Rev. Fr. Mashdots Keshishian
Father Zaven left Yettem in May 2020 and became the Parish Priest at St. Sarkis Armenian Apostolic Church in Santa Clarita on June 1, 2020.
Rev. Fr. Zaven Markosyan
Rev. Fr. Vartan Archpriest Kasparian
Born John Kasparian in Los Angeles, California on May 24, 1939, Father Vartan received his early education in Los Angeles. Upon graduating from Loyola High School in 1957, he attended the University of Southern California, receiving his Bachelor of Arts degree in political science in 1961. He obtained a teaching credential from California State University in Los Angeles in 1962 and earned a Master's Degree in government from the same university in 1967. For some ten years after receiving his teaching credential, Father Vartan taught in Los Angeles City Schools, Roseville High School, and Santa Monica College. it was during this time that he began theological studies at Claremont School of Theology.
Father Vartan was ordained a sub-deacon in 1964 by Archbishop Vartan Kasparian and Bishop Torkom Manoogian (Armenian Patriarch of Jerusalem). in 1967, He was ordained to the full Deaconate by Bishop Elisha Simonian. From 1967 to 1969, he served as the Spiritual Administrator at St.Jjames Armenian church in Sacramento.Then, from 1970 to 1972, he served as the Pastoral Assistant at St. James Parish in Los Angeles. He then enrolled in the Armenian Seminary of St. James in Jerusalem in 1972 and upon his return to the United States was appointed as the spiritual administrator for both Sts. Sahag-Mesrob Armenian Church Reedley and St. Mary Armenian Church in Yettem.on July 2, 1972,
Father Vartan married Danna Surabian of Reedley. Their marriage was blessed with a daughter, Katherine, on June 14, 1981.
After his ordination as a priest in September of 1973, by Bishop Vatche Hovsepian, Father Vartan continued to serve both of these parishes until 1973. in 1974 he was assigned exclusively to St. Mary Parish in Yettem. During his first seventeen years in the St. Mary Parish, there were many projects that were successfully undertaken: Beautiful stained glass was installed throughout the church; new carpets were installed; beautiful religious art work became a part of the church; an Armenian Martyrs Monument was built; the parish hall was remodeled; a new parking lot was built; marble was installed at the altar area; the Sunday School program and ACYO were strengthened; church membership increased from 75 to 192; an Armenian Language School was established; regular altar server classes were held and the Yettem parish became the first in the Western Diocese to use the Armenian text of the Divine Liturgy of St. Basil which Fr. Vartan had prepared.
From 1979 until 1990, he also served as the Director of the Western Diocese Department of Youth Activities and Christian Education (YACE) while serving the St. Mary Parish. At the Diocesan level, Fr. Vartan served as a member of the Diocesan Council from 1974 to 1978 as Secretary. Also, from 1986 to 1990, he again served on the Diocesan Council. During 1987-1988, he served as the Diocesan Council Chairman. In 1987, he was assigned as the official translator for His Holiness Vazken I during his visit to the Western Diocese. Fr. Vartan was the first Director of the Diocesan Department of Youth Activities and Christian Education, serving in that capacity on a part time basis from 1979 through 1991. He was instrumental in the establishment of the Diocesan retreat program and the Ladies Society Women Saints Day observance. Fr. Vartan frequently served as chaplain and curriculum coordinator for the Diocesan summer camp program in which he was active from its inception in 1963 until 1992.
In February of 1990, at the direction of the Primate, Fr. Vartan left St. Mary parish in Yettem and took over the full time job of Director of Youth Activities and Christian Education at the Diocesan Office in Los Angeles. During his tenure, Fr. Vartan published a monthly newsletter, held two Christian education conferences; worked to revamp the summer camp curriculum; worked closely with the ACYO Central council; made regular parish visitations; held regional meetings; prepared a Sunday school resource book; and also spent several weeks at the Diocesan summer camp.
In October 1990, again at the direction of the Primate, Fr. Vartan was assigned to St. Peter Parish until August 1991, at which time he returned to the San Joaquin Valley, assuming the pastorate of the Sts. Sahag-Mesrob Parish of Reedley in February,1992. In 2003, Father Vartan returned to the St. Mary Parish in Yettem initially on a part-time basis while teaching American Literature, World Literature and English skills classes at Mt. Whitney High School in Visalia and while teaching Political Science classes at West Hills College and Chapman University.In September 2003, the St Mary Parish observed the 30th anniversary of Father Vartan's ordination to the priesthood. On January 18, 2004, His Eminence Archbishop Hovnan Derderian visited St. Mary parish and officially bestowed the title of Avak Kahana - Archpriest - upon Father Vartan. in 2005, Father Vartan was appointed as the Diocesan representative to the National Council of Churches.
During Father Vartan's second tenure as the Parish Priest of St. Mary Yettem, he instituted the Lenten Souper Suppers, joined with other clergy in participation of community Good Friday services in Visalia, directed the production of a DVD "Understanding Our Divine Liturgy", oversaw the 90th and 100th anniversary celebrations of our parish, assisted with pastoral visits by His Holiness Karekin II, was invited by His Holiness for a three week stay at Holy Etchmiadzin in 2005, led a Diocesan CYMA (Christian Youth Mission to Armenia) pilgrimage to Armenia in 2008, and provided direction for numerous improvement projects for the church, hall and grounds.
Over the years, both Father Vartan and Yeretzgin Danna have been active in Diocesan Summer Camp and Christian Education activities. Yeretzgin Danna retired from the Visalia Unified School District in 2004 where she was on the faculty of Mt. Whitney High School since 1976. Father Vartan retired from daily parish responsibilities from the St. Mary Apostolic Church in Yettem on October 1, 2012. Daughter Katherine is currently living in Southern California and works for the Disney Corporation.
Father Mashdots (baptismal name Garabed) graduated from the Theological Seminary of the Catholicosate of the Great House of Cilicia in 2004, served as the Cantor of St. Hovhanou Garabed Armenian Apostolic Church of Neos Kozmos in Greece during 2005, and served in the same capacity as the Cantor of St. Vartan Armenian Apostolic Church in Bourj Hammoud, Lebanon.
As a deacon, he married on April 30, 2011, with Maral Khandjian, then was ordained as a married priest by his Eminence Archbishop Kegham Khatcherian, Prelacy of Lebanon, on October 2, 2011, and renamed Father Mashdots.
After ordination as a Priest of the Armenian Apostolic Church in October 2012, he was appointed as the Pastor, Parish Priest of St. Mary Church of New Adana in Beirut, Lebanon. Additional duties performed by Der Mashdots at this time include serving as a member of the religious assembly of Clergy of the Armenian Apostolic Church; administering Deacon Trainings; administering the choirs of the Armenian Apostolic Church of Lebanon; and conducting Bible Study in the St. Mary Church of New Adana.
In December 2017 Der Mashdots moved to the United States with his wife, Maral and their young son Hagop-Pegor. In March 2018, He moved to Portland Oregon with his family to serve as a Parish Priest of St. Kevork Church of Oregon.
Father Mashdots and his family moved to Visalia in September 2020 and he
assumed his role as Parish Priest on September 13, 2020.