Armenian church marks 25 years

COSTA MESA — Standing in the parking lot in the shadow of the church, parents chatting it up next to their cars as their kids hold onto their pant legs, Krikor Mahdessian opens his arms and soaks in the scene: "This is beautiful!"

It's the end of another Saturday school at St. Mary Armenian Apostolic Church in Costa Mesa, 148 E. 22nd St., and Mahdessian, the school's principal, is thinking about the future.

"Here, the children are the best asset of this community," he said.

Saturday school on the church property focus on teaching elementary school-aged kids their Armenian heritage, from history to language. As the congregation has grown, so have opportunities for Orange County's Armenians to connect.

Mahdessian is excited about the future; it looks bright, officials said. But Mahdessian, like everyone else, will be honoring its history on Sunday.

Led by church Rev. Fr. Moushegh Tashjian, parishioners will celebrate the Armenian congregation's 25th anniversary.

"For us, the church is not only a Christian institution, it's center of our cultural identity," Tashjian said. 'It has both national and spiritual importance."

He said the congregation became official in 1985 and has more than 500 members now. Eventually, Tashjian said, it will have to eventually expand on its property. It's a far cry from the Armenian parish that in the mid-1980s had to schedule time for its followers mass' at St. James Anglican Church in Newport Beach and Saint Michael and All Angels Episcopalian Church in Corona del Mar.

Its parish swelled and in 1989, they raised $1.25 million to buy the 22nd Street property in Costa Mesa. Three years later in 1992, with a new, pink marble altar, the building was consecrated. A bell tower was added in 1997.

"The church has become so important to us," said Beverly Chuchian Bernstein from Newport Beach.

She takes her grandson to the Saturday school and said she's started attending mass again since Tashjian took over.

Maybe 25 years from now, some of Saturday's students will celebrate the church's 50th anniversary.

"I'm so proud of it," principal Mahdessian said. "The church has given us authority to be a part of the community."

Copyright © 2019, Daily Pilot
EDITION: California | U.S. & World