THE HISTORY OF SAINT SPYRIDON
The parish of Saint Spyridon grew out of a union of love and war. When Greece went to war against the Turks in 1912 and Bulgaria in 1913, young Greek men in Chicago returned to Greece to join the fight. After the war ended in 1913, many men stayed in Greece through the Christmas holidays, found wives, and were married. Upon returning to Chicago, several of these families joined others who had settled in the Pullman neighborhood on Chicago’s south side forming a close-knit community of thirty-five families.
As these families’ children began attending American school and studying in English, their parents were anxious to also educate them in the Greek language and culture lest they lose touch with their heritage. Soon after they founded the Plutarchos Greek School, which operated five days a week after regular school hours. Many Greek churches of the time established Greek schools, but in St. Spyridon’s case, the school came first and then the church. School organizers began raising funds for a church, holding a dinner dance on December 12, 1917, the feast day of St. Spyridon. Appropriately the newly formed church was named in honor of the fourth-century wonder-worker and defender of the Orthodox faith. Raising the funds to build the church took ten years and involved much hardship. 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. Yet the community persevered and the first St. Spyridon church opened in 1928.
Membership in the parish and Greek school quickly grew, and in the 1950s the church building was enlarged and additional property was purchased for the school. During the late 1960s and early 1970s, however, the Greek Orthodox community left their urban neighborhoods for the south suburbs of Chicago. In 1968 parishioners voted to purchase property for a new church in Palos Heights, and in 1975 they held their last Divine Liturgy in the Pullman church. Once again fundraising began for a new church building. The community quickly raised the money needed to complete its community center in 1977, but lack of funds impeded progress of the church edifice. A breakthrough occurred in 1984 when twelve board members agreed to loan five thousand dollars each to the community of St. Spyridon. Construction of the church was soon underway, and in 1986 the doors opened for worship.
Since that time the parish has grown to over three hundred families. The Plutarchos Greek school is thriving with over one hundred twenty students in Pre-K to 8th grades. In 2005, Archangels Academy, the first bi-lingual Orthodox Preschool of the south suburbs was established and in 2006, the community added a Byzantine Music school and an Iconography school among many of its ministries. Within the extensive iconography in the church edifice, an icon of Saint Spyridon was painted by the director of the Iconography school, Panagiotis Mihalopoulos, one of the community’s own members and self taught iconographer. He exemplifies the spirit of the parishioners with this comment on his work: “I do it for the glory of God. This is my way to help the Orthodox Church. We all help put stones in the walls of St. Spyridon. Only God knows which each stone is.”
Saint Spyridon’s 100th Anniversary Gala
Sunday, October 15th, 2017