THE EARLY YEARS AND THE FORMATION OF THE PARISHES
Armenian Catholics have been living in the New York area for many decades before they had an Armenian Catholic bishop in this country. In fact, as early as the year 1896, and upon the order of His Beatitude Stepan-Bedros X Azarian, the first Armenian Catholic priest, in the person of Msgr. Mardiros Megerian, arrived here as pastor of Armenian Catholics of the New York area. Later, the same priest was nominated as Patriarchal Vicar for the USA, an assignment which he faithfully carried out until 1921. Msgr. Megerian was especially instrumental in helping out the survivors of the Armenian Genocide (1915-1921,) who fled to this country.
On August 13, 1921, Msgr. Haroutyoun Maldjian arrived in the USA, succeeding Msgr. Megerian. Msgr. Maldjian diligently worked in this country shepherding the Armenian Catholic community for an amazing 50 years! Even the hard years of the American Great Depression (1929-1933) did not extinguish his zeal and enthusiasm.
Meanwhile various parishes were formed in Paterson, New Jersey, in 1909, Philadelphia, in 1923, Boston, in 1940, Los Angeles, in 1945, Detroit, in 1948, New York, in 1984, Little Falls (formerly in Paterson), in 1991, Glendale, California, in 1999.
Two parishes were successively constituted in Canada: Montréal, Québec, in 1966 and Toronto, Ontario, in 1974.
Currently the Apostolic Exarchate for Armenian Catholics counts approximately 25.000 faithful in the United States of America and 10.000 in Canada. The larger communities are in Los Angeles, California, and Montréal, Canada.
BISHOP NERSESS SETIAN, FIRST EXARCH
On July 3, 1981, upon the recommendation of the Congregation for Eastern Churches and the Armenian Catholic Patriarchate, Pope John Paul II established the Apostolic Exarchate for Armenian Catholics in the USA and Canada, with a pontifical Bull entitled "Divini Pastoris". The Holy Father appointed Msgr. Nersess Setian, Rector of the Pontifical Armenian College in Rome, as the first bishop of the Exarchate.
His Beatitude Hemayag-Bedros XVII Gedigian ordained Msgr. Setian a bishop on December 5, 1981, in the Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul in Philadelphia, PA. His Excellency was installed as the new Exarch of December 27, 1981.
Bishop Nersess Setian, according to the instructions of the Pontifical Bull cited above, transferred the Exarchate to New York with a Pontifical Mass on Christmas Eve, 1983. The Archdiocese of New York, through the generosity of Cardinal Terence James Cooke (Archbishop of New York 1968-1983,) gave St. Ann's Shrine (East 12th Street) for the use of Armenian Catholics. Thus, with the moving in of Bishop Setian, the Shrine became a Cathedral.
During his tenure of office, the Armenian Catholic community worked very hard to renovate both the rectory (1984-1990) and the cathedral sanctuary itself (mid-1990's) spending a considerable amount of resources in the process.
Upon reaching the mandatory retirement age of 75, he retired on September 18, 1993. He died on September 9, 2002, in Los Angeles and was buried in Rome.
Bishop Setian proved a very diligent shepherd for his community. He constantly traveled to visit his various parishes in the Exarchate throughout the USA and Canada. As a scholar, he also gave great importance to the written word, publishing a very precious Anthology of the writings of the Fathers of the Armenian Church and the "Eternal Flame", a periodical of the Armenian Catholic Cathedral.
BISHOP HOVHANNES TERTZAKIAN, SECOND EXARCH
Bishop Nerses Setian was succeeded by Most Rev. Hovhannes Tertzakian, formerly the Abbot General of the Order of the Mekhitarist Fathers of Venice, and later the Rector of St. Ann's Cathedral.
Bishop Tertzakian was consecrated a bishop by His Beatitude Hovhannes-Bedros XVIII Kasparian in Los Angeles, CA, on April 29, 1995, and was installed as Apostlic Exarch at St. Ann's in New York on May 7th of the same year. He retired on November 30, 2000. He passed away on January 28, 2002.
During the tenure of Bishop Tertzakian as Rector, the Cathedral of St. Ann underwent a major renovation. During this time as Bishop, the Cathedral had no Rector.
BISHOP MANUEL BATAKIAN, THIRD EXARCH (CURRENTLY EPARCH)
On November 30, 2000, Pope John Paul II appointed Most Reverend Manuel Batakian, then Patriarchal Vicar of Beirut for Armenian Catholics, as the new Apostolic Exarch for North America. Bishop Batakian was installed as the new Exarch on January 20, 2001, at St. Ann's Cathedral in Manhattan.
Before his installation as Apostolic Exarch, Bishop has been the Patriarchal Vicar for the Institute of the Patriarchal Clergy of Bzommar, from 1978 to 1984. Then he served the Armenian Catholic diocese of Paris as the Rector of the Armenian Catholic Cathedral and Vicar General for the same diocese. In 1990 he was appointed Rector of the Pontifical Armenian College of Rome. In 1995 he was elected as Vicar General of the Patriarchal Diocese of Beirut, Lebanon, and ordained as Bishop on March 12, 1995, in Beirut, Lebanon.
Upon the request of the Synod of Armenian Catholic Bishops, headed by His Beatitude the Catholicos Patriarch Nerses Bedros XIX, Pope Benedict XVI , on September 12, 2005, raised the Apostolic Exarchate for Armenian Catholics to Eparchy. Bishop Manuel Batakian became thus the first Eparch, the Eastern Churches' term for Bishop.