Paying It Forward - Jumpstarting a New Orthodox Mission
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
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.