Our Parish History:

The Early Years -

From Conception (1959) to Consecration (1979) and Beyond

We are grateful, O Lord, to Thee, and to our Patron Saint, St. John the Baptist,

ho have consistently guided our path,

and showered Thy continuous blessing upon all those who labored

to establish the church and continue to maintain it.

May St. John the Baptist Greek Orthodox Church serve

as a gathering place to guide all who follow in Your ways for many years to come.

 

Beginnings

  • Fall, 1954: A concerned, young mother, Christine Demmie of Palatine, IL, placed a notice in the local newspaper requesting all women of the Greek Orthodox faith living in the Northwest Suburbs, to meet with her to discuss the possibility of the establishment of a Greek Orthodox Church and Sunday School classes. 

  • October 7, 1954: The first meeting took place in the home of Mr. and Mrs. Gus Georgans of Des Plaines, IL.  Fifteen women were present and formed “The Northwest Suburban Women’s Club.”  Christine Demmie was elected President.

  • October 21, 1954: The second meeting of the Northwest Suburban Women’s Club was held and the featured speaker was Bishop Ezekiel of Nanzianzus, who in an impassioned address, “bestowed his blessings upon the gathering” and was impressed with their “embarking on a holy objective of such huge proportions.” His Grace paid special tribute to the members, emphasizing the fact that mothers are the backbone of the community.

  • 1955 & 1956: Were years of struggle, devoted primarily to fundraising.

  • June 1957: the women’s club had $6,515.96 in their treasury due to the dynamic leadership of the second president, Ms. Dimi Kay (an attorney) and the few members at that time. Please Note: $6,515.96 in 1957 had the same buying power as $55,019.49 in 2014.

  • June 23, 1956: “June Jamboree,” a dance, held in the Mt. Prospect Country Club established the group as a serious and well organized one in the eyes of the community.

  • June, 1957: The St. John Hellenic Men’s Club was formed. Pates K. Ladas was elected president. Constantine Stamis was elected vice president.

  • October 20, 1957: The St. John Greek Orthodox Sunday School, which was the greatest single factor in the early growth of our community, officially opened its doors in the Lions Memorial Field House in Mt. Prospect.  Margarita Ladas of Skokie was director.  The Mt. Prospect Park District graciously agreed to the use of its premises, free of charge. 

  • Fall of 1958: Application to the diocese for formal status as a parish made.  Plans to build a community center for an estimated $43,000, plus furnishings, in Arlington Heights were underway.  This center would also serve as a temporary church. Please Note: $43,00 in 1958 had the same buying power as $354,000 in 2014.

  • September 29, 1958: A fund raising meeting was held in the Lions Field House where the members, inspired by Bishop Ezekiel pledge approximately $22,500 to the building fund.  John N. Metropulos was fundraising chairman.

  • December 20, 1958: Church services were held at the St. John Episcopalian Church in Mt. Prospect.  Reverend Tsouris officiated.  The St. John Episcopalian Church did not charge for the use of their church.

  • Year end, 1958: We had attained the status of a parish chartered and recognized under the constitution of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of North and South America, to provide for the spiritual needs of the members of the Greek Orthodox Faith.  In less than two years, the Sunday School had grown from less the 50 students to well over 100.

  • March, 1959: A joint board meeting of the women’s club (by then known as the St. John Women’s Club) and the men’s club was held to discuss several important issues: (1) relocation site of church and (2) building plans.

  • April 25, 1959: Following Church Services at the St. John Episcopalian Church Hall, Reverend Timothy Hountras, a retired priest from Pittsburgh, arrived for Holy Week Services in response to a letter written by Ethel R. Stamis, President of the Women’s Club, to his Eminence, Archbishop Iakovos, who had just been elected as the new archbishop of North and South America.

  • The First St. John the Baptist Greek Orthodox Church in Des Plaines, IL

  • May 21, 1959: A general meeting was held on with an overwhelming majority in favor of purchasing a Lutheran Church which was for sale on Prospect and Illinois Street in Des Plaines.  The group was most appreciative of the financial support that was offered by Nickolas Anton of Park Ridge.

