CHICAGO, IL [DOM] – The Diocesan Cathedral of Chicago and the Midwest celebrates the 120th anniversary of its consecration, today, March 29, 2023. Holy Trinity Cathedral, Chicago, IL is a community that is no stranger to significant events or milestones having just celebrated their 130 anniversary, but the building of this historic cathedral is the beginning of what would become the very center of the Diocese of the Midwest.
The first Orthodox Christian parish in the city of Chicago was established by a group of immigrants and missionaries from the Russian and Austro-Hungarian Empires. Its patron saint became Saint Vladimir, who had brought Orthodoxy to the Russian land. His protection was now being entreated by the bearers of his faith to the shores of America. St. Vladimir’s Russian Orthodox Church was first housed in rented quarters. After significant growth and under the leadership of the young and energetic priest, Father John Kochurov, a magnificent new home was constructed at its present location, and the parish assumed the name of Holy Trinity Church. The parish was at that time served by Fr. John Kochurov, later martyred in Russia during the Bolshevik revolution and canonized in 1994. The land upon which the current building stands was chosen by St. John Kochurov and St. Tikhon, Bishop of the Aleutians and Alaska of the Russian Orthodox Church. It was then that they began to work with the renown architect, Louis Henri Sullivan to build a temple that would witness to Holy Orthodoxy for years to come.
One hundred and twenty years ago, on the Fourth Sunday of Great and Holy Lent, then, a young Bishop Tikhon entered into the newly constructed temple that he visited less than a year before to bless and lay the cornerstone for the groundbreaking. Addressing those gathered in a sermon,
“Ask yourselves. What was here a year ago? Nothing, an empty space. And now this splendid temple has been already erected. I will also ask you, what did we have and how many of us were here several years ago?” Truly this was a marvel to all gathered and seen as an act of God as the saint points to throughout his sermon.
The Chicago Saint and builder of the temple, John, observations of the first services that were conducted in the newly constructed Holy Trinity Church building also point to this joy. The first service was a vigil service on March 28, 1903, with Bishop Tikhon in attendance. The royal doors remained closed. The liturgy next morning was memorable indeed. Father Kochurov wrote:
“The service started at 9o’clock. At that time, Father Vladimir Kalnevich blessed the water as the priests who had gathered for the consecration sang responses. The meeting of the bishop by six priests, each carrying an icon or a cross, was magnificent indeed. Young girls dressed in white spread flower petals in the bishop’s path. The consecration ceremonies themselves will forever remain in the memories of Chicagoans. Each Orthodox Christian who was present did not feel that he was on foreign soil. Tears of joy and happiness flowed from the eyes of worshipers, and boundless gratitude to God filled their hearts. These feelings were reflected in the bishop’s sermon. Then the liturgy started. It is hard to imagine a more festive and glorious atmosphere. Wonderful sounds of our hymns sung by a combined choir warmed the hearts of not only our own people, but also of those of our non-Orthodox friends. This was restated again and again at the banquet, which followed the services.”
Saint Alexander Khotovitsky, dean of the New York cathedral, and the future Metropolitan Leonty Turkevich were present at the consecration. Liturgies of Presanctified Gifts were served on March 30 and 31 by Fathers Khotovitsky and Turkevich, respectively.
For over a century, the clergy and laity in which God has called upon to serve at this cathedral have labored to preserve the temple that was carefully handed to them by the precious hands of previous generations. More importantly, the spirit of the Apostolic faith and true worship that came to this land, and more specifically, the city of Chicago over 130 years ago, continues to be lived.