By Father Paul Jannakos
St. Luke Orthodox Parish – God’s Household
Through the grace and mercy of God, I have completed my second year here as the Rector of St. Luke Orthodox Church. I am grateful to God for having been given the opportunity to serve all of you as your priest, and to come to know all of you more closely, as time can only allow. As most of you know, when it comes to growing in fellowship, there are no shortcuts. Time is the only means by which we can “be there” for each other and so prove our commitment to Christ’s new commandment: “That you love one another as I have loved you.” (John 13:34).
St. Luke’s is a parish that is, indeed, a diamond in the rough. We are not large by worldly standards. Nor are we wealthy, or esteemed, or “successful” in a secular way. Instead, we are a community that has come together by the call of God in order to become nothing less than the living Body of Christ and the “Household” of God the Father.
Worship (“Litourgia”) & Service (“Diakonia”)
Many good works are done by the faithful people in this parish, for we know that “faith apart from works is dead.” (James 2:14). As the Church, we are not simply called to worship, but to service, to “Litourgia” and “Diakonia” both. Sadly, there are many Orthodox parishes which have forgotten that the Church has been established on the face of this earth, not simply to conduct the beautiful worship services (through which, indeed, the Kingdom of God is manifest on earth), but to carry forward the saving work of Christ in this fallen world until His second coming. As a result, the gospel must be preached, the hungry fed, the homeless sheltered, the sick healed, the demon-possessed cleansed, the elderly supported. Our children must be taught the faith and our adults must continue to be educated so that their knowledge of the faith might be deepened.
I love hearing about this in the Liturgy of St. Basil the Great: “Remember Lord, the people here present and also those who are absent for honorable reasons. Have mercy on them and on us according to the multitude of Your mercies. Fill their treasuries with every good thing; preserve their marriages in peace and harmony; raise the infants, guide the young, support the aged, encourage the faint-hearted; reunite the separated; lead back those who are in error and join them to Your Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church; free those who are held captive by unclean spirits, sail with those who sail, travel with those who travel by land and air; defend the widows, protect the orphans, free the captives and heal the sick.” These are the “good works” we must continue to do in order to be blessed by God as a healthy, viable, parish community.
Ministries: Internal & External
Our many lay ministries are focused first on the wellbeing of our own faithful people (internal) and second on the needs of the (external) community in which we live. Beds Plus (formerly Pads) is a wonderful opportunity for us to share our love with homeless in the surrounding community. We are also blessed to have many other churches in the area assist us in this work. Mrs. Jill Olson and her faithful helpers deserve our commendations.
During this past year our adult education program studied, word by word, the Epistles of St. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians and to the Colossians. This program was well attended by both members of the parish and many visitors from the outside community. These Bible Studies were also broadcast live (and downloaded onto our parish website) for those unable to attend in person.
On Saturday, November 11th, our parish accomplished another first with the visit of 12 parishioners and Fr. Paul to the Indiana State Prison in Michigan City, Indiana. Fr. Paul served the Divine Liturgy at 7:00am and the parishioners had the opportunity after the Liturgy for fellowship with the 20 Orthodox prisoners that were in attendance. God willing, more work will be done in concert with the St. Moses the Black Orthodox Prison Ministry during this upcoming 2018 year. (Thank you Lee Kopulos for organizing this event!)
I am grateful to Aristea Zekios and Dr. Angela Zekios for their dedicated work in our Church school. Our teachers, too, do amazing work in their classes. We are grateful to all of them for their service, week in and week out. Our children once again participated in the Junior Olympics sponsored by the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Chicago. Protinica Michelle continues to work diligently with our choir to ensure that our Liturgies and Feast days can be sung as piously and beautifully as possible.
Helped by the tower income, our Parish Mission Trips continue to play a vital role within the life of our parish. Thanks to Michaelyn Sloan and her mission committee we had four mission trips in 2017. There was a trip to Guatemala at the beginning of March 2017, a trip to the Bahamas in June with the IOCC to help disaster victims from the previous year’s hurricanes, and two trips with YOCAMA to New Mexico (July) and to Montana (August).
At the end of September Don Noble and I participated in a 9 day whirlwind Mission Trip to Northern Romania, where we worked with Clergy in the city of Iasi and in Bukovina in order to help with a fledgling program on Drug and Alcohol Counseling. At the monastery of Durau in Bukovina we had the privilege of presenting a two day retreat for 30 Romanian priests who were themselves in the process of recovery from the disease of alcoholism. Fr. Iulian Negro, our host, also took the time to show us a few of the famous “painted monasteries” in Moldova, Moldovitsei, Sucevitsa, Voronets, Neampt. At Shihastrea we were blessed, once again, to visit the grave of the Elder Cleopa.
Strategic Plan: 2015-2020
Work on our Strategic plan continues from its inception last year. Attention was given to our Youth, especially with a wonderful Teen retreat held in October that was connected virtually with about 150 other Teens throughout the diocese. Our St. Zinaida Mental Wellness program is up and running as an outreach to our community for those in need of counseling, grief therapy, and drug and alcohol recovery. Last spring we sponsored at our Church a 16 week NAMI (National Alliance for the Mentally Ill) series designed to help family members of the mentally ill.
Our Agape Ministry “Share the Care” continues to help elderly caregivers. An opportunity came to further our networking with other parishes last September when we celebrated the Chicago area the 125th Anniversary of Orthodoxy in Chicago. Matt Potter was on the planning committee and several St. Luke choir members also sang in the Pan-Orthodox Choir of Chicago.
Another area of our Strategic Plan that will soon be implemented in early 2018 is a renovation project for the interior of the Church. God willing, this will include:
1. New carpeting in the Nave and a stone floor in the Sanctuary, Ambon, and aisles.
2. The Top of the Holy Altar (with the Bishop’s blessing) will be resized. (None of the Holy Relics will be disturbed).
3. The Front Door of the Church will be refurbished and sealed.
4. The Interior door leading from the Narthex to the Nave will be replaced with full length/width glass doors, each with simple etched icons (or crosses).
5. Two windows will be installed on the East and West back wall of the Church opening to the Narthex. (The Icon wall of the North American Saints will be shifted to the West wall in the Narthex).
6. New Chairs for the Interior of the Church will be purchased.
7. New Analoi (stands for the Icons) will be custom made.
8. The outside sign near the street will either be refurbished or replaced with an electrical digital sign (depending on cost).
9. The ceiling of the interior of the Church will be repainted.
10. A new concrete sidewalk outside the rear door behind the Sanctuary.
11. The downstairs entrance on the West side of the Church leading to the old hall will be renovated according to code.
Our continued work on the Strategic Plan also leads us to reflect upon the important question: “What does our Lord want our Church to be like in 5 years?” In other words, what will we be doing that we are not doing presently? And what are we doing now that we might be able to do even better? These are the things we must ponder as we carry forth the Lord’s command to be “a city set on a hill” and a “light unto the world.” (Matthew 5:14).
Once again, I am grateful to the Lord for your continued love and support. May God reward all of you for your sacrificial service at St. Luke’s.
Fr. Paul Jannakos