A Thirty Year History of the Parish of Saint Luke the Evangelist
Prepared by Aristea Zekios
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 30 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, completing the renovation of the church building, consecrating Saint Luke Church, expanding the building and beautifying it. All of this was done while nourishing souls to grow each day in His likeness and image.
Each step was a test of the 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.
The idea for this mission parish evolved in the early 1980s 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 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 (Pat and Paul Dravillas, Linda and Lee Kopulos, Ann and Jim Paziotopoulos, Cheryl and Eugene Pituch, Esther and Dr. George Poulos, Irene and John Stambulis, June and Dan Terpinas, Maria Vrame, Aristea and Peter Zekios) 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 all of the work ahead. There was a parish council to elect, basement to clean for church school, weekly liturgical furnishings to takedown and set-up, meetings to attend, music to learn, prosphora to bake, and more clean up!
In 1986 a major decision had to be made, whether or not to purchase the Palos Hills 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.
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
Shortly after the assignment of the Very Reverend 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!
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, Deacon Danial Doss was ordained to the diaconate. Now Father Andrew had two assistants.
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 our 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.
FAST FORWARD TO THE 21st CENTURY
The parish of Saint Luke the Evangelist Orthodox Church celebrated its 30th Anniversary on October 19, 2014. What a perfect time to continue this history. So much has happened in the past 14 years!
LOOKING BACK AT THE BUILDING PROGRAM… A Dream Came True
With the raising of $750,000 in bonds, plans materialized for a building expansion program. In April of 2001, His Grace Bishop Job blessed the long-awaited ground breaking for the new building to house classrooms, pastoral office, and fellowship area
- Actual construction started in December of 2001.
- By the summer of 2002, preparations were made to move into the new building.
- Church School classes were held in the new education wing in September of
- Bells for the tower arrived from the city of Kaminsk, Russia, in November of
- Bishop Job returned in January of 2003 to bless the new building.
- The memorial brick garden was completed in October of 2004.
- Clergy dressing area was remodeled and updated in July of 2004.
- Choir room was completed in August of 2004.
- Old basement was redone in January of 2006.
- Sidewalk around building was completed in April of 2006 just in time for Paschal
- Final bell, Adulphus, was added, blessed and rung for the first time on Pascha of
- New outdoor sign was added in February of 2009.
- New kitchen cabinets were installed in the fellowship hall in December of 2011.
- The great blessing of water was held in the newly built prayer shrine gazebo in
January of 2012. The prayer shrine was constructed over St. Luke's well in
memory of Subdeacon John Verderber.
- Church School classrooms were redecorated with colorful religious murals in the
summer of 2012.
- New bookstore was constructed in the fellowship hall in July of 2012.
- Wi-Fi access, computers and full screens were installed in all classrooms in
September of 2013.
- Icon murals are presently being mounted on the walls of the nave.
FROM THE PULPIT
The clergy have provided guidance, encouragement, and support in the
implementation of the vision and mission of this community. Ordinations and awards
have been numerous.
And a special thanks to Father Howard Sloan for concelebrating Divine Liturgy
with Father Andrew often and acting as substitute priest in his absence. Father Howard helps to keep the liturgical life flowing smoothly.
- Father Andrew Harrison presented with the Jeweled Cross, the highest honor a
priest can receive by His Grace Bishop Job (October 4, 1998).
- Ordination of Priest Luke Nelson (October 4, 1998).
- Ordination of Deacon Danial Doss to the diaconate (October 4, 1998).
- Cross presented to Father Andrew by His All Holiness the Ecumenical Patriarch
Father Andrew at his international office in Istanbul. Father Andrew was a
member of a delegation of American clergy visiting the Christian sights of Turkey
and Greece for the purpose of organizing pilgrimages (April, 2002).
- John Verderber ordained as Subdeacon (January, 2003.)
- Deacon Andrew Werbiansky elevated to the rank of Proto Deacon at 20 th
Anniversary celebration (November, 2004).
- Deacon Danial presented with the Double Orarion as an honor for his work in
Campus ministry (August, 2005).
- Father Andrew's 40th anniversary in the priesthood celebrated at a luncheon at
Niko’s Banquet Hall (July, 2008).
- Father Andrew Harrison awarded a Gramata for his 40 years of ministry (July, 2008).
- Jerry Herman Kincaid ordained Subdeacon and Deacon at Saints Peter & Paul in Burr Ridge.(August, 2007)
- Deacon Herman Kincaid ordained to the priesthood (July, 2008).
