A Brief History of St. Panteleimon Church
In 1937, and in response to requests from the local community, Father Theodore Turchenko began pastoral outreach work in the Argo neighborhood to minister to the Orthodox Christian workers at the Argo Corn Products plant and their families. The majority of these families were Slavs from the former Austro-Hungarian lands (Carpatho-Rusyns, Belarusians, Galicians), but there were also a number of Greek families in the area. St Panteleimon Church was formally organized in April 1938, with Father John Manchuk as the first rector. Initially, services were briefly held at the First Congregational Church on 62nd Place, and then for the next two years at the Elgin Administration Building on Archer Avenue and 61st Place. After its legal incorporation on December 6, 1939, as the Russian Orthodox Greek Catholic Church of St Panteleimon, the parish purchased the current building from the Argo (later, Oak Lawn) Church of the Nazarene, which had built it a little over a decade earlier.
The building was soon remodeled along traditional Orthodox lines, and was formally consecrated on September 22, 1940, by Bishop Leonty (Turkevich) of Chicago, later Metropolitan of All America and Canada. In 1941, the rectory was built on the adjacent plot of land. In 1945, the Church belfry was constructed and stained glass windows were installed. In 1960, Father John Manchuk retired after 23 years of service. Father Sergei Garklavs was soon assigned as St Panteleimon’s new rector, and in turn served the parish for another 23 years. During Father Sergei's tenure, the church basement was fully furnished as a fellowship hall, the church was carpeted, and many other improvements were made. It bears noting that St Panteleimon was the first Orthodox parish of any jurisdiction outside the city limits of Chicago, and remained such until the 1960s, when Holy Cross Greek Orthodox Church (now in Justice) was established in Deep Summit. Even then, a number of Greek families remained at St Panteleimon well into the 1970s, as a testament to their love for their neighborhood parish of many years and to Father Sergei's devoted pastoral service.
It was also during this time that Archbishop John (Garklavs) of Chicago, Father Sergei's adoptive father, came to reside at St Panteleimon in his retirement (1977-1982). He reposed peacefully in his parish rectory rooms early on a Palm Sunday morning, before the wonderworking Tikhvin Icon of Mother of God, which also resided there with him (and which after the Archbishop's repose remained at St Panteleimon with Father Sergei, who became the caretaker of the sacred icon until its return to Russia in 2004). Then, in 1983, Father Sergei was reassigned to Holy Trinity Cathedral in Chicago. He was succeeded by Father Andrew Yavornitzky, an energetic new graduate from St Vladimir's Seminary, who served as rector from 1983 to 1987. He has the distinction of being the first (and thus far only) priest to be ordained in the parish.
The next decade and a half was punctuated by community changes and shorter pastorates. From 1987 to 1990, Father Herman Schick revived the Sisterhood of the Holy Myrrhbearers and helped organize our 50th anniversary. Father Kyrill Riggs was rector from 1990 to 1993, and Father Adam Linton was part-time rector from 1994 to 1996 while serving as Diocesan Chancellor. Still, it was also during this time that the parish tooks its first steps towards iconographic renewal, with new icons by Father John Matusiak installed on the upper tier of the iconostasis and a new apsidal icon of the Resurrection by local iconographer Arlene Tilghman. After Father Adam's departure, Father Myron Manzuk succeeded him both as Diocesan Chancellor and rector of St Panteleimon, serving the parish from 1996 to 1999. Father Myron was very active in parish life, and was instrumental in continuing the project of updating the rest of iconography in the church.
During our 60th anniversary celebration in 1998, we were blessed by the gift of a relic of St. Panteleimon, presented to us by His Beatitude, Metropolitan Theodosius (Lazor) of All America and Canada. This relic was enshrined in an icon of the saint with panels of his life and martyrdom, and has been open to the veneration of the faithful ever since. Another gift to the parish that anniversary year was the ordination to the diaconate of Subdeacon Robert Northrup. He was in the first class of the Diaconal Vocations Program of our diocese, and has long distinguished himself by his faithful and untiring service to the Church, both before his ordination and after.
After Father Myron's temporary transfer to St. Mary’s Cathedral in Minneapolis in 1999, Father George Gulin became our rector until 2002. He was responsible for having the church cupola distinctively coated with a bright blue epoxy resin and topped with a new gold cross. In 2002 Father Myron returned as rector, and resumed pastoral work in our community by re-establishing our Sunday school and adult education, and encouraging our parish's participation in pan-Orthodox initiatives in the Chicagoland. He remained at St. Panteleimon until his retirement in 2014, making him the third-longest serving rector of our parish after a total 15 years of service.
From 2014 to 2017, Father Andrew Bartek served as rector. In spite of the unexpected brevity of his tenure, he initiated projects leading to waterproofing of the church and rectory basements, as well as paving the much-needed small parking lot behind the church. Since 2017, the parish has been served by Father Esteban Vázquez, who has led further efforts towards major repairs and the beautification of church, rectory, and grounds. He has also encouraged cooperation with our sister parishes in our southwest suburban area, regional liturgical services on great feasts, and joint adult education opportunities. In 2023, Father Esteban was named Diocesan Vice-Chancellor, adding to the list of St Panteleimon rectors who have been called upon to serve the diocese at large.
The resiliency of this small parish over the decades is a testament to faithfulness of God and the dedication of our members. As we celebrate our 85th year in 2023, we look back and thank the Lord of Church for the many blessings He has bestowed on us, and ask Him to continue to guide and sustain our life together in this holy place.
Come, bless the Lord with us, and let us exalt His Name together!