Community Tribute to Danish Missionary Maria Jacobsen


On Friday, October 21, 2016, a special tribute was held at Glendale Presbyterian Church paying homage to Danish missionary Maria Jacobsen, aka “Mama,” who saved thousands of Armenian orphans during the Genocide and later founded the Bird’s Nest Orphanage in Jbeil, Lebanon, to house and care for the young orphans.

The event was a concert in memory of Maria Jacobsen featuring Maestro Sir Vartan Melkonian, conductor of London’s Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and an orphan of the Bird’s Nest. H.E. Archbishop Moushegh Mardirossian, Prelate, attended. He was accompanied by Rev. Fr. Ardak Demirjian and Rev. Fr. Boghos Baltayan.

The program began with the invocation by Armenian Church leaders. Opening remarks were delivered by organizing committee Chair Dr. Garbis Der-Yeghiayan. Guests viewed a preview of “The Promise,” a film about the Armenian Genocide, and the life of Maria Jacobsen through a series of photos. Touching remarks were conveyed by individuals who grew up under the care of Maria Jacobsen, including her adopted granddaughter Maria Karnikian, Nichan Kulukian, and Maestro Vartan Melkonian. Missionary Kirsten Paaske, who worked alongside “Mama” at the Bird’s Nest Orphanage, and who the children referred to as “Tante,” was presented a plaque of appreciation and gratitude for her loving care of the orphans. Dr. Hayk Demoyan, Director of the Armenian Genocide Museum-Institute in Yerevan, conveyed his greetings as well. The concert itself featured carefully selected pieces of special significance to the Maestro and his time with “Mama.”

Following the performance, Dr. Der-Yeghiayan conferred upon Maestro Vartan Melkonian an Honorary Doctorate from Mashdots College, the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters.

Prior to the benediction by Church leaders, the Prelate commended the organizers and program participants for the beautiful and heartrending tribute through which the community expressed their gratitude to the “angel of salvation.”

The tribute to Maria Jacobsen continued on the morning of Sunday, October 23rd, at Bethania Lutheran Church in Solvang. The day began with a breakfast reception, during which the same speakers from Friday evening once again recalled their time with “Mama.” Remarks were also delivered by Pastor Chris Brown of the host Church.

Very Rev. Fr. Muron Aznikian attended and conveyed the Prelate’s message paying tribute to “a remarkable woman and a great and selfless humanitarian…one of the most beloved, respected, and admired individuals in the life of the Armenian people.”

“The legacy this brave and righteous woman left behind is a great one, and one that the hands of time cannot erase. It is unimaginable to us that a young lady would leave behind the safety and comforts of home to travel to a far-away and unknown land and risk her own life to save others from certain death. That is exactly what Maria Jacobsen did, and that alone speaks volumes about her character. She was so deeply moved by the plight of Armenian orphans that she could not, in good conscience, remain silent or idle. Thus, she took upon herself the massive responsibility not only of saving thousands of orphans, but providing them with shelter and education and nurturing them as if they were her own. For that, we owe her an enormous debt of gratitude,” stated the Prelate. The unveiling of the bust sculpture of Maria Jacobsen followed in the church courtyard, along with “Der Voghormya” prayers for her soul.

Both events were organized by an ad-hoc committee known as the Friends of Maria Jacobsen are were held under the auspices of the Western Prelacy, Western Diocese, the Armenian Catholic Exarchate, and the Armenian Evangelical Union of North America.

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