- Father Herman Kincaid served his first Divine Liturgy at St. Luke on the feast of the Transfiguration of Christ (August, 2008).
- Deacon Danial Doss ordained to the priesthood in New Jersey (May, 2010).
- Celebration of Protodeacon Andrew’s 25th Anniversary of his ordination (June, 2010).
- Receiving of Subdeacon John Segvich into Orthodoxy (November 13, 2010).
- Ordination of Deaconj John Segvich to the diaconate (October 19, 2014).
- Peter Tatooles ordained as Subdeacon (October 19, 2014).
- First tonsured reader: Andrew Lukashonak in Lent of 1993.
- Bernard Lawrence Dugoni (Now Deacon Lawrence) and Ronald Paul Smith (February 27, 1994).
- Jerry Kincaid (now Father Herman Kincaid) (June 26, 1994).
- Will Stevens, John Adamovich, John Verderber (October 4, 1998).
- Joe Bauml (January 12, 2003).
- Michael Bauml, Jason Homiak, and Jim Lewandowski (October 24, 2004.)
- Bell Ringer Lynn Bestsanes blessed by Metropolitan Theodosius to continue her sacred act of calling worshippers to prayer (October 24, 2004).
- Steve Hansen, Mark Olson, Peter Tatooles (October 19, 2014).
"...a man is justified by works, and not by faith alone."
What a joy for a parish community to share its Faith and building resources with the nearby community in a variety of ways.
- Sponsored forums on Orthodox Christianity at Moraine Valley Community
- Annual Lenten Women’s Retreat since 2002.
- Exchange of visits between Missionary Baptist Church in Chicago and Saint Luke in 2006 and 2008.
- “Do-Able” Evangelism Conference in March of 2012.
- 100th anniversary of our historic building celebrated during Great Vespers on Saturday, November 27, 2004. (A reception followed at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Palos Hills).
- Housing Saint Mary Mission from the Antiochian Orthodox Jurisdiction starting January of 2004. (After 2 years, they were able to purchase their own property in the Palos area.)
- Offering hospitality to the Palos community by permitting two Alcoholics Anonymous groups and a Co-Dependent Anonymous group to meet weekly in our fellowship hall since 2010
- Donating a newly cast bell to replace an historical Russian bell that was hanging for over 100 years at the San Fernando Mission in California (April of 2014). (The historic Russian bell from the San Fernando Mission was returned to Native Alaskans and is now on display at St. Herman's Seminary in Kodiak. )
India, Romania, Africa
Father Andrew and his wife Pat embarked on a mission trip to India in October of 2004 under the auspices of OCMC (Orthodox Christian Mission Center). Father taught catechism while Pat helped at an all-girl school. When they returned home a month later, their enthusiasm spread to the parish. They didn’t realize they had initiated a new ministry for the Saint Luke parish. Father himself could not be stopped. He made more trips and returned with stories and encouragement for the parishioners to do likewise. Subsequent mission trips followed as well as funds to support these efforts.
- Summer, 2005… St Luke member went on mission trip to Tanzania.
- October, 2007…Father Andrew made an initial trip to Romania. But it was just
- August, 2008… Father Andrew was a team leader to the OCMC Romanian Camp.
One Saint Luke teen also went on this trip.
- November, 2009… Father Thomas from Kenya visited our church. Funds were
subsequently donated to help him with the funding of children’s education there.
- December, 2011… OCMC missionary Floyd Frantz visited Saint Luke on his way
back to Romania. He and Father Andrew had worked together in Romania and at
Saint Herman’s Seminary in Alaska on substance abuse programs.
- May, 2012… Father Andrew embarks on another mission trip to Africa. With the
help of Floyd, they held a three day seminar for local priests on alcohol abuse.
Information was also presented at meetings and seminars with parishioners.
- March, 2014… Floyd Franz paid a visit to St. Luke and spoke about his
missionary work in Romania and Moldova working with those suffering from
alcoholism. His wife runs a home for at-risk children. Saint Luke donated funds
for the mission work there.
Mexico, United States, Guatemala
- June, 1997… St. Luke sent one teen to Tijuana, Mexico to work with teens from other Orthodox parishes in Project Mexico, to build a home for a needy family and interact with the teenage boys at Saint Innocent Orphanage. If not for the orphanage, these boys would have been living in the streets of Mexico.
