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Palos Hills pastor will bless six bronze additions to bell tower tonight
by Jim Hook.
Source: Daily Southtown - Date: December 5th, 2002

Ornately decorated with icons of Saints Luke and Eugene, two bronze bells sit imposingly with four other bells inside St. Luke the Evangelist Orthodox Church in Palos Hills. The six bells, which the church had cast in bronze in Russia as part of a major renovation to its bell tower, will be blessed tonight at a ceremony at the church at 10700 S. Kean Ave. Ranging from 13 pounds to more than 330 pounds, the six bells will be blessed tonight with holy water and consecrated with holy oil during a service that starts at 6:30 p.m.

The Rev. Andrew Harrison, who as pastor of St. Luke the Evangelist Orthodox Church was influential in getting the new bells, said he is excited about tonight’s ceremony. "It’s not often you get to bless bells," he said. "Probably once in a lifetime, if you’re lucky." Harrison said the four smaller bells, those weighing 13, 22, 33 and 53 pounds, will be hung in the bell tower within the next few days. He said the two larger bells, the 218 and 322 pound bells, will be hung by Christmas. Harrison said the bells were ordered in June and were supposed to be ready for a ceremony on Sept. 11. The church had to borrow bells for the ceremony.

He said the bells are rung in a certain way, with different patterns followed for different occasions. For example, Harrison said, during a funeral, the bells are rung from the smallest to the largest to represent the deceased’s life from birth to death.

He said each bell has been given the name of a saint. Luke and Eugene are the names bestowed on the two largest bells. Harrison said Mary is the name of the third-largest bell; Andrew is the name of the fourth-largest bell; Helen is the name of the fifth-largest bell; and the sixth bell was named Juliana.

Parishioners who bought the bells were allowed to name the bells after the saints. Joseph Kopcha bought the 332-pound bell; June Revak-Anderson bought the 218-pound bell; Dr. William and Mary Ellen Seper bought the 53-pound bell; Theresa Kozbiel bought the 33-pound bell; Larry and and Helen Partoll bought the 22-pound bell; and Mike and Mary Kincaid bought the 13-pound bell.

Karen Verderber, whose brother, Joseph Kopcha, donated the money to buy the largest bell, said each time she hears the bell ring she will think of her brother. Kopcha, a Navy veteran, is living in the Illinois Veterans Retirement Home in Manteno and unable to get to church. "This was his way of contributing to the church, " Verderber said. "My brother has been Orthodox all his life. But the last 15 years, he’s been unable to attend church for health reasons. He heard about the bells and he wanted to make a contribution." Verderber is a member of St. Luke Orthodox Church.

The bells ranged in price from $300 to $8000. The cost of bronzing the bells and shipping them to Palos Hills was about $15,000.

The bells aren’t the only things Harrison has brought to the 98-year old church. In July, two months after writing a letter to New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg requesting a piece of one of the World Trade Center towers, he drove to New York and returned with a 200-pound section of steel beam wrapped in an American flag that will be incorporated into a memorial inside the church.

The 160-member Orthodox church is undergoing a $1 million renovation that includes new Sunday school classrooms, offices, a vestibule, a basement and the bell tower.

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