History of St. Luke from 1984 to the Present
In the beginning.... January 29th, 1984, marked the genesis of Saint Luke the Evangelist Orthodox Mission as a Eucharistic community. For the 35 souls who gathered for the first Divine Liturgy at the Wayside Chapel in Palos Heights, it was the fulfillment of the hopes and dreams that had been envisioned in their minds and hearts for years. The warmth experienced on that cold winter morning was a presence of the Holy Spirit working among those 'called to declare His wonderful deeds.' (I Peter 2:9)
The joy that morning was inexpressible, but no one could have imagined the journey that lay ahead. Over the next 17 years, the Saint Luke community would undergo various stages of development ...acquiring a permanent building, supporting a permanently assigned priest, sprouting another mission parish, changing from 'mission' to 'church' status, complete renovation of the church building, consecration of Saint Luke Church, and planning for building expansion.
Each step was a test of ability to stay focused on the purpose of this mission parish. It was exciting to witness growth as new souls were added to the flock. These souls strengthened the community through their zeal, enthusiasm, and talents as Saint Luke solidified into a community of faithful from all different backgrounds and traditions. The common thread was their love for Christ and His Church and their vision of what the Orthodox Church should be in North America.
Our roots...The idea for this mission parish evolved in the early 1980's from an evening Bible study program where members wanted to deepen their experience of the Orthodox Faith. During the study of the Holy Scriptures, the group felt a strong need to move beyond ethnic boundaries and to establish a new Orthodox Christian Parish dedicated to witnessing to the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ and worshipping exclusively in the English language. They felt their dream could be realized through the Orthodox Church in America.
Membership in the OCA meant a jurisdictional change... not an easy decision. However, the group approached the late Bishop of Chicago and Diocese of the Midwest, His Grace Boris. The 17 founders met for several months with His Grace. He offered them encouragement, but cautioned of the hard work and sacrifice ahead. Each meeting brought them closer to solidifying their plans. Each meeting also brought them into a closer union with one another and with His Grace whose love for his flock was evident every step of the way. He set guidelines, offered words of wisdom, and advised them to keep the best of their various traditions. His Grace named the new mission parish 'Saint Luke the Evangelist'...much to the delight of the founders. Saint Luke would become the perfect role model for evangelization!
After the first two liturgies at the Wayside chapel starting January 29, 1984, provisions were made to rent the vacant Sacred Heart Church located at the present site on 107th & Kean in Palos Hills. His Grace was right about of all the work ahead. There was a parish council to elect, basement to clean for the church school, weekly liturgical furnishings to takedown and set-up, meetings to attend, music to learn, prosphora to bake, and more clean up!
Pastoral leadership...Fortunately Father John Matusiak became the main supply priest. (His Grace Bishop Boris had promised a priest each Sunday and never went back on his word.) Father John's expertise in establishing a mission parish helped build a firm foundation for the years ahead. He conducted sessions in comparative religion, structure of the Orthodox Church in America, and evangelization techniques. He delivered many sermons to cement the understanding that all talents are needed to build up the Body of Christ and that self will must be denied in order to fulfill God's will. As the church numbers grew, Father John became the "priest-in-charge" and later the first permanently assigned priest. Subsequently two deacons were ordained: Deacon Andrew Werbiansky and Deacon Joseph Kopka.
Our own building...In 1986 a major decision had to be made...whether or not to purchase the building from the Catholic Archdiocese. Through the generosity of the late Joseph Cardinal Bernardin and the efforts of Bill Droll from neighboring Moraine Valley Community College, the Saint Luke community became owners of a permanent church building. Shortly thereafter, a mobile unit for church school was added to the property.
A sister parish...Many Orthodox Christians living in the far western DuPage County suburbs also joined Saint Luke. It wasn't long before the rapid growth necessitated the expansion of the church building. This plan, however, was replaced by the idea of planting a satellite mission parish in DuPage County. Therefore in 1989, under the leadership of Father John, the sister parish of Saint Joseph Mission in Wheaton was established to service members living in that area. Deacon Joseph Kopka was also assigned to assist Father John.
Continued pastoral guidance...The Saint Luke Mission continued to be ministered by Reverend Mark Stevens, Reverend William Bass, Very Reverend James Doyle, and Very Reverend Kyril Riggs. Each of these pastors enriched the community in different ways. Saint Luke was continually being molded, shaped, and reshaped in its maturation process.
Shortly after the assignment of the Very Rev Andrew Harrison in December of 1995, Saint Luke the Evangelist was changed from 'Mission' status to 'Church' status...another milestone. Charitable and administrative ministries were expanded to fill in any cracks in the spiritual foundation. Again, members were invited and encouraged to use their talents in any of these ministries. One of these ministries led to the establishment of www.stlukeorthodox.com. Thus Saint Luke parish went global!
