Advertisements

Blog Archives

The 10th Anniversary of Rev. Fr. Hovnan Demerjian’s Ordination

By Suren Oganessian
FLArmenians Tampa/St. Petersburg Contributor

Sunday, August 13, 2017 was a day of two celebrations at St. Hagop Armenian Church in Pinellas Park, Florida. Not only was it the day of the annual Blessing of the Grapes, but it was also the date chosen to celebrate Rev. Fr. Hovnan Demerjian’s tenth anniversary of being ordained into priesthood. Local Florida Armenians traveled from as far as Sarasota to be a part of this special event, which was not only an important anniversary for Rev. Fr. Hovnan Demerjian, but for the Armenian community of Tampa Bay itself.

Fr. Hovnan has accomplished much in the U.S. and in Armenia, having taught there with the U.S. Peace Corps from 1996 to 1998, and then helping to establish the Armenian Volunteer Corps in 2000. He joined the Diocese of the Armenian Church in 2003, and in June 2007 he was ordained and assigned to be a pastor at St. Hagop. Before the establishment of St. Hagop Armenian Church, Armenians of the Tampa Bay area had no place else to conjugate, not without a long drive to Orlando or Boca Raton. In the last decade, the church has become a beacon for the local Armenian community, which though small is finally beginning to establish itself in the area. “The Armenian community here is very welcoming,” Fr. Hovnan told FLArmenians.com. “People here are from everywhere, making it very diverse. The community is always looking forward,” he said.

The day began with the Divine Liturgy, moving on to the Blessing of Grapes and a celebratory luncheon for Rev. Fr. Hovnan Demerjian. Presiding over the ceremony was Archbishop Khajag Barsamian, Primate of the Eastern Diocese, who traveled all the way from New York City. It was one of many visits he has made to St. Hagop Armenian Church over the last ten years. He has watched the local parish grow from 23 members in 2007 to over 150 today. “With God, things become possible,” said Archbishop Barsamian at the accompanying luncheon. “To have an Armenian Church in St. Petersburg 50 years ago would have been seen as a dream. But it is good to dream.” Thanks in part to the excellent spiritual leadership Fr. Hovnan Demerjian, he went on to say, that dream has come to fruition.

Fr. Hovnan Demerjian accepted the praise of his peers with humbleness and optimism for the future. While Fr. Hovnan’s immediate mission in coming to Tampa Bay – to build the church and the accompanying Shahnasarian Hall – has been completed, he notes that the long-term mission to “bring people together in a family of God” is ongoing. Over the next ten years, Fr. Hovnan has even bigger plans. “The work of building the Armenian community we all want has just begun. In the next ten years, we hope to have an improved Sunday school and even more faith and heritage programs,” Fr. Hovnan said.

Advertisements

Paradise International Foods in Pinellas Park

By Suren Oganessian
FLArmenians Tampa/St. Petersburg Contributor

Choices for authentic Armenian food in Pinellas county, or Florida in general, can be very limited, and delis that carry Armenian products are few and far between. One can find a few Middle Eastern delis in and around St. Petersburg and Pinellas Park which advertise Armenian food along with a host of other ethnic cuisines, but generally speaking these usually are not owned by Armenians and carry very few actual Armenian foods. This was my struggle after moving to Florida from California two and a half years ago. After months of trying out different delis in the area, settling for what I could find, I learned by word of mouth about Paradise International Foods in Largo, not too far from the St. Hagop Armenian Apostolic Church. When I visited, I was amazed to find products I’d not seen since I was in Armenia.

Nestled in the Mission Plaza shopping center on Starkey Road, just past the Bay Care Health Center, Paradise International Foods is truly a hidden gem for those who seek not only Armenian food, but food from other parts of Eastern Europe as well. The shop is family-owned, and managed by Rafael Aladjyan, a Georgian-Armenian from Tbilisi who ran a deli in New York City for 23 years before relocating to Largo, Florida. He and his wife had been in the deli business for so long that it was only natural to take it with them when they relocated.

“I like Largo,” he explained in Armenian. “It’s not quite St. Petersburg and it’s not quite Clearwater, but it’s close enough to both.”

On any given day, the shelves are stocked with hard-to-find Armenian imported goods rarely seen outside of California. Noyan products, lavash, tan drinks, Kilikia and Gyumri beers, and even Jermuk sparkling water adorn their shelves, making it the perfect destination for anyone in the area nostalgic for Armenia. There is always a nice selection of cheeses, from Bulgarian feta to Armenian string cheese, and occasionally they carry delicious Lori cheese imported straight from Armenia’s northern Lori province; the distinctive taste transports me back to the rolling green hills outside Vanadzor. Also not to be ignored is the wine selection, which along with selections from Georgia and elsewhere include sweet wines from Ijevan (Tavush region) and pomegranate wine bottled in Mgravan (Ararat region). The latter come in beautiful pomegranate-shaped bottles that are almost too pretty to throw away afterward.

The deli is locally popular not just with Armenians in the area; they receive a lot of Russian, Ukrainian and Jewish customers as well. Aladjyan prides himself in catering to the Eastern European community in Pinellas. One of their specialties is pilaf, prepared in the Central Asian style which during Soviet times became widely known throughout the USSR. Their desert selections are also very popular, with a lot of variety. It truly is an international paradise.

“We welcome anyone who wants to come to our store, no matter where they are from,” said Aladjyan.

Paradise International Foods is located at 11309 Starkey Rd,, Largo, Florida, and are open seven days a week.

 

10th Anniversary Celebration of Father Hovnan Demerjian Ordination

SHAC-10th Anniversary