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blue   History Of Our Parish (1899 - Present) blue

Area residents fondly refer to St. Peter Armenian Apostolic Church as "The Church on the Hill." Members of the congregation take great pride in their house of worship that was consecrated on September 19, 1971.

As is typical of a mid-sized Armenian community, the early beginnings were quite modest and humble. This generation's grandparents and parents came to the area with little knowledge of the language, culture or customs of their newly adopted country. All they hoped for was freedom from oppression and the opportunity for a better life for their families.
A better and more fulfilling life begins with spiritual renewal and affirmation. And so it began that the local church had its origins in 1899 when a dedicated group of Armenian leaders decided to form a parish despite the fact that there was no priest available to conduct Divine Liturgy. In those early days, church services, when observed, were held at St. Paul Episcopal Church in Troy, thanks to the kind invitation of its vestry.

Original bylaws established annual dues at fifty cents. Visiting clergy were paid anywhere from $7 to $15. One has to remember that these were lean years since the average weekly pay was about $10 and the work week was slightly over 50 hours.

The Armenian resolve to establish its Christian faith took a major step forward in 1913 when it was decided to purchase a church in the Village of Green Island for $2,500. By 1916, the mortgage was paid off. Church membership grew and the official consecration of the Church took place that year. The "Godfather" was Mr. Harootun Santigian who had donated the large sum of $50. He chose the name "St. Peter" for the church.

There were many difficult periods ahead, mostly financial, but slowly they were overcome. As the Armenian community grew still larger, a larger house of worship was needed. In 1927, a Search Committee learned of a Methodist church, built in 1854, that was available in the City of Troy.

The sale of the Green Island church produced $1,500, and so, with a down payment of $10,000, the edifice on Fifth Avenue and Jacob Street was purchased in 1927 for $30,000. The dedication of the congregation, the Parish Council and the Clergy during the next four decades cannot be overemphasized. Their dedication and sacrifices are too many to enumerate. It was their devotion to church and the Armenian community as a whole that laid the foundation for the survival of their language, customs and culture in this area. We owe them our undying gratitude.

During the early 1960's, the Parish Council and the congregation faced structural problems of the church. Costly repairs were made and consideration was given to purchasing land for a new house of worship.

Through the gracious consent of Mrs. Agnes Wiswall, 45 acres of land was sold to us for the small sum of $12,000. The land in Watervliet, situated on a hill, had a commanding view of the local region. Our pastor at that time was Very Rev. Hmayak Intoyan.

Committees were formed, and over the following years, fund-raising activities of all kinds took place. Long hours were spent over the architectural design. First estimate costs were $350,000 in 1967. With changes in design and other delays, costs rose to $650,000 during the following years. Final costs totalled $750,000 when the new St. Peter Armenian Apostolic Church was consecrated by Archbishop Torkom Manoogian in September of 1971.

Father Garen Gdanian was our priest at the time and he faithfully served us until his retirement in 1989. He now serves as our Pastor Emeritus. Following Fr. Gdanian's retirement, Father Tateos Abdalian served for four years. He was followed by Father Masis Galstian.

In 1995, Deacon Gregory Doudoukjian came to our community as Deacon-in-Charge of the parish. In February of 1996, he was ordained in our Church as Fr. Stepanos Doudoukjian and had been our young and energetic spiritual leader for twelve years until he began a minsitry with St. Nersess Armenian Seminary. In 2007, Fr. Bedros Kadehjian served as the Parish Priest. He served the parish for two years.

In September of 2010, Fr. Stepanos Doudoukjian returned to St. Peter Armenian Church to begin a second tenure as Parish Priest of the church community.

Pastors Of Our Church

Rev. Fr. Vahram Misirlian
1911 - 1912

Fr. Vahram was the fifth clergyman of the ten to serve the Armenian churches in the United States from 1889 - 1899.

Very Rev. Fr. Dripoun Bedzakian
1913 - 1916

Fr. Bedzakian was born in Sepastia, Turkey, and was ordained there some years later as a celibate priest.

Very Rev. Fr. Levont (Ghevont) Martoogessian
1917 - 1919

Fr. Martoogessian, was ordained a celibate priest on October 14, 1899, in the Armenian Church of Our Savior in Worcester, MA, the first ordination of an American priest in America.

Rev. Fr. Sahag Der Bedrosian
1922 - 1926

Fr. Bedrosian was born in the Armenian province of Marash, Turkey, in 1877. He was the 21st priest in his family. He was loved and respected by all the parishioners of St. Peter Armenian Church.

Rev. Fr. Yeghishe Kalchinjian
1928 - 1930

Fr. Kalchinjian was born in Bolis (Istanbul), Turkey, in 1876. Besides St. Peter Armenian Church, he also served churches in Marseille, France; Lowell, Lawrence, Wocester, and Watertown, MA; Providence, RI; and Los Angeles, CA.

