HISTORY OF OUR PARISH
Since 1929, our community has flourished, enjoying much spiritual growth and Christian fellowship. For these blessings, we are indebted particularly to our forefathers both clergy and laity who early on met ominous obstacles with courage and spiritual conviction. The St. George Hellenic Orthodox Church was founded in 1929 in East Chicago, Indiana. In the early years, temporary locations were used for Church services.
A permanent Church was constructed in 1938 with Father Leontios Kyriakakos serving as pastor. As the parish grew and members began to move to communities outside of East Chicago, the parish explored relocation.
More recently, since February 1977, when a preliminary committee under the chairmanship of John Koutoures was asked to explore the idea of a new location for our spiritual home, our community has journeyed along various ports of call, arriving at each with increased determination in realizing what initially seemed like a dream, to some an unthinkable notion for a modest parish comprised predominantly of blue collar workers and immigrants or children of immigrants.
After searching for property for five months, the St. George Building Fund Committee, under the leadership of William Giannopoulos, recommended the purchase of our property to the General Assembly convening in July 1977. Members of the General Assembly voted to make the purchase, and the necessary agreements were signed. This momentous occasion was an important early port of call.
With the help of many, the required funds were raised to purchase the acreage and begin building our new home. A major contributor was the Ladies Philoptochos Society, which donated $22,000.00 toward the purchase of the land. In addition, many fundraisers were held. The generosity of our parishioners and the many friends of our parish made what may have begun as a dream an ever more certain reality.
Navigating our parish along this journey was Reverend Anthony Kanavos, a leader who possessed the vision, wisdom, and tenacity necessary to steer our family across the rocky passages. Few will disagree that there were times when Father Kanavos silently shouldered the burdens of the entire community in order to keep it moving in the proper direction. His 42 years of service to his beloved St. George family were both exemplary and inspiring; his greatest reward was perhaps that his strength and persistence was contagious. On January 2, 1990, our community laid to rest Reverend Kanavos. His memory, however, remains eternal in the hearts of our parishioners.
Taking the helm from Father Kanavos was our present spiritual guide, Reverend Constantine Aliferakis. From the outset the demands on the new priest were formidable and awesome. Not only did he have to familiarize himself with the various members of our family, which, in itself would be a sizable task for any man, but he also was left to garner a consensus regarding the building of the new church, offices and meeting room, supervising the neo-Byzantine church’s furnishings, ecclesiastical motifs and iconography. From the ground breaking in July 1990, Father Aliferakis met all challenges lain before him with extraordinary patience and measured reflection, clear signs to all parishioners of his dedication to the St. George community and his desire to remain the leader of our church for a long time in the future.
The new St. George Church would reflect the congregation’s roots in East Chicago. The new Church Building incorporated the original East Chicago Church’s cornerstone, as well as a time capsule containing copies of historical documents, pictures and records of the parish’s early years.
The following story is indicative of the level of dedication of St. George parishioners. A parishioner vacationing in Nestani, Greece came across a bell foundry there. Thinking how fitting it would be to have the church’s bells come from Greece, he purchased and arranged to have two bells shipped back home for installation in the new bell towers.
Inside the church is another material link to Greece. The iconostasis, baptismal font, bishop’s throne, pulpit, altar table and chanter’s stand are all sculpted from marble quarried from the same Greek mountain that yielded the marble for the Parthenon.
Awe-inspiring and impressive is the Church’s iconography written by Iconographer, Leonidas Diamantopoulos. Among the better-known saints, of which there are many, are lesser-known saints such as St. John The Faster, Patriarch of Constantinople, St. Mark of Ephesus, St. Andrew of Crete, St. Artemios, St. Symeon the New Theologian, St. Theofano the Queen and St. Thekla. Also included are recently canonized saints such as St. Nicholas Planas and St. Ephraim the Newly-Revealed. Of interest is the southwest alcove or the “Russian corner” which depicts St. John of Kronstadt, St. John the Russian and St. Seraphim of Sarov.
On March 15, 1992, the journey of our parish called us to celebrate the Thyranoixia of our parish. Hundreds braved that snowy, winter morning to pay tribute to the Great Martyr and to glorify God for the miracle wrought. Ironically, perhaps the freezing temperatures on the Sunday of Orthodoxy seemed to quell the burning passion of our faithful to reach another port, the Consecration of our new edifice.
In January 1995, the president of the Church Council, began laying the groundwork for the consecration. After meeting with Bishop Iakovos, the decision was reached to celebrate this historic event October 28-29, 1995. The Council rose to the occasion admirably. Committees were formed consisting of both Council members and parishioner volunteers. Various church organizations graciously provided whatever assistance was required to ensure the weekend would prove memorable.
The Consecration Weekend certainly marked a destination for our St. George parish. In a larger sense, however, the journey continues now into the future. We, as parishioners, must be ever mindful and remember our notable past while envisioning a brighter future for ourselves and for our children. For this reason, as we journey from glory to glory, our next goal, after having renovated our Banquet Hall at a cost of over one million dollars in the Spring of 2000, was to celebrate our 75th Anniversary on October 14-17, 2004. In conjunction with this celebration, we remodeled our Educational Wing hallway during the winter of 2004, the centerpiece being two magnificent murals. One of Noah’s Ark bordered by the handprints of our Sunday School children and a second of Jesus blessing the children.
A most important additional 75th Anniversary project included the final phase of the iconography for the Church Nave which includes eight miracles of Christ to cover the north and south barrel ceilings. The west barrel ceiling depicts two scenes from the martyrdom of St. George. Scattered throughout the three-barrel ceilings are fourteen full-bodied saints, which include among others St. John of Shanghai and San Francisco (Maximovitch), St. Nikolaj of Ohrid and Zica (Velimirovich), St. Peter the Aleut and St. Herman of Alaska. In fact, the Church is adored with 207 fresco icons of different sizes depicting Feast days of the Lord, the Virgin Mary, various saints and angels. A highlight of our 75th anniversary celebration was the bestowing of a relic of St. George, our Patron Saint, obtained from Mt. Athos, by His Eminence Archbishop Nikitas of Thyrateira and Great Britain, a schoolmate and friend of Father Constantine.
In the Spring of 2012 the final phase of iconography was completed with the addition of four large icons depicting scenes from the life and martyrdom of St. George as well as many full-bodied saints such as Saints Ephrosynos, Philaretos, Barlaam, Irini Chrysovanlantou, Ephemia, Xenia of St. Petersburg. Perhaps, the highlight is a magnificent icon of Jesus blessing the children on the wall of the Cry Room.
In December of 2016, our parish “burned the mortgage” of our Banquet Facility. In recent years our aging complex has been repaired and refurbished with many more planned capital improvements in the pipeline. This has all been made possible through the loving support and dedication of our faithful parishioners. In October 2019 we celebrated our 90th Anniversary and continue to expand our Church Ministries.
Today, St. George of Schererville is a growing community of 300 stewards having grown by 100 families since the new Church was built offering a variety of ministries for both adults and children serving the spiritual, educational and cultural needs of its stewards, including Sunday and Greek Schools, Jr. and Sr. Goyas, Joy, the Philoptochos, Altar boys, Mixed Choir, Chanter’s Group, Adult Religious Education, P.T.O., Jr. and Sr. Dance Troupes, etc.
We remember our past, celebrate the present and look forward to a promising future.