  • May 23, 1959: Will always remain a most memorable one in the hearts and minds of our members, for it was on this date that approximately 35 families purchased the Good Shepherd Lutheran Church for $29,500. Please Note: $29,500 in 1959 had the same buying power as $240,000 in 2014.

The first Greek Orthodox Church in the Northwest Suburbs was established and proudly named

“St. John the Baptist.”  The name “John” was chosen in memory of a young man, John Karavidas,

who had been killed in the service of his country during World War II.  With the Grace of God, the dreams and hopes of our early Founders had materialized.  They finally had a place of their own in which to worship our Lord.

  • June, 1959: Constantine Stamis was elected as the first president of the parish council.  Members of the first board were as follows: Vice President: John Metropulos; Secretary: Peter Vourganas; Treasurer: Thomas Armenakis; Council Members: Angelo Karras, Gus Ladas, Nicholas Samaras, Andrew Adams and Christian Bazos.

  • Summer, 1959: Appointment of the beloved Reverend Philip J. Pekras as the first pastor who served St. John for six years.

  • August 9, 1959: First liturgy in our very own church!

  • In less than a year, under the capable and enthusiastic leadership of our parish council and priest, our community had made great strides. The church membership numbered approximately 150 families.  An addition was built to the Sunday School in order to provide more space for the children.  The Sunday School enrollment boasted 215 children.  A Greek School had been organized by Reverend Pekras and also a church choir, which was composed chiefly of young mothers.  Our first chanter was John Smyros.  By the end of 1960, it was apparent that our facilities would soon be inadequate.

  • Fall, 1960: Before his term of office expired, the first president appointed a site finding committee. Fifteen dedicated men composed the original Site Planning and Building Committee.  This permanent committee worked endless hours to find the right site. Chairman: Nickolas Anton; Vice-Chairman: Constantine Stamis; Secretary: Nicholas Samaras; Members: Emmanuel Andoniadis, Christian Bazos, Ernest Fifles, Angelo Karras, Pates K. Ladas, George Meletsis, John Metropulos, Nicholas Venson, John Volakakis, William Veremis, John Vourganas, and George Vourvoulias. Louis C. Cordogan was selected as the architect. 

 

The Current St. John the Baptist Greek Orthodox Church in Des Plaines, IL

  • Fall, 1962: A wooded 5 ¼ acre of land was purchased for $40,000. 

  • December, 1962: A meeting at the Chicago Yacht Club took place.  This marked the inauguration of the “Founding Fathers” program.  Reverend Daniel Gamvrilis, St. John parishioners and friends attended.  Initial pledges of $42,000 were made by those present.

  • 1963: Membership had grown to approximately 350 families. With this continuing increase in our membership, the community of St. John decided to grow and give to its members a complete community center.

  • November, 1963: Construction began on our new Educational and Cultural building.  Father Pekras blessed the foundation on Thanksgiving Day.

  • 1964: Peter Karahalios, a gentle, devoted servant of God, joined our parish and became the first neokoros. 

  • September 20, 1964: First liturgy celebrated in new Educational and Cultural Building facilities.

  • Fall, 1965: Reverend Demetrius N. Treantafeles was assigned to our parish.  Angelo Karras was president.  Louis Elliott was vice president.

  • January 10, 1965: Dedication of our Educational and Cultural building took place.  Mr. George Vourvoulias, Sr., a Charter Member of the parish, served as our competent Dedication Chairman.  Bishop Meletios, in his message to us at the time, congratulated us for not just completing our structure, but for being a model for other Greek Orthodox communities. 

  • 1968: Membership had grown to 840 members. The Sunday School had reached an enrollment of 585 pupils.  It was at this time that serious planning for the church edifice began. During the next few years, the Site Planning and Building Committee, together with Louis C. Cordogan, the architect, and Petros Xanthakos, studied, developed and refined a preliminary plan for the church.  Ernest Fifles served as chairman.