Rev. Fr. Levont Paroonagian
1934 - 1938

Dicran Paroonagian was ordained a deacon in 1934. Later, he became a priest and was assigned to the Troy Church which he served as pastor for four years. He then moved to California.

Rev. Fr. Vahan Guldaliian
1938 - 1945

Fr. Guldalian was ordained a priest in 1904. He served as a pastor in Aintab; Cairo, Egypt; Yetem, CA; Chicago, IL, and then St. Peter Armenian Church in, Troy, NY.

Rt. Rev. Bishop Papken Varjabedian
1946 - 1950 and again from 1952 - 1956

During his tenue as a pastor of St. Peter Armenian Church, he established a Mr. and Mrs. Club, ACYOA Chapter, formed the national Choir Organization and initiated Choir seminars

The Very Rev. Fr. D.V. Mesrob Semerjian
1950 - 1952
Fr. Mesrob Semerjian led an ACYOA Pilgrimage to Jerusalem in 1955. In 1965, at the request of His Holiness, Vasken I, Fr. Semerjian visided communities in Venezuela and Latin America to minister to the spiritual needs of the faithful.

Rev. Fr. Vahan Guldaliian
1956 - 1962

Fr. Guldalian was ordained a priest in 1904. He served as a pastor in Aintab; Cairo, Egypt; Yetem, CA; Chicago, IL, and then St. Peter Armenian Church in, Troy, NY.

Rt. Rev. Bishop Hmayak Intoyan
1962 - 1967

Ft. Intoyan was ordained bishop in Etcmiadzin in 1974. He served his church for more than forty years in various capacities.

Rev. Fr. Tateos Abdalian
1989 - 1993

Fr. Tateos grew up in Boston, MA. He was graduated from St. Nersess Seminary in 1983. Fr. Tateos endeavored to enrich the yough programs of the parish during his pasorate with St. Peter Armenian Church. The growth of the Sunday School program into the new century began during Fr. Tateos' pastorate.

Rev. Fr. Masis Galstain
1994 - 1995

Even though Fr. Masis was with St. Peter Armenian Chuch for a brief time, in that period he emphasized the training of deacons and improved the morning services which encouraged attendance at this service and Sunday Badarak (worship service).

Rev. Fr. Bedros Kadehjian
2007 - 2009

Rev. Fr. Bedros Kadehjian's baptismal name is Ara Papken Kadehjian. He was born in Englewood, NJ, and grew up in Queens, NY. He was baptized and later served at St. Vartan Cathedral in New York City. He was ordained by Archbishop Barsamian on April 3, 2005, at St. Vartan Cathedral, and given the priestly name Bedros.

Rev. Fr. Garen Gdanian
1970 - 1989

Rev. Fr. Garen was born on February 11, 1925in AleppoSyria. His given name was Sarkis. He attended local Armenian Schools oncludingNersessian SchoolZavarian School and Gertasiratz School.

At the age of 13, he entered the Armenian Seminary of Jerusalem and studied there for six years. In 1944, he returned to Aleppo and taught in the Zavarian Armenian School for one year. From 1945-1947, he studied at the Armenian Theological Seminary of Antelias, Lebanon.

In 1947, Fr. Garen came to the United States upon the invitation of then-Primate, Archbishop Tiran Nersoyan. He studied at the Episcopal Theological School in Cambridge, MA. He graduated from that school in 1950 and received his Master of Divinity degree. He continued his studies at Harvard Divinity School. The famous Armenian philanthropist, Mr. Alex Manoogian, paid all the expenses of Fr. Garen’s schooling.

Fr. Garen was ordained a deacon in January 1948 and was assigned to to the Lowell Armenian Church as deacon-in-charge. On December 19, 1948, Archbishop Tiran Nersoyan ordained him to the holy priesthood at St. Vartanantz Church of Lowell, MA. Fr. Garen served as pastor of the church for nine years. In 1964, he was awarded the pectoral cross.

In September 1957, Fr. Garen became the pastor of St. Gregory the Illuminator Armenian Church, where he worked until 1970.

Fr. Garen was elected pastor of St. Peter Church of Troy, NY, in 1970, and came to his new parish in September of that year. Fr. Garen served his third parish for 19 years. He retired from pastoral work in September 1989.

In 1977, Fr. Garen received his floral Pilonium, and in 1984, he was elevated to the rank of Avak Kahana. He served on the Diocesan Council from 1971-1975.

Fr. Garen has continued his studies by joining various workshops and seminars and by attending courses at the University of New York at Albany and Siena College in Londonville. He has served as a member of the Watervliet Clergy and a member of Capital Area Clergy support groups.

