Angeles to continue working with the Am1enian Catholic community to establish a parish. In 1952 Father Akian’s efforts were rewarded with the benevolent assistance of Cardinal McIntyre who gave him an existing church to use near Downtown Los Angeles.
It was named Our Lady Queen of Martyrs and became the first Armenians Catholic church to be established in California. With a concerted effort led by their new pastor, the congregation succeeded in renovating the church and it was officially dedicated on April 29, 1956, with Cardinal McIntyre and the Abbot of the Mekhitarist Congregation of Vienna, Bishop Habozian, presiding
In the years that followed, the parish grew in number as more people arrived to begin life anew in California. The church became a vital center in the lives of many of its parishioners. Devout women from the community established first Ladies Guild. To this day, the Guild has proved to be a steady source of moral and financial support to the parish.
In 1964, Father Akian was recalled to Vienna to prepare young men for the priesthood. He was replaced by Father Clement Morian as pastor. Endearing himself to the congregation and the Armenians community, Father Morian worked hard to see to the spiritual needs of his parishioners. His tenure, which ended in 1976, saw a period of growth, both numerically and spiritually. immigrants from Soviet Armenia, the Midle East and Romania started arriving in Los Angeles in increasing numbers during this time.
Father Michael Akian returned to Los Angeles in 1976 to serve as pastor, and served in this capacity until 1987. He was assisted by Father Basil Ferhatian and Father Gregory Heboyan. During this period the Armenian Catholic Church in North America entered a new phase of development.
In July 1981, His Holiness Pope John Paul II issued a decree establishing the Apostolic Exarchate for the Armenians in the United States and Canada. His Excellency Bishop Nerses Setian, previous y the rector of the Levonian Seminary in Rome, was appointed as the Exarch. Since then, the Exarchate his proved to be an important force in harmonizing the activities of the Armenian Catholic communities and clergy in North America.
In Los Angeles Father Akian continued his diligent work with the community. Father Ferhatian started publishing Verelk, a periodical devoted to communicating Catholic teachings and values to the community. Father Akian was succeeded in 1987 by Father Mesrob Topalian, who served as pastor until 1991. This period saw the continued development of the community’s social life, highlighted by the establishment of the Armenian Catholic Youth Organization (ACYO), the Daniel Varoujan Cultural Society and publication of Avedaper, the community’s newsletter. The congregation’s growth and maturity was evidenced by its ability to provide substantial assistance to those Armenians devastated by the 1988 earthquake.
In 1991, Armenians in Los Angeles were honored by the visit of his Beatitude Patriarch Catholicos John-Peter XVIII Kasparian. It was also in 1991 that Reverend Father Raphael M inassian became pastor of Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Parish in Los Angeles. He realized from the start the importance of the preservation of the community 's spiritual life, especially among younger parishioners. Conscious of the purpose of a directive from the Armenian Catholic Ardzivian Patriarchal Congregation in 1989 to expand the mission in greater Los Angeles, Father Raphael took the initiative to plan a new church project in Glendale, California.
After Bishop Setian's retirement in 1995 the Armenian Catholic Community in Los Angeles sponsored the consecration of the Very Reverend Hovhannes Tertzakian as Bishop and new Exarch to Armenian Catholics in North America
In 1996 Our Lady Queen of Martyrs was honored by visits from the Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians, His Holiness Karekin I, and from the Catholicos of Cilicia, Aram I. Close cooperation among Armenian Catholics and other Armenians-including members of various religious, social, and charitable organizations-continues to grow and provide impetus for instilling spiritual guidance and Christian values into Southern California 's burgeoning Armenian population .
It wasn't until 1997, under Father Raphael's direction, that an existing Lutheran church in Glendale was purchased and renovations were planned in the style of typical Armenian Church architecture. His efforts to realize his mission were assisted by well-known personalities from the local Armenian Catholic community and many benefactors both large and small. In August of 1999 the church's cornerstone was set and construction began, and in March 2001 His Excellency Bishop Manuel Batakian, Exarch of Armenian Catholics in North America officiated at its consecration.
Fr. Anton Panossian was appointed Assistant Pastor at Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Church in 2001 and served the parish faithfully until his retirement in 2013.
On M ay 20, 201 1, His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI named The Most Reverend Mickael Mouradian as Bishop of the Armenian Catholic Eparchy of Our Lady of Nareg for Armenian Catholics in North America. While Bishop Mouradian's jurisdiction includes all of the Armenian Catholic parishes in America and Canada, he resides at the Glendale parish, and that church is now officially known as St. Gregory the Illuminator Armenian Catholic Cathedral.
Father Panossian was succeeded in 2013 by Father Armenag Bedrossian who serves currently as pastor. Since his arrival, and because of his energy and enthusiasm, Our Lady Queen of Martyrs parish is experiencing its own particular Renaissance. In addition to renovating the church, he has re-instituted the Parish Council, facilitated the re-organization of the choir, reintroduced religious education to the parish 's children, and sponsored monthly dinners for friends of the parish. Father Armenag has even reached out to the local community at large by offering the early Mass on Sunday in English. Once again, because of his guidance, the church has become a vital center in the lives of its parishioners whose numbers have increased noticeably.
Finally, mention must be made of the Ladies Guild that continues work tirelessly with its steady source of moral and financial support to Father Armenag and all the parishioners of Our Lady Queen of Martyrs church.