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St. John of Chicago - Feast Days - Glorification Date: December 3-4, 1994 - Commemoration Date: October 31 (repose)

An icon of St. John of Chicago.

Life Of Saint John Kochurov Of Chicago

John Kochurov was born in 1871. His father, Alexander, was a priest in central Russia. From an early age, John began to prepare himself to follow his father into the priesthood.

Upon completion of his basic studies at the local seminary in Riazan, John went on to pursue higher theological education at the St. Petersburg Theological Academy. After graduation from that prestigious school, he married the former Alexandra Chernyshova in 1894, and was ordained to the Holy Diaconate.

Deacon John was selected to become one of the missionaries to America. He was appointed to serve what was then referred to as "The Chicago-Streator parish in the state of Illinois." This combined both St. Vladimir's Russian Orthodox Church in Chicago and Three Hierarch's Russian Orthodox Church in Streator. Arriving in America with his wife and young son, Deacon John spent several months in New York studying English and becoming acclimated to his new country. In 1895 he was ordained to the Holy Priesthood.

Upon his arrival in Chicago in October of that same year, he found the parish suffering from both physical and spiritual neglect. Fr. John did not become discouraged, but set about with great zeal to improve not only the condition of the church building, but also the material and spiritual welfare of his parishioners. He immediately began visiting the people in their homes, receiving new members into the church, and raising funds for the improvement of the parish. He offered religion education for children and organized brotherhoods for the welfare of his parishioners.

Full of missionary zeal, Fr. John did not confine his missionary efforts just the two churches in his charge. Not only did he help establish parishes in Madison and Joliet, Illinois, as well as in Hartshorn, Oklahoma, but he also served parishes throughout the Midwest, traveling as far east as Buffalo, New York. Serving as dean of the Central States Deanery, he worked with committees responsible for translating and publishing liturgical and religious texts. As well as being the chairman of the Orthodox Mutual Aid Society, Fr. John was also instrumental in organizing the first All-American Council which was held in Mayfield, Pennsylvania, in 1907.

Perhaps Fr. John's greatest material achievement was the replacement of the decrepit St. Vladimir's house-church with the magnificent Holy Trinity Cathedral. Under the close supervision of St. Tikhon, then Archbishop of the Aleutians and North America, Fr. John worked closely with the famous architect Louis Henry Sullivan in designing the new church.

The faithful of St. Vladimir's knew a new church edifice needed to be built. At first, negotiations were made with John Clifford to build a monumental "cathedral" design, much like St. Theodosius Cathedral in Cleveland, Ohio. However, with the input of Fr. John, they decided to build a church with which the parishioners could more readily identify. Since most of the parishioners were from the villages and countryside of the vast Russian and Austro-Hungarian empires. Under the guidance of Fr. John, Mr. Sullivan designed a "tent-style" church indicative of the Siberian countryside. Construction of Holy Trinity began in 1902; it was later consecrated by St. Tikhon of Moscow on March 25, 1903, the "Sunday of Orthodoxy" that year.

After years of hard work, Fr. John requested a release from the American Mission in 1907 for family reasons. He returned to Russia, holding several positions as a priest and religious education instructor. In 1916, he was assigned as the second priest to St. Catherine's Cathedral in Tsarskoye Selo, outside St. Petersburg. It was to be his last assignment. There, on October 31, 1917, he was martyred by a band of armed Bolsheviks for conducting prayer services for the peace and salvation of Russia. Accounts of his martyrdom vary widely, but they all indicate that Fr. John had neither a quick nor easy death.

The fighting between the Red and White Armies had been intense around Tsarskoye Selo for several days. During this time, it was not unusual for Fr. John and the faithful to have processions around the cathedral together with prayer services (molebens) for peace. It was during one of these molebens that a partisan faction began to taunt Fr. John and the faithful, showing their disdain for God and His Holy Church. Fr. John remained at ease and rebuked the partisans for their lack of faith and willingness to destroy the Russia, thereby infuriating them even more.

The time came when the White Army had to retreat, leaving Tsarskoye Selo vulnerable. The officers of the White Army pleaded with Fr. John to leave with them, but he staunchy refused. The Red Army entered the city. After serving Divine Liturgy on the morning of October 31, several officers of the Red Army came to Fr. John's home, requesting him to accompany them to headquarters for questioning. They had heard that Fr. John was offering prayers for the White, but not the Red Army, and he needed to explain what was happening. One of Fr. John's sons asked if he could accompany him, to which he said yes.

Instead of going to Red Army headquarters, Fr. John and his son found themselves at the airfield. As Fr. John began to walk across the field; a group of soldiers began to form opposite him. Suddenly, a shot rang out! Then another! In a hail of bullets, Fr. John dropped to the ground. Yet, when the soldiers went to the body, they found that he was still alive. Infuriated, the tied him by the hands and dragged his body behind a truck throughout the city. When they finally stopped, they saw that Fr. John as still alive. Several accounts state that his murderers demanded that he be "finished off like a dog!" Fr. John was then shot in the head at point blank range, thus, becoming the first Priestmartyr of the Russian Revolution.

In an ironic twist of history, the burial site of Fr. John was preserved in an unlikely way. Shortly following the Russian revolution, many of the most strident atheistic Bolsheviks, and later communists, vandalized and destroyed the relics of many saints. A statute of Vladimir I. Lenin was soon built in Tsarskoye Selo, to commemorate the revolution Although the exact location of Fr. John's burial site was known only to God and a few pious people, this new statue of Lenin was built directly a top it. For more than eighty years, the architect of atheistic soviet Russia unwittingly protected the relics of St. John of Chicago! In recent months, this statue has been razed, and hopes are high that St. John's relics may soon be revealed.

Holy Hieromartyr John's glorification was proclaimed by His Holiness; Patriarch ALEKSY II and the Holy Synod of the Orthodox Church of Russia, December 4, 1994, His Eminence, Archbishop JOB, and a small delegation from Holy Trinity Cathedral traveled to Moscow for the glorious event.

Proclaimation Of Sainthood.
Text Of New Service For Feast Of St. John Of Chicago.
Pictures of Three Hierarch's Russian Orthodox Church in Streator.

For a description of this icon and the troparion and kontakion for this saint please click here