Although retired, Fr. Garen has always helped out by filling in as a priest when needed in the Diocese. He has served churches in Houston, TX, and Cleveland, OH, as well as mission parishes in Florida. Fr. Garen has also traveled twice to Armenia on a preaching mission.

Fr. Garen married Zabel Kludjian in 1952. They have three children and five grandchildren.


Rev. Fr. Stepanos Doudoukjian
1995 - 2007 and 2010 - Present

Rev. Fr. Stepanos Doudoukjian came to St. Peter Armenian Church in Watervliet, NY, in November 1995 as Deacon Gregory, Deacon-in-Charge of the parish. Born and raised in New Jersey, he is the son of Sona and the late Charles Doudoukjian of Teaneck, NJ, and the youngest of four children. Throughout his high school years, Fr. Stepanos attended religious conferences and retreats at St. Nersess Armenian Seminary in New Rochelle, NY. It was there that he first heard God's "calling" and it was there that he met his wife, Paulette (Kasparian). It was the summer programs at the seminary that helped surface the seed of priesthood that was already planted within him.

Fr. Stepanos, who comes from a family of bankers, originally went to Bergen Community College in New Jersey, where he majored in banking and finance for one semester, after graduating from high school. He changed his major to early childhood development and earned his Associates Degree. He then transferred to Dominican College in Orangeburg, NJ, where he earned his BA in elementary education. In 1993, he graduated from St. Nersess Seminary and St. Valadimirs Theological Seminary in Crestwood, NY, receiving a Master's Degree in Divinity. He also received special commendation for his Master's Thesis titled, "Oral History: An Intergenerational Study of the Effects of the Assassination of Archbishop Leon Tourian in 1933 on American-Armenians."

Fr. Stepanos has traveled to Armenia on two occasions. In 1990, he spent two months studying with the University of Michigan summer study program. He also went for three weeks in 1992 to do missionary work with St. Nersess Armenian Seminary. Following his graduation, he spent some time in the Old City of Jerusalem studying Armenian and Liturgics.

During the years 1994-95, prior to moving to the Capital District where he now resides, Fr. Stepanos worked as a pastoral assistant and youth director for the Armenian Church of the Holy Martyrs in Queens, NY, and at the Diocesan headquarters in the youth ministry department, where he focused on college ministry.

In February 1996, as part of the traditional Armenian ordination ritural which was held at St. Peter Armenian Church in Watervliet, New York, Deacon Gregory was given his new name, Stepanos, as he was ordained a priest in the Armenian Church by His Eminence Archbishop Khajag Barsamian, Primate, . Dn. Gregory requested the name Stepanos, Armenian for Stephen, in honor of his deceased twin-brother. Following the ceremony, Fr. Stepanos spent his Karasoonk (40-day secluded retreat) at St. Nersess Armenian Seminary. He celebrated his Antranig Badarak (first Divine Liturgy) at St. Peter Armenian Church on Palm Sunday, March 31, 1996.

In January 1998, in addition to his parish ministry, His Eminence Archbishop Khajag Barsamian assigned Fr. Stepanos the position of Director of the St. Nersess summer and winter conferences for Armenian Youth, a position which Der Stepanos presently still holds. As Director, Fr. Stepanos organizes and implements seminars for Junior High, High School and College-aged Armenian students.

In 2005, Archbishop Khajag Barsamian also appointed Fr. Stepanos as the Director for Youth and Vocations for St. Nersess Armenian Seminary. For two years he shared his time between St. Peter Armenian Church and St. Nersess Armenian Seminary.

In 2006, the Primate presented Fr. Stepanos with the pectoral cross in honor of the 10th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood.

On July 1, 2007, Fr. Stepanos was assigned as the full-time Director of Youth and Vocations for St. Nersess Armenian Seminary. His emphasis was on recruitment of seminarians. He also continued to direct the summer programs as well as organize other youth programs for the seminary.

On Sunday, September 12, 2010, Fr. Stepanos returned to St. Peter Armenian Church to serve as the parish priest once again for "round two". The return to the Capital District and St. Peter Armenian Church has been a blessing both for Fr. Stepanos and his family as well as the parish community. His initial emphasis is to encourage young families to embrace the Armenian church and participate on Sunday mornings. Also more educational and spiritual programs will be implemented under Fr. Stepanos' tenure.

  We also wish to remember the following priests whose records we were unable to find:  
Very Rev. Dirye Markarian, 1919 - 1920
Rev. Bedros Vartanian, 1921 -
Very Rev. Stepan Vartanian, 1927 - 1928
Rev. Nishon Papazian, 1931 - 1933
Rev. Yeghishe Kasparian - 1933
Rev. Karekin Hovagimian -
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