Annunciation Cathedral of Chicago Celebrates 125 Years

Annunciation Cathedral of Chicago will soon kick off a yearlong celebration in anticipation of their 125th anniversary celebration. Learn more about Chicago’s historic Cathedral.


Annunciation Cathedral of Chicago: milestone celebration

The Annunciation Cathedral of Chicago has a long and storied history. Soon the parish will kick-off a series of events to commemorate this milestone. As the Cathedral honors its history, it looks toward a promising future, as ministries expand, and they remain steadfast in their mission to minister to the faithful.

I recently met up with Cathedral Dean, Father Stamatios Sfikas, to talk about the upcoming celebrations, and what’s new at the Cathedral.

Annunciation Cathedral of Chicago
The Annunciation Cathedral of Chicago is located in the Gold Coast neighborhood near downtown. COURTESY ANNUNCIATION CATHEDRAL OF CHICAGO.

History

Founded by Greek immigrants from Laconia and the islands, the parish traces its beginnings to a rented hall on Randolph near Union Street. The Holy Synod of Athens assigned Father Panagiotis from Ithaca as the first priest. He celebrated the first Divine Liturgy in March 1892.

The following year, the fledgling church community rented space in a Masonic Temple on Kinzie Street near Clark. That year, they received their first visit from a hierarch. Bishop Dionysios Latas from Zakynthos made an official visit, while in town to represent Greece at the World’s Fair Exposition.
The community purchased the existing church property on LaSalle Boulevard in 1909. By 1910, the church, modeled after the cathedral in Athens, was completed. It is Chicago’s oldest surviving building constructed as a Byzantine church.

Solon School

The growing community sought to build a school. In 1927, land was purchased on Chicago’s North Side. Solon School and a chapel, called St. Demetrios, were built. Eventually this chapel became St. Demetrios Church of Chicago, which still serves the north side community in that location.

In 1940, the two churches were officially renamed as the United Greek Orthodox Churches of Chicago, the Annunciation – St. Demetrios. They formally separated in 1983.

Church nearly closes

The Depression years were difficult. Then the neighborhood began to change and parishioners moved away. The church almost closed. Parishioners mortgaged their homes to keep the church open.

Annunciation Church becomes Annunciation Cathedral

In 1942, His Eminence Archbishop Athenagoras — who later became the Ecumenical Patriarch — designated the church as the Cathedral of the Second Archdiocesan District.

Other historical highlights

Over the years, the Cathedral has hosted many important events. In 1951, the community hosted the very first national youth conference; Archbishop Michael came to celebrate Divine Liturgy. In 1990, on his tour of the U.S., His All Holiness Patriarch Demetrios visited. He blessed the children and greeted the faithful from the metro area.

The Cathedral was renovated in 1977. Iconography was added to the dome in 1981. In 1990, they added the four evangelists on the pendentives and the Platytera.
Annunciation Cathedral serves as the host parish for the local Feed the Hungry program that ministers to the needy in Chicago. Volunteers come from the all over the Chicagoland area.
As the Cathedral of Chicago, this community hosts dignitaries and others on official visits. Among the guests have been leaders from Greece and Cyprus. The Cathedral also hosts all the official Doxiologies for the great feasts of the church. It’s also home to the King’s Throne, which was placed here many years ago.
Annunciation has also been the setting for more than 10,000 baptisms, weddings, and countless sacraments.

Annunciation Cathedral of Chicago interior
Inside the Annunciation Cathedral of Chicago. COURTESY ANNUNCIATION CATHEDRAL OF CHICAGO.

Father Nicholas Nikokavouras

Dean Emeritus Father Nicholas was assigned to the Cathedral by Archbishop Iakovos in 1973. He served the community for more than 40 years.

The “young” Dean

On January 1, 2015, His Eminence Metropolitan Iakovos ushered in a new era at the Cathedral, with the appointment of Father Stamatios Sfikas as Dean. He was just 27 at the time. Previously, he’d served at St. Andrew’s in Chicago.

