St. Peter Women’s Guild members make cheoreg, which is sweet, egg-enriched bread. The women of the guild are known throughout the diocese for their cooking and baking.
Many things were different 100 years ago, with modern technology seeming more like science fiction. At least one thing remains unchanged — the dedication of a faithful group of women.
• What: St. Peter’s Women’s Guild centennial celebration
• When: May 17 at 6 p.m.
• Where: Desmond Hotel and Conference Center, Albany
• How much: $75, $35 for ages 12 and under
• Info: 274-3673
The Ladies’ Aid Society of St. Peter Armenian Apostolic Church was formed on May 4, 1914, 15 years after the parish was established in Green Island. Maritza Doumanian was the first chairwoman of the newly organized church auxiliary, which is now known as the Women’s Guild. Almost a century to the day of the group’s formation, Women’s Guild Chairwoman Sharon Foley will lift a glass to the past while pushing forward into the future.
“It is a testament to the dedication, strength and love of our predecessors that the Guild has remained strong and serves the needs of our St. Peter Armenian Apostolic Church,” Foley said in a statement.
The Women’s Guild will commemorate its centennial on Saturday, May 17, with a dinner dance at the Desmond Hotel & Conference Center in Albany. The event features an “extensive” buffet dinner selection transitioning into a night of dancing to the big band sounds of the local Greg Nazarian ensemble.
Alice Chorbajian, a member of Women’s Guild Executive Committee, has been a member of the church for all 75 years of her life.
“I hardly ever miss a Sunday without going to church,” Chorbajian said, “and if I do, it is for a good reason I am not there.”
Chorbajian, of Loudonville, has also served as chairwoman of the Women’s Guild around six times over the past 35 years. She said she likes the sisterhood of the guild.
“I enjoy it for the friendships of meeting the younger and older women of the parish,” she said. “You really become very close to everybody because we are not that large of a group.”
The guild, which has more than 60 members, is also kicking off a campaign to reach 100 members before next year.
Lena Guleserian-Hoglund, of Colonie, joined the guild a year and a half ago and has enjoyed being an active member of her church community. She is also proud of the group’s long history.
“It is a pretty big deal to be a part of it and a great feeling,” Guleserian-Hoglund, 33, said. “It is a pretty amazing thing that it has been a part of our church for so long and that we can continue the traditions of the women helping in our church.
Chorbajian said she learned a lot from guild members when she joined, which is an experience Guleserian-Hoglund is undergoing.
“I enjoy learning from our older generation. The women have worked so hard in our church for so long, and they know so much,” Guleserian-Hoglund said. “It is a blessing that we can all carry on that kind of tradition.”
She believes the church plays a “solid, foundational” role in her community through keeping the cultural “building blocks” intact. She also enjoys the church’s annual Armenian festival because it showcases the culture to many people who are not familiar with it.
“It is so easy to forget about (tradition), and I think with previous generations, it has always been a very strict tradition,” she said. “Maybe now it is not as strict, but we still want to keep it alive so our future generations get to experience a church like we experience it now.
Through the group, Chorbajian said cooking traditions are passed on. Those same traditions are also featured at its annual festival, and more than 200 family recipes are complied in the guild’s cookbook, which was released before Christmas of last year.
Foley has said a majority of the congregation is first- and second-generation Armenian, so some of the recipe instructions, while written in English, read how they would in “the old country.”
All proceeds from the cookbook went toward repairs and upgrades needed at the church.
Chorbajian said the guild is the “backbone” of the church, with it leading many fundraising efforts.
“We do raise a lot of money and do various outside community events presenting Armenian food and culture,” she said.
All proceeds from the dinner dance will benefit Mer Doon, which is an organization formed in 2005 to “help break the cycle of dependency for impoverished young women in Armenia by providing education, job training, a family environment and instilling leadership skills all while teaching self-sufficiency,” according to a St. Peter representative.
The Rev. Stepanos Doudoukjian said the guild has a century of proud accomplishments through its dedicated service.
“I personally congratulate and thank each and every present-day member for their ongoing commitment to this inspiring organization, while remembering and honoring those who helped to lay the solid foundation for the St. Peter Women’s Guild,” Doudoukjian said in a statement.