This year, St. Spyridon Church in Palos Heights, IL celebrates its 100th anniversary. Learn about the parish’s humble beginnings and its growing community.
100 years of St. Spyridon Church
On Sunday, Oct. 15, 2017 Saint Spyridon Hellenic Orthodox Church in Palos Heights, IL will celebrate its 100th anniversary. Let’s take a look back and learn more about this historic parish.
St. Spyridon Church of Palos Heights, IL celebrates 100 years of faith. IMAGE: saint-spyridon.org
History of Saint Spyridon Church
With its humble beginnings, the history of St. Spyridon Hellenic Orthodox Church centers on the servitude and faithfulness of its parishioners and priests. Following World War I, a handful of Greeks settled in the Pullman neighborhood. This group, was later known as the Greek political club, “Pericles”.
On June 23, 1917, the group met to discuss starting a new community. The first dinner dance was held on Dec. 12, 1917 — the feast day of St. Spyridon – to raise funds for the new church. They decided to first establish a school, called the Pullman Greek School. Later renamed after 1st century writer Plutarchos, the school opened in 1920.
Protopresbyter Father Tilemahos Alikakos spoke about the earliest days.
“The parish was founded by people who faced great adversities as immigrants living in Roseland after World War I. Against all odds, they founded this community out of their love for the Orthodox faith and their Hellenic heritage.
Testimonies of some of our older parishioners revealed that the Roseland community was truly a family. St. Spyridon became a neighborhood church and the center of their religious and social life.
The original location of St. Spyridon church on Chicago’s South Side,was purchased in 1918. IMAGE: saint-spyridon.org
Building a church
On May 13, 1918, the church’s first property at 113th Street and South Park (now King Drive) was purchased. According to the church’s website, the perseverance to raise the funds and build the church was not an easy feat. In fact, “tragedy struck the community when one of its members, a mother of three, was killed by a car as she walked door-to-door collecting money for the new church.” Forced to face this unforeseen heartache, the community persevered and the church opened in July 1928.
In 1925, the predecessor of Saint Spyridon’s Philoptochos, The Greek Ladies Society of Pullman “E Enosis”, was founded. The group was founded to care for the community’s orphans, as well as raise money to fund the school and build the church.
Over the years, the community expanded and more ministries were added. On July 7, 1929, the parish hosted their first festival. By December 1931, the parish established a choir. In 1936, the community’s dance troupe made their debut.
Like many other city churches, in 1942, the Saint Spyridon Ladies Society joined the war effort, and established a Red Cross chapter.
By 1951, the church was expanded and further adorned. It was consecrated that year.
A new home
Fast-forward to the 1950s, and the parish saw its church building enlarged as membership was increasing. It wasn’t until the late 1960s and early 1970s that a big challenge was about to take place. As time went on more families began to relocate out of the Pullman area and into the suburbs. This move prompted the church to relocate. Father Tilemahos reflected.
“To reach the centennial milestone, they also had to go through the tumultuous task of moving their church from Roseland to Palos Heights when circumstances drove all the parishioners to the southwestern suburbs. The fifty or so families who had remained in the parish worked with their own hands in the actual building of the church edifice and took great risks in keeping the community going. The parish has never had the grand monetary benefactors”
In 1974, St. Spyridon Church held its last Divine Liturgy at its Pullman church. The property was sold in 1976.
In 1975, the community purchased the property at its current location in Palos Heights, and broke ground on a new community center and gymnasium. The first Divine Liturgy was celebrated there on July 3, 1977.
The years that followed included setbacks in fundraising. However, in 1984, 12 board members stepped up with an agreement to loan $5,000 each to the community of St. Spyridon allowing the church to open. All the hard work paid off and in 1986, the church opened its doors. The Thyranixia took place on April 20, 1986, and new church was consecrated by Metropolitan Iakovos (then-Bishop) in November 1996.
The interior of the old St. Spyridon Church on Chicago’s South Side. IMAGE: saint-spyridon.org
“The parish relied on humble laborers who built a magnificent community in which we have the privilege to celebrate our 100th anniversary.”
The church life now
In 2005, Archangels Academy, the first Greek Orthodox preschool in the south suburbs, was established.
Over the years, the parish has added more ministries to serve the changing needs of the community. Ministries have expanded to include a Byzantine Music school, and even an iconography school, to name a few. New church inconography was completed in November 2016, to kick off the 100th anniversary celebration. It was consecrated by Metropolitan Iakovos. Today, St. Spyridon Church serves more than 300 families.
100th Anniversary and beyond
As for the future, Father Tilemahos is optimistic that a new generation of Orthodox faithful will continue the good works that were started by the early parishioners.
“I can’t help but wonder what this vineyard of the Lord will produce over what the next 100 years. For now, I am glad and honored to have had the opportunity to witness this milestone as the parish priest of this humble and devoted family of faith and tradition.”
Father Tilemahos invites the entire Chicago community to be a part of this historic event. A very special part of the celebration will be the arrival of the Right Hand Relic of St. Spyridon to the parish, accompanied by Metropolitan Nektarios of Kerkyra. The parish invites the entire community to venerate the sacred relic during the week of October 11th-15th. Furthermore, Saint Spyridon’s 100th Anniversary Celebration Gala will take place on October 15, 2017, at Georgios Banquets, 8800 W. 159th Street in Orland Park, IL. Tickets are $85 for adults and $25 for children. For tickets call 708.385.2311.
Read about other parishes celebrating milestone anniversaries in 2017: