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Palos Hills church turns 100
by Valerie Verdral
Source: The Star, Thursday, December 30th, 2004

If walls could talk, those at the St. Luke Orthodox Church building would surely hace stories rich in faith and history to tell.

The building, now 100 years old, was built in 1904 in Palos hills to serve as a church for the Roman Catholic Mission of the Sacred Heart. It stands atop what is commonly referred to as Church Hill, surrounded by Cook County Forest Preserve District land.

"(The church) has this long history of celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ," said the Rev. Andrew Harrison, pastor of St. Luke Orthodox Church, which now occupies the building.

It has been a time of celebration at St. Luke, a small but active parish that celebrated it's 20th anniversary in October. A special celebration to commemorate the church's 100 years was held by the parish last month.

Over the years, seven churches have found a home in the building at 10700 S. Kean Ave. Members of those parishes were invited to return during the celebration and share their memories.

The church was built in 1904 to replace a log building at 101st and Kean Avenue that had burned down. Architect William J. Brinkman designed the church, constructed of brick in a Romanesque style. It's location atop a hill, on farmland donated by the Peter Lucas family, was near the site of a fort built by the French army during the 1600's. Remains of earthworks fortifications were found near 107th Street and Kean Avenue in the 1830's.

A steeple, which has since been removed, housed a bell and was topped with a golden cross. Years later a basement was dug out to create a fellowship hall.

Harrison said last month's special service was one of fellowship for those who came. Many parishioners whose churches formerly used the building brought pictures of events that took place there. They shared stories of what the church building meant to them.

"It really was a big celebration," Harrison said. "(The service) was a commemoration of the building."

The building has weathered many changes over the years. Many of the church's original stained glass windows were removed or lost. Those that remained became part of a bell tower that replaced the original steeple. Stained glass from a church located near the Federal Building in Oklahoma City also has been incorporated into the bell tower.

When the parish made it's final mortgage payment on the building in 1996, plans were made to begin a complete renovation. In 2001, work began on an addition that included the bell tower, fellowship hall, office space, and classrooms.

"We took this old building that probably would have been abandoned and torn down by now and pointed it toward the future," Harrison said.

Until just recently, St. Luke shared the building with the newly formed St. Mary's Antiocian Orthodox Mission. Because the church is landlocked, Harrison said there is little room for the parish to grow. But St. Luke will continue to open it's doors to other parishes just beginning, as has been the building's tradition. he said.

Countless worship services have been held at the church since the first Mass on Nov. 27, 1904. The building may have been remodeled, but Harrison said those who come there feel a sense of being connected with the past.

"The building is supposedly the oldest building in Palos Hills," he said. "It has quite a history behind it."

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