- June, 1999… Father Howard Sloan chaperoned two teens to Project Mexico.
- June, 2010… A team of 10 participated in Project Mexico.
- February, 2011… Under the direction of YOCAMA (Young Orthodox Christian American Missions Adventures) teams were recruited for mission trips to the Navajo Reservation in New Mexico and Black Feet Reservation in Montana.
- July, 2011… Father Andrew and 14 Saint Luke members traveled to the Blackfeet Indian Nation in Montana. They were assigned many carpentry jobs.
- July, 2011… Two members of Saint Luke joined another group from YOCAMA for the Navaho reservation in New Mexico.
- July, 2013… Through the OCMC, a team of 7 from Saint Luke traveled to Alaska. They taught vacation school, attended church services and shared in fellowship activities. Some of our team became Godparents to the children who were baptized there.
- July, 2013… Two members returned to Montana Blackfeet Indian Nation. One
member went to New Mexico.
- June, 2014… A team of 8 Saint Luke members traveled to Hogar Raphael Orphanage in Guatemala. One of their main tasks was to clear an area for a future picnic grove. The team had to haul supplies up a hill, but never complained because of the warm hospitality and Christian love they received in return.
- July, 2014… A team of 7 Saint Luke members returned to Montana.
- September, 2014… Saint Luke hosted Father David Rucker and his wife Rozanne.
Father David is Mission Specialist with the OCMC in Guatemala. The monthly
charity fund was collected for this mission.
The catastrophic event of September 11, 2001, impacted the entire world. Shortly thereafter, a letter was written to Michael Bloomberg, Mayor of New York City asking for a piece of the World Trade Center. Unexpectedly and much to everyone’s surprise, the request was granted and Saint Luke became owner of a priceless treasure.
- An i-beam from the World Trade Center was acquired in July of 2002. It was transported by car to our location. (It is displayed in the church narthex)
- The first Patriot’s Day commemoration was hosted by Saint Luke on September 11, 2002. This has become an annual event.
- Rubble from the Pentagon and a rock from the crash site of United Flight 93 in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, was acquired in September of 2006. Saint Luke is one of the founding members of the Flight 93 National Memorial.
- The bell tower was dedicated to those who perished on 9/11/2001.
The parish purchased cemetery lots at Fairmount-Willow Hills Memorial Park located at 95 th Street and Willow Springs (Flavin) Road. The first Divine Liturgy was celebrated there on Sunday, September 2, 2001, when the ground was blessed. More lots are purchased as funds become available. Graves are blessed annually on Saint Thomas
Parishioners enjoy the opportunity to share in activities that bring them closer together as a family and, of course, with their extended families in Christ.
- Participation in the Greek Junior Olympics hosted by Saints Constantine and Helen of Palos Hills since June of 2001.
- Golf outings.
- The Roving Restaurant Club since 2001 and continuing today under the name of Food for Christian Souls.
- New Year’s Eve celebrations started in January of 2003.
- Easter egg hunts after Agape Paschal services.
- Quad Parish Picnics started in summer of 2003 and now includes 5 parishes.
- Annual ceremony and luncheon welcoming new members since March of 2002.
- Pre-sanctified Lenten services/agape meal exchanges between Saint Luke Parish and Saints Constantine and Helen Greek Orthodox Church since April of 2003.
- Monthly Movie Club since November of 2000.
- Celebration of 10th , 20th , and 30th anniversaries of our parish.
- Mothers’ Day brunches.
- Lenten Mission Vespers every third year hosting the Chicago Deanery.
- Octoberfest banquets celebrating the Feast Day (October 18) of our Patron Saint.
- Women’s Book Club launched in July of 2012.
- Annual Christmas Eve Holy Supper.
- Newly formed Men’s Theological Forum since March of 2014.
The Gramata is a special recognition award given by the bishop as a sign of gratitude for service in the parish community. Many thanks to these recipients who have graciously shared their time, talent, and treasure for the building up of the Body of Christ.
- Michael Bauml (1/12/03)
- Dennis Dandeles (10/19/14)
- Steven Hansen (1/12/03)
- Father Andrew Harrison (7/13/08)
- Luba Johnson (1/12/03)
- Lee Kopulos (10/24/04)
- George Poulos (10/19/14)
- Kenneth Stevens (10/24/04)
- Maria Vrame (10/24/04)
- Gregory Wassilkowsky (10/19/97)
- Diane Wilczak (10/19/14)
- Aristea Zekios (1/12/03)