Mortgage burning...In December of 1996, many of the founders were able to witness the signing of the last mortgage payment. It was a time of rejoicing that another dream had been realized. Permanent ownership of the property meant complete renovation from 'head-to-toe.' Not one inch of the building escaped cosmetic surgery. Now it was time to dedicate the remodeled building to our Creator.
Consecration...On Sunday, October 19, 1997, His Grace Bishop Job emphasized that the consecration symbolized an ending and a beginning. "The consecration of the temple implies its final setting apart from the rest of life with its earthly cares in order to dedicate it fully to God. It may be regarded as the AMEN to years of dedication and commitment to the building up of the Body of Christ. It is a beginning, as inauguration of renewal and continued growth, as a time of rededication to doing God's work within and far beyond the parish. This amen is comparable to that which follows the first exclamation of every divine service. It is the amen of beginning!"
A beginning it was! Plans were underway for (1) a new addition to the building (2) iconography for the walls of the sanctuary and (3) a new sturdy iconostas with additional icons. These plans were attainable due to income from telephone tower contracts. Who would have ever thought that the little church on the hill was a strategic location for wireless communication!
The pastoral staff was also expanded. In October of 1998, the Deacon Danial Doss was ordained to the deaconate. Now Father Andrew had two assistants.
Iconography...Iconographer Cheryl Pituch was selected from among other contenders for writing the icons for the sanctuary walls. Her selection for this commission was a result of an unusual twist. Cheryl was one of the founders of the mission and it was Cheryl who had made the first phone call to the Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago to inquire about the availability of renting the building for the mission services! At that time, Cheryl had never painted an icon. However, Father John Matusiak offered iconography classes, so Cheryl decided to try her hand. Her hidden talent was discovered and soon she was under the tutelage of Father John.
Unfortunately, Cheryl's husband Eugene (also a founder) was transferred to Pennsylvania. So the family moved away from Saint Luke, but Cheryl continued to write icons. So it was fitting that she was the one chosen to return to her beloved mission parish to fulfill her calling there.
Thus in October of 1999, the major portion of the iconography was painted on the sanctuary walls. No one can explain the feeling that is experienced upon entering the building and beholding iconography that is beyond words.
Shortly thereafter Rob Ketchmark, the husband of one of our parishioners, built a new iconostas and Heather Mac Kean added new icons. The nave and sanctuary acquired an entirely new dimension.
The 21st Century... The years of 2000 and 2001 marked an increase in the number of ministries to serve the needs of our parishioners and God's extended family. They include such areas as: Christian education, charities, fellowship, visitation to various health care institutions, media, music, new Americans, new building, prayer chain, prison outreach, sanctity of life, strategic planning, women's ministry, and youth. Each parishioner is encouraged to contribute God-given talents to these ministries.
Plans were also underway to secure a bond program to cover the cost of the building addition. With the raising of $750,000 in bonds, the next step was to be taken.
April 2001...His Grace Bishop Job blessed the long-awaited ground breaking for the new building that will house classrooms, pastoral office, and fellowship area. The warm spring air was filled with excitement as the shovel broke the ground. The founders were especially touched to see all the members who had joined Saint Luke since its inception. The small original family had now grown to over 200 souls!
Today...With joyous anticipation, we await the completion of the new building. Our patron Saint was an evangelist and physician. In the great commission, Christ said." Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit..." (Mt 28:19) The parish of Saint Luke is committed to this commandment.
Saint Luke was also a physician. We live in a broken and hurting world. The Saint Luke community is also committed to the healing of soul, mind, and body. Father Andrew Harrison offers counseling in Orthodox Christian Catechism, family, marriage, grief, pre-nuptial, twelve step assistance and provides hospital and home visitation. The entire parish invites all who seek healing to come to the still waters of the living Christ in worship and fellowship. Each day we are all asked once again to consecrate ourselves to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. May His will be our will.
Future... projections for the population increase in the Southland communities could possibility warrant another mission satellite for that area. Time will tell. Meanwhile, the St. Luke community will continue to enhance present ministries, create new ones as needed, and continue to equip God's people to "declare His wonder deeds."
In retrospect...The story of Joseph tells of a dream that became a reality over a period of many years. God worked in Joseph's life, for the hand of God guided every step he took. The same can be said about Saint Luke Church. People from many different backgrounds with the same dream have been brought together. They are being led by faith every step of the way. They thank God for helping to attain each milestone...to His glory, honor, and worship forever.