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Paying It Forward - Jumpstarting a New Orthodox Mission
By Editor

One of the St. Luke Movie Club featured selections two years ago was "Pay It Forward," a heart-warming movie about a precocious 12 year-old who was asked by his History teacher to come up with an idea that would change the world. The young boy (played by Haley Joel Osment) suggests the concept that every person who benefits from someone else's good deed should "pay it forward," instead of paying it back, and in turn offer favors to three other people.

Nearly 20 years ago, the regional Catholic Archdiocese offered St. Luke the use of its building (our current structure) for a nominal fee in its effort to assist St. Luke in kick-starting its mission effort. We are of course forever grateful for the Diocese's gesture of kindness. Last December, St. Luke was given an opportunity to "pay it forward" when the Church of the Virgin Mary, a mission of the Antiochian Archdiocese, needed to find a temporary location for their start-up mission, and requested use of St. Luke facility for the same purpose as we sought 20 years ago.

Following review and approval by His Grace, Bishop Job, the Parish Council of Church of the Virgin Mary met with the St. Luke Parish Council and formally requested use of church facilities to accommodate their needs. There are several hundred Orthodox families - mostly recent immigrants from the Middle East, who live in the southwest suburbs, and need a more accessible parish. At several subsequent meetings with parish council members of both churches, we discussed the arrangement in great detail, and the potential for creating synergies between our communities. On January 18, 2004, the Church of the Virgin Mary convened its first mission service at St. Luke. Attendance far exceeded expectation, with about 200 faithful participating at its first service.

Although Church of the Virgin Mary will have its own separate Divine Liturgy (now starts at 1:00 PM on Sundays in order to alleviate some parking concerns) , the possibility of combining certain services that historically have had low attendance, such as Vespers and weekday services, is also being considered. Moreover, other activities such as workshops and retreats may be even more practical to combine, allowing both groups to share costs, while enjoying fellowship and capitalizing on our diversity. Under the current arrangement, Church of the Virgin Mary offers $1000 per month toward use of the church, and they are very respectful of maintaining church property, and working closely with us to refine the arrangement as necessary moving forward.

The mission is now in full swing, and as always, a very cordial relationship has been evident. From "day one," Father Malek Rihani and his parish council members, and his parishioners have been enormously gracious and amenable to total flexibility around St. Luke wishes around the arrangement. Both parishes have been diligent and watchful relative to administrative and logistical aspects of the agreement, and continue to make refinements as needed. We welcome St. Mary's with open arms as brothers and sisters in Christ. May the Lord bless and prosper the Church of the Virgin Mary as he has blessed St. Luke so richly through the past two decades.

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