“I was very humbled. This is a unique place to be, in that it’s the Cathedral of Chicago. We serve our stewards, plus stewards from all over the area, and visitors to Chicago. There’s a great history here. I’m blessed with this opportunity, and want to work hard to keep this parish thriving.”

New ministries, more families

Located in Chicago’s Gold Coast, the neighborhood, as well as other adjacent ones are thriving.  Families are staying in the city with their young families, and Father Stamatios and the Parish Council are leading the charge to expand ministries.

“We love seeing kids running through the halls, and encourage families to come even when kids are small. We want the Cathedral to have a family feel. We’re all here for each other — a parish family.”
The Divine Liturgy is now broadcast in the downstairs hall, as an alternate location for parents with children.
Among the thriving ministries at Annunciation are Mommy & Me, Family Nights, Sunday School, Altar Boys, Music Ministries (including chanting lessons), Choir, Philoptochos, Hope & Joy, and YAL.This year, a Greek school was organized for Kindergarten – 8th grade, as well as evening Greek classes for adults.
Today, the Cathedral serves 400 families.

Epitaphios shuts down LaSalle Blvd.

This year, the Cathedral celebrated another milestone. For the first time in its history, the city closed portions of LaSalle Boulevard and Clark Street — two very busy thoroughfares — for the procession of the Epitaphios.

“What a blessing. It was amazing. I’m thrilled that it worked out. Not just the faithful, but also people from the neighborhood came to watch. We’ll do it again next year.”

Gold Coast Greek Fest

The biggest fundraiser of the year is the Greek festival, held in June. The fest was renamed as “Gold Coast Greek Festival” to include the entire neighborhood. This strategy has been successful, as the fest has seen its biggest numbers in years. The young adults of the community take leadership roles in this endeavor.

 

Watch video from the Epitaphios services. Courtesy Annunciation Cathedral of Chicago

Building projects

Old buildings can present challenges to renovate and maintain, however, this community is committed to its historic building. This year, the classrooms, and downstairs hall have received a facelift. On the outside, the stairs were replaced and new doors were installed. More improvements are scheduled for the next phase, including marble restoration and carpet replacement.

Valet service

Many people worry about parking in the area, however the Cathedral offers valet service. They increase the number of attendants for large holidays.

“We want to make it as easy as possible for people to come to worship with us and engage in fellowship.”

Future focus

Father Stamatios has his eyes on the future. Along with the community, he strives to make the Cathedral a welcome place for all, offering programs to nurture the youth, as well as serve the older parishioners.

Find updated information about the Cathedral on their Facebook page, and visit their new website.

125th anniversary celebration

The entire community is invited to the Grand Gala, to celebrate the first 125 years of the Annunciation Cathedral of Chicago, and set the stage for at least 125 more years of service to the community. Mark your calendar for December 2, 2017 at the Drake Hotel. Follow their Facebook page for announcements regarding upcoming anniversary events.

“All of our yiayiades and papoudes walked up these steps to the Cathedral, as we do. Let’s be here to serve the kids as our forefathers did for us. We want our vibrant community to continue to grow and thrive, for many generations to come.”

Annunciation Cathedral of Chicago is located at 1017 N. LaSalle Blvd., in Chicago’s Gold Coast. Connect on Facebook and on their website. For gala tickets and information, call the church office at 312.664.5485.


Maria A. Karamitsos

Maria A. Karamitsos

Founder & Editor at WindyCity Greek
For 10 years, Maria served as the Associate Editor and Senior Writer for The Greek Star newspaper. Her work has been published in GreekCircle magazine, The National Herald, GreekReporter, HarlotsSauce Radio, Women.Who.Write, and more. Maria has contributed to three books: Greektown Chicago: Its History, Its Recipes; The Chicago Area Ethnic Handbook; and the inaugural Voices of Hellenism Literary Journal.
Maria A. Karamitsos

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