It was with a very heavy heart that I received a phone call from the father of John Aroutiounian on Friday, May 3rd, 2019, informing me that John had died from cancer. I was blessed to be by John’s side many times since his battle with cancer started 16 months ago in January 2018. I met John when he was a student at Yale and I was on the faculty. We worked closely on several student groups and stayed in touch constantly for the last six years. He was like a son to me, and I loved him dearly. Any of his friends who wish to speak to someone, feel free to reach out to me.
John’s family asked me to tell his friends that they would welcome their presence as they grieve the loss of their son. Below are the funeral arrangements, and a beautiful note written by Fr. Roger Landry.
The wake for John Aroutiounian will take place on Monday, May 6, 4-9 pm at Ortiz Funeral Home, 4425 Broadway, Washington Heights, NY 10040.
The funeral Mass John Aroutiounian will occur on Tuesday, May 7, at 10 am at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Fifth Avenue between 50th and 51st Streets.
Please consider joining us to support the family and mourn the loss of our dear friend as we commend John’s spirit into the care of our loving Father.
From Fr. Roger:
John Aroutiounian, whom we were honored to have as a New York Chapter Leonine Forum Fellow for 2018-9, died this morning after a valiant battle against cancer.
We are still awaiting word on funeral arrangements, which we will pass on to you as soon as we receive them in the hope that you might be able to attend. His father, Dr. Aris Aroutiounian, called one of his friends just after John died to share the news and said the funeral will be held at a Catholic Church in NYC sometime in the coming week. He also asked that his friends all know just how grateful he and his wife (Mrs. Rouzan Karabakstian Aroutiounian) are for all the love and support shown to John and them and how much it would mean to them for John’s friends to gather with them to mourn this loss at John’s funeral.
Upon applying to the Leonine Forum, he said that through it he hoped “to gain a better understanding of what a Christian life in the world looks like, through the narratives of practitioners in a variety of fields. I also look forward to the fellowship the Leonine Forum provides and the lessons that spring from that relating to a life of faith and friendship in an environment like New York City, which is at once very familiar given my background and yet also perpetually foreign.”
John accomplished much in his 26 years and had a particular charism for deep friendship. He wrote in his cover letter applying to the Leonine Forum, “I am a great believer in the importance of creating and maintaining strong community. In this era of constant dislocation and instant communication, it is critical that individuals maintain communities of those who share their values, whether they are physically close or distant. It is a paradox of history that our interconnected age features so much social decomposition and personal fragmentation. It is a prime moment for the Church to act as ‘salt, light, and leaven’ in emphasizing the transcendent meaning of human dignity across the world, in shining a light on those forgotten in a society that worships power and ability above all, and in breaking through polarized discourse to reorient our politics toward the pursuit of true human flourishing. But this can only be achieved by prayerful individuals, guided by the Holy Spirit, laboring each day in solidarity with one another.” Those are principles by which he sought to live and so many of his friends say he contagiously exemplified.
John was born and raised on the Upper West Side and Washington Heights in New York and also lived in Kentucky, Connecticut, Washington, DC, and the UK. He graduated from Yale in 2015 with a Bachelor’s in Ethics, Politics and Economics, and History, a Masters from Oxford in 2017 in Classical and Ancient Studies and was at Colombia University Law School, with an anticipated graduate in 2020. Prior to law school, he had worked at the New York District Attorney’s Office. He was an elected member of the Royal Institute of International Affairs (Chatham House), a member of the Capitol Page Alumni Association, the Committee Chair of the Yale Political Union Alumni Association, and one of the Young Friends of the New York Philharmonic. He did volunteer work for The Trevor Project, providing counseling and suicide de-escalation services for young people. He spoke six languages, played the piano, loved journalism and creative writing, and got exercise hiking, cycling, and playing polo. He was a member of Holy Name of Jesus Parish in New York.
For his motto and favorite quotation for the Leonine Forum, he turned to Jesus’ words in the Gospel of Matthew, which he quoted in Latin: “Cum autem tradent vos nolite cogitare quomodo aut quid loquamini dabitur enim vobis in illa hora quid loquamini,” translated, “When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say. You will be given at that moment what you are to say” (Mt 10:19). We pray that God will give us the words of faith that we most need to say to Him, to each other, and to his family upon this news.
When asked who his favorite saint was and why, he said he had “too many,” but if forced he would choose St. Gregory the Illuminator, “one of the first pillars of the Church in Armenia.”
We pray that by God’s mercy, he is now in the presence of St. Gregory the Illuminator and more saints than he could ever enumerate.
I would urge you to pray the prayer that the Catholic Church prays upon the death of one of her sons or daughters:
“Loving and merciful God, we entrust our brother John to your mercy. You loved him greatly in this life: now that he is freed from all its cares, give him happiness and peace forever. The old order has passed away: welcome him now into paradise where there will be no more sorrow, no more weeping or pain, but only peace and joy with Jesus your Son and the Holy Spirit forever and ever. Amen.”
We will also offer the Mass for him the next session of the Leonine Forum in NY on May 13. If you would like to send a card of condolences right away to his parents, you could do so to: Dr. Aris and Dr. Rouzan Aroutiounian, 300 W. 96th Street, Apt 25D, New York, NY 10025.
Fr. Roger J. Landry
Chaplain, New York Chapter, Leonine Forum