  • June 16, 1969: During a special ceremony after the Divine Liturgy, the  title of “Megas Economos” was conferred upon Reverend Treantafeles by his Eminence Archbishop Iakovos.  The honor was bestowed for seventeen years of dedicated service to the Greek Orthodox Church.

  • October, 1969: Protopresbyter Emmanuel Manousos Lionikis, was assigned to St. John.

  • Fall, 1969: Within one short decade, membership had reached a total of 911.  Once again, we found that the Sunday School facilities were inadequate. 

  • October, 1969: The General Assembly approved the preliminary plan for the existing main church building.  A professional estimate indicated that the cost in 1970 would be approximately $500,000. Please Note: $500,000 in 1970 had the same buying power as $3,000,000 in 2014.

  • June, 1979: Mr. Gus Boznos, president of the parish council, signed the contract for the new church. 

  • November 1, 1970: Reverend Lionikis and Rev. Xanthopoulos, a retired priest, who helped our pastor during weekday liturgies and special holidays, blessed the foundation.

  • November 22, 1970: The Ground Breaking Ceremony took place.  Bishop Timotheos officiated. 

  • December 9, 1970: Actual construction of the main church building began.

  • November, 1971: The Dedication of our main church building was celebrated. George A. Stryker, a charter member of the parish, was chairman of the Dedication Steering Committee.  His Grace, the late Bishop Timotheos, officiated at the ceremony of the Opening of the Doors.  A permanent record of this momentous occasion was put together in the form of a Dedication Album under the chairmanship of George Polimus.

  • February, 1972: $13,000 was approved by the General Assembly to cover the area between the two existing buildings known as the “connecting link”. 

  • May, 1972: Bids were given out by the parish in for “connecting link” project.

  • March 11, 1973: Reverend Joseph Xanthopoulos was honored by our community at a testimonial dinner for 61 years of dedicated service to the Orthodox Faith.  Mr. Chris Bazos, president of the parish, had designated Dr. Constantine Soter of Park Ridge as chairman of the event. 

  • Fall, 1973: Reverend Nicholas Manousakis came to the parish in 1973 as our first assistant priest. 

  • January, 1974: Mrs. Lorraine Kopoulos became the first woman ever elected to the Parish Council. 

  • September, 1974: Reverend John J. Chakos became our new assistant priest. 

  • March 30, 1975: During a special meeting, the Parish Council accepted a contract with the Tonelli Studio.  The president of the Parish Council, Mr. John Kretekos, was authorized to sign this contract with Mr. Tonelli, who was to proceed with the iconography.

  • September, 23, 1975: a Testimonial Dinner was given for our beloved pastor, Reverend Emmanuel Manousos Lionikis for 30 years of devoted service to the Greek Orthodox Church.  Mr. and Mrs. Chris Bazos were co-chairmen of the planning committee.  Mr. Constantine Stamis was Master of Ceremonies for the evening. 

  • Spring, 1976: The children of our Sunday School were first provided with the entire liturgy on Sunday mornings.

  • September, 1976: The parish of St. John the Baptist proudly witnessed its first parishioner leave for the seminary: George Passias, son of parishioners Mr. & Mrs. Gus Passias, a former Sunday School teacher and Parish Council member.

  • Christmas, 1976: The iconography was completed. In the main church building was completed .

  • August 14, 1977: Reverend Andrew Kofopoulos (our third assistant priest) was ordained.  

  • December, 1977: The Parish, in accordance with the directives passed at the Philadelphia Clergy Laity Congress in 1976, embarked on a limited “Fair Share” Program with the hope that a complete Stewardship Program would be possible within five years.

  • December 5, 1978: Mr. Alex Chimens, President of the Parish Council, announced that a Consecration Kickoff Dinner would be held on December 10, 1978.  He chose Mr. & Mrs. Louis Elliott, long-standing, active members of the Parish, as co-chairmen of this sacred event.

  • March 11, 1979: George Passias, first St. John parishioner to attend seminary, was ordained at St. John.

  • October 7, 1979: Consecration of the St. John the Baptist Church took place. More than 80 parishioners participated in the Godparents Program, and Mr. Micheal Bicouvaris was selected to receive the keys to the church on behalf of all of the Godparents.

The above history are excerpts from the Consecration Album originally written By Ethel Stamis.

Recent History of Our Parish

  • September, 1981: Fr. Constantine Hountalis was ordained and assigned to our parish.

  • June, 1983: Our Golden Agers group was formed through the effort of Christine Adams.

  • October 21, 1984: We celebrated our 25th Anniversary with a dinner dance at the Hamilton Hotel in Itasca.

  • October 1986: The First Great Flood.

  • February, 1987: Fr. Alexios Gushes was assigned to the parish.

  • August, 1987: The Second Great Flood.

  • 1989: Following the untimely death of Fr. Alexios Gushes, Fr. Peter Papademetriou was assigned to the parish.

  • September, 1990: Fr. Peter Balkas was assigned our parish as an Associate Priest.

  • January, 1994: The parish launched a total Stewardship program, thus dropping the raffle and festival as chief fundraisers.

  • November, 1994: We celebrated the 35th Anniversary with a banquet at the Chateau Ritz, Niles.

  • February, 1996: Fr. John Rallis became our Proistamenos and Fr. Emmanuel Lionikis became our Pastor Emeritus. Weekly classes in Orthodox Christianity established.1996F

  • April, 1996: The Parish Council forms the Outreach Committee to provide help to the needy of our area.

  • July, 1996: Fr. John Ketchum is assigned to our parish as an Associate Priest.

  • July, 1997: Annual Vacation Church School is established. The All Saints Icon is installed. The St. John Scholarship Fund is established. In September, three children's programs, HOPE (ages 2-4), Faith (ages 5-8), and JOY (ages 9-12) were created.

  • November, 1997: Martha and Mary Women's Fellowship is established to study our Orthodox Faith.

  • March, 1998: Installaion of the Last Supper Icon over the Royal Gates.

  • 1999: A new marble Holy Altar floor is installed. September: A new pre-school is implemented. April: Good Friday Retreat for Sunday School students and adults in initated. We celebrated our 40th Anniversary with a year long celebration culminating in a Grand Banquet and Silent Auction at the Marriot O'Hare, Chicago.

  • September 18, 2002: General Assembly approved an expenditure of $45,000 to prepare preliminary architectural and engineering drawings on the building expansion.

  • October, 2002: Fr. George Bessinas is welcomed to the community of St. John the Baptist.

  • December, 2002: St. Efstathios Men's ministry prayer group is established.

  • April, 2003: The Washing of the Feet is instituted by Metropolitan IAKOVOS.

  • June, 2003: The General Assembly decided to seek professional assistance to assess the readiness of our parish to undertake a capital campaign to raise funds for the building expansion.

  • Thanksgiving, 2003: St. John the Baptist hosts the first Thanksgiving Day Feed the Hungry.

  • October, 2004: St. John hosts the Choir Federation Conference of the Greek Orthodox Church and the Metropolis of Chicago.

  • November 14, 2004: Grand Banquet celebrating the 45th Anniversary of St. John the Baptist. Parish honors anniversary year with 45 Acts of Philanthropy. 

  • April 2005: We obained a favorable appraisal of our property, clearing the way for us to officially present the building expansion project to the City of Des Plaines for final approval.

  • August, 2005: Fr. Emmanuel Lionikis celebrates 60 years of service.

  • February, 2006: St. Stylianos ministy was established for special needs children.

  • June, 2006: Ordination to the Holy Diaconate of Panteleimon Dalianis.

  • July 9, 2006: Ceremonial groundbreaking blessing for the expansion and school.

  • November 1, 2006: We welcome Deacon Demetrios Kounavis.

  • January 7, 2007: Fr. Demetrios Kounavis is ordained to the priesthood on the feast of St. John the Baptist.

  • May, 2007: His Grace Bishop DEMETRIOS of Mokissos blessed teh foudnation of the Education and Ministry Building.

  • September 2007: 1st grade was added to the Guardian Angel Day School.

  • October 14, 2007: Fr. John Rallis and his family are honored for more than 10 years of service at St. John the Baptist.

  • May 11, 2008: Grand Opening of the Education and Ministry Building with His Eminence Metropolitan IAKOVOS.

  • September, 2008: 2nd grade was added to the Guardian Angel Day School.

  • September, 13, 2008: The Third Great Flood of 2008 -- no Divine Liturgy on Sunday, September 14.

  • November 2, 2008: 10 year celebration of our Guardian Angel Day School

  • January, 2009: Golden Anniversary with a year long celebration.

  • July 2009: Fr. Alexander Lukashonok joins the St. John the Baptist family.

  • August 16, 2009: The order of the founding of the Guardian Angel Chapel.

  • September, 2009: 3rd grade was added to the Guardian Angel Day School.

  • November 1, 2009: 50th Anniversary gala and silent auction at the Concorde, Kildeer.

  • September 26, 2010: Parish celebrates 65 years in Priesthood for Father Emmanuel

  • September 2010: Parish formally introduces new chapel

  • March 25, 2010: Opening of the new Guardian Angel Chapel

  • October 2010: Parish hires iconographer Lawrence Manos for the new chapel, beginning with the Platytera

  • November 2010: GAODS celebrates with dinner dance at Concorde Banquets

  • June 5, 2011: Fr. Athanasios ordained to Diaconate by Metropolitan Iakovos of Chicago at St. John the Baptist

  • Summer 2011: Parish begins St. John the Merciful Soup Kitchen meals

  • July 2011: Arrival of Holy Altar for new chapel

  • Fall 2011: 5th grade added to Guardian Angel Orthodox Day School (GAODS)

  • September 11, 2011: Panayiotis Pandelis ordained to Diaconate

  • 2012: Young Orthodox Christian American Mission Adventures (YOCAMA) domestic mission trip for GOYA to Montana to help Native Americans in poverty

  • June 7, 2012: First graduation ceremony at GAODS for 5th grade

  • October 7, 2012: Georgian Orthodox Church rents Resurrection Chapel for Liturgies and Vespers

  • November, 2012: Phase II iconography begins for chapel

  • May 5, 2013: First Pascha with Anastasi service outdoors

  • Fall 2013: 6th grade added to GAODS

  • July 2013: Father Sotirios Malamis joins our parish as assistant Priest

  • February 2014: Home gatherings begin to share fellowship

  • March 9, 2014: Parish hosts Sunday of Orthodoxy with Bishop Anthony giving sermon Pan Orthodox

  • November 2, 2014: 55th anniversary celebration of our parish at the Hilton Allgauer's, Northbrook, IL

  • December 6, 2014: Parish hosts the first annual Pan-Orthodox Christmas concert

  • February 19, 2015: Parish hosts Mission Team Chicago dinner with Archbishop Makarios of Kenya present

  • September 15, 2015: Parish hosts Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops with His Eminence Archbishop of America DEMETRIOS

  • June 6, 2015: Fr. Dimitrios Burikas ordained to diaconate 

  • August 1, 2015: Fr. Athanasios Papagiannis assigned to our parish

  • Fall, 2015: 17th year for GAODS-new principal Irene Robaidek

  • 2015: Parish raises over $10,000 to donate to St. Nicholas shrine in NYC; St. John the Baptist Philoptochos also donated $10,000

  • June 9, 2016: GAODS 6th grade graduation

  • June 28, 2016: Funeral for our Pastor Emeritus, Fr. Emmanuel Lionikis