The establishment of A.C.Y.O.C. chapters across Canada has given the youth a sense of purpose and belonging within the Armenian community. It has also introduced the youth to the life and worship of our Beloved Church, and also the glory and beauty of our spiritual heritage. Today, one can easily find parish council members, Diocesan Delegates, Ladies’ Guild members, deacons, choirmasters, choir members, and Sunday school teachers who were once or who still are A.C.Y.O.C. members.

On January 12-13, 1946, the Armenian Church Youth Organization of America (A.C.Y.O.A.) was formed at a Constitutional Assembly held in Providence, Rhode Island. The founder, inspiration and guiding light of this youth organization was His Eminence, the late Archbishop Tiran Nersoyan, then the Bishop and Primate of the Armenian Church in North America.

The [late] Archbishop Tiran Nersoyan, a religious and intellectual giant, stepped into the work of bringing cohesion and purpose to the youth, and with selfless devotion and inspiring leadership, he challenged the youth with spiritual and intellectual goals. The A.C.Y.O.A. developed, and Archbishop Tiran’s dream of preserving an active youth presence within the Church was slowly coming true. With Canada being an integral part of the Diocese of North America, Armenian-Canadian youths were heavily involved within the organization. The first Canadian chapter was founded in Toronto in 1954. Other Canadian chapters were Montreal (1958) and St. Catharines (1962). The A.C.Y.O.A. General Assembly was held in Canada on three occasions, twice in Toronto and once in Montreal. And the Sports Weekend was held on Canadian soil twice, both times in Toronto (in conjunction with the General Assembly).

In 1984, the Canadian Diocese of the Armenian Church was created as a distinct institution, separate from the two American Dioceses (Eastern and Western). Soon after, the newly elected Primate, the late Archbishop Vazken Keshishian, stated his bold intention to found an A.C.Y.O. for the new Diocese. On May 22nd, 1988, he appointed the Primate’s Advisory Committee for youth, whose purpose was the establishment and operation of the A.C.Y.O.C. With the appointment of the Very Rev. Father Hovnan Derderian as Youth Director, this committee was soon to become the A.C.Y.O.C.’s first Central Council and instructed to organize the new A.C.Y.O.C. On May 28th, 1988 a special constitutional meeting was held, presided by His Eminence, the late Archbishop Vazken Keshishian. Active Church youth members from Toronto and St-Catharines drafted a constitution, based on the ACYOA Constitution, proving our common origins. It was then decided to immediately expand the A.C.Y.O.C. to the other parishes and organize its founding Convention.On June 18-20th, 1988, the first annual A.C.Y.O.C. General Assembly was held in Holy Trinity Armenian Church of Toronto. Presided by Vazken Serpazan, delegates were gathered from Toronto, Montreal, St. Catharines and Vancouver parishes to firmly root the A.C.Y.O.C. During the summer and fall months of 1988, the Chapters organized, raised their membership numbers and worked to establish themselves in their respective communities.

As we look back at the history of the A.C.Y.O. movement in North America, we can see that it has been the key instrument which has helped preserve and strengthen our communities.