Seven Orthodox Christian hierarchs and dozens of clergy, led by altar servers and Church school children, processed into Lane Tech Auditorium here on Saturday, September 30, 2017, to celebrate a Pan-Orthodox Hierarchical Divine Liturgy commemorating 125 years of Orthodox Christian presence in Metropolitan Chicago.
“Sponsored by Greater Chicago’s Orthodox Christian Clergy Association [OCCA], which represents nearly 80 parishes across the metropolitan region, the anniversary honored the pioneers of Orthodoxy in Chicago and remembered in prayer the founders who built our communities with great faith and personal sacrifice,” said Gordona Trbuhovich, who coordinated the celebration with Archpriest Nicholas Dahdal, Rector of Saint George Antiochian Orthodox Church, Cicero, IL.
Concelebrating with His Grace, Bishop Ilia of Philomelion of the Albanian Orthodox Diocese of America, Ecumenical Patriarchate, were His Eminence, Metropolitan Nicolae of the Romanian Orthodox Metropolia of the Americas; His Eminence, Archbishop Peter of Chicago and Mid-America, Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia; His Eminence, Archbishop Daniel of the Western Eparchy of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA; His Grace, Bishop Longin of the Serbian Orthodox Eparchy of New Gracanica and Midwestern America; His Grace, Bishop Irinej of the Serbian Orthodox Diocese of Eastern America; and His Grace, Bishop Paul of Chicago and the Midwest of the Orthodox Church in America. Over 60 priests, deacons and servers from 10 jurisdictions across Greater Chicago and neighboring states also served. Choral responses, under direction of Ms. Trbuhovich, were gloriously sung by the well known Pan-Orthodox Choir of Greater Chicago, whose singers represent 23 parishes and eight jurisdictions.
“Bishop Irinej delivered a most inspirational homily, titled ‘Saints and Sanctity: Orthodoxy in Chicago,’” explained Ms. Trbuhovich. “The congregation listened attentively as His Grace intertwined the beginnings of Orthodox Christianity in Greater Chicago with five of today’s saints whose impressions on our growth were marked by their footsteps in this city. The homily concluded with the most recent impression in this city—also marked with a memorial Trisagion at the conclusion of the Liturgy—His Eminence, the recently departed Metropolitan Iakovos of the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Chicago. A tribute to him for being the ‘face of Orthodoxy’ for 38 years was also prominently dedicated in the 125th Commemorative Book.”
The Liturgy was followed by a banquet at Chicago’s Marriot O’Hare Hotel, at which Bishop Ilia delivered an encouraging directive for unity and harmony rather than independent divisions among Orthodox Christians living in the same city. The Rev. Dr. Stanley L. Davis, Jr. Executive Director of the Council of Religious Leaders of Metropolitan Chicago, delivered a congratulatory message, while Father Dahdal and Ms. Trbuhovich extended their appreciation to the dedicated Pan-Orthodox committee of volunteers who helped produce this event. The altar iconography was graciously loaned by Chicago’s Saint Demetrios Greek Orthodox Parish, while the youth procession was organized by Presbytera Georgia Alikakos, Director of Education of Chicago’s Greek Orthodox Metropolis.
The historic Liturgy concluded with the exclamation, “Grant O Lord, a prosperous and peaceful life, health, safety and furtherance in all good things to all Chicagoland Orthodox Christians who are celebrating 125 years of their faith in this great city; and in appreciation, O Lord, of our ancestors who, since the year 1892, founded and established nearly 80 Orthodox churches throughout Greater Chicago, and to all who worship in them, O Lord, bless and preserve them for many years!”
History reveals that the Orthodox Christian presence in Chicago began in the late 1800s with the establishment of the “Greco Slavonic Brotherhood,” which included immigrants primarily from Sparta and Corfu, Greece; Montenegro and Hercegovina, in Serbia; and Carpatho-Russians and Galicians from what was then the Austro-Hungarian Empire. After petitioning the ecclesiastical centers in their respective homelands, priests were sent in 1892 to serve the faithful under the existing Russian Orthodox Diocese of Alaska. This marked the establishment of Saint Vladimir Church [today’s Holy Trinity OCA Cathedral], Annunciation Greek Orthodox Cathedral, and Holy Resurrection Serbian Orthodox Cathedral. Today, there are nearly 80 parishes in the greater Chicagoland area.