Chicago’s Ukrainian Catholics established their first parish, St. Nicholas, in 1905. They eventually built a magnificent church, now a cathedral, at Rice Street and Oakley Blvd. in 1911. These pioneers represented the “first wave” of immigrants from Ukraine, those who arrived prior to World War I. Most came from rural backgrounds with little or no formal education, and a weak sense of ethno-national identity.
A “second wave” of immigrants from Ukraine arrived in Chicago between the two world wars. Having experienced the halcyon days of Ukrainian independence following the collapse of Czarist Russia, they came with sense of ethno-national identity. Many had completed secondary education. Some were university-trained.
Beginning in 1949, a “third wave” of immigrants from Ukraine arrived in Chicago. Most were refugees from Communist oppression. They were allowed to emigrate to the United States after President Harry S. Truman signed the Displaced Persons Act of 1948 into law. Third wavers were staunchly nationalistic.
The American-born children of some of the original St. Nicholas parishioners began to settle in northwest Chicago. Many were veterans of World War II. With the arrival of the dynamic Fr. Joseph Shary in 1956, the parish of St. Joseph was organized on Cumberland Ave. in Chicago.
A few years later, a group of newly arrived immigrants (third wavers) from Ukraine, settled in the northwestern Chicago suburb of Palatine, Illinois. The original families included N. Tychyj, T. Komar, P. Jachniw, W. Rajter, T. Stefaniw, W. Gedzyk, S. Gedzyk, J. Kocko, and A. Petryk. Some initially attended St. Nicholas and St. Joseph churches but this soon became impractical. As the community grew, it was apparent that a Ukrainian Catholic liturgical presence in Palatine was needed. In the autumn of 1959, Mrs. E. Jachniw and Mr. O. Waskiw were delegated to contact Fr. Joseph Shary to discuss the possibility of the celebration of occasional Divine Liturgies in Palatine. Fr. Shary agreed and 33 families were notified that the first Liturgy would be celebrated on September 25, 1960, at St. Theresa’s Roman Catholic Church. Some fifty-five faithful filled the pews on that Sunday. Subsequent Liturgies were celebrated once a month until 1961. Weekly Divine Liturgies were later celebrated in Palatine at the Oak Street Public School until 1962.
The Ukrainian presence in Palatine grew and by 1962 it was obvious that more permanent arrangements were in order. A new church committee was established and charged with the responsibility of finding a suitable site. In time, Messrs. Kocko and Petryk found an appropriate parcel on the northeast corner of South Benton and Illinois streets. On May 15, 1962, the purchase was completed and the title transferred to St. Nicholas Eparchy. The property was blessed by Fr. Shary on June 17 and a cross was placed on the spot where the new church was to be built.
The year 1963 proved to be a year of wonderful progress. The Brotherhood of the Immaculate Conception was created, headed by Messrs. P. Hasiuk, president, J. Kocko, vice-president, J. Dynda, secretary, and N. Tychyj, treasurer. Two sections of the Building Committee were also established. The Financial Committee was headed by Mr. M. Kotorynsky and included Messrs. Semczyszn, J. Dydyna, N. Tychyj, O. Waskiw, and W. Bohnewych. Messrs. Kocko and Petryk co-chaired the Construction Committee. The parish numbered 30 families at the time.
Initial work on the foundation began on September 3. To finance the project, a $12,000 loan was negotiated with the Selfreliance Ukrainian Federal Credit Union in Chicago. By the end of the year, the exterior of the temporary church was completed. The first Divine Liturgy was celebrated in the church hall on Christmas Day 1963. It was a day of great jubilation and enthusiasm for all parishioners. The church was completed in the following months and Fr. Shary celebrated a Divine Liturgy on the Feast of the Annunciation in the church proper on March 25, 1964.
HIGHLIGHTS in the HISTORY of IMMACULATE CONCEPTION CHURCH
March 1965 Fr. Roman Bialecky, an assistant pastor at St. Joseph was formally installed as pastor of Immaculate Conception. Unfortunately, Fr. Bialecky was transferred to another parish a few months later and Fr. Shary again assumed pastoral charge of the parish.
1966 A church choir, “Zahrava”, was created under the direction of Mr. Bohdan Plishka. Mr. H. Saczyk took over as director in 1976. During the years that followed, a number of priests served as interim pastors. Included were the Revs. V. Wiwcharowsky, R. Bialecky, J. Chinchenko, M. Holowaty, V. Pashkowsky, V. Vancik, M, Kawola, D. Kowalchyk, W. Wozniak and J. Poorman.
1968 A small facility was constructed east of the church. It served as a temporary lodging, was used for picnics, fundraisers and storage and later came to be called the “club house”. ?he parish numbered 41 families.
December 14, 1969 The church building was finally completed and blessed by Bishop Jaroslav Gabro.
1971 The first bell tower was built.
December 10, 1972 An iconostas designed and built by the craftsman Mr. Lev Wereminsky was blessed by Bishop Gabro. An adjoining property, later to serve as the site of a rectory, was purchased that same year.
March 25, 1973 Rev. Lev Bilos was appointed to Immaculate Conception and served for almost 13 years. He was ably assisted by his wife Natalia. This was a period of stability and growth for the parish.
1974 Thirteen parishioners established The Apostleship of Prayer (“The Sisterhood”) dedicated to the preservation and perpetuation of the Church. That same year the land designated for the rectory was blessed. A building committee headed by Mr. O. Voytechko was established. Committee heads included Messrs. J. Kocko, M. Suchowersky, N. Tychyj, B. Brahar, P. Kekisz, and R. and J. Rabyk. Serving as their assistants were Messrs. J. Chornij, M. Bojchuk, and M. Luhovyj. Selfreliance provided a $30,000 loan with a total of 30 parishioners serving as guarantors.
1975 The rectory, completed in 1975, was blessed by Bishop Gabro.
1979 The St. Sophia (Holy Wisdom) Youth Brotherhood was formed under the initiative of parishioners Bohdan Plishka and Paul Mazar with twelve original members. This Brotherhood served in spiritually energizing our younger parishioners. Youth Brotherhood presidents included Fred Stupen, Michael Plishka, Larissa Saczyk and Yaropolk Rohowsky. Attendance at annual Youth for Christ conventions was an integral part of the Youth Brotherhood program.
January 18, 1987 The parish was honored by a visit from Bishop Innocent Lotocky who had come to recognize Fr. Bilos for 50 years of active priestly service to the Ukrainian Catholic Church. Fr. Bilos was elevated to the rank of honorary canon.
July 19, 1987 A memorable parish moment occurred when a copy of the miracle-working icon of the Mother of God of Sambir was blessed by Mitred Archpriest M. Butrynsky and a large assembly of priests.
September 1, 1987 Fr. Andrij Chirovsky became pastor of Immaculate Conception. This highly educated, deeply spiritual and energetic priest did much for the growth of our parish. During his tenure he was ably assisted by Halyna, his wife, who directed a pre-school program offering instruction in the Catholic faith and in the Ukrainian heritage. Fr. Chirovsky introduced the annual “Forgiveness Sunday” service during which the pastor and parishioners physically approach each other and ask for forgiveness for any wrongs they may have committed towards each other.
August 27 & 28, 1988 Festival 1000, a two-day festival marking the Millennium of Christianity in Ukraine, was held on the parish grounds. The celebration included folk dancing, choir singing, bandura music and display tables featuring embroidery and icons by Maria Gada. Vendors from around the area offered art, music albums, clothing and videotapes.
The highlight of the celebration was the dedication of the new bells and bell tower and the 1000th anniversary commemorative plaque donated by the Brotherhood of St. Michael and cross financed by the Sisterhood of the Apostleship of Prayer. Modeled in the Hutsul style of Carpatho-Ukraine, the entire project was the work of craftsman Petro Hasiuk. Mr. and Mrs. J. Kiekisz paid for the bell tower while a parish-wide collection financed the bronze bells, named in honor of Sts. Borys and Hlib, brothers who in heroically giving their lives for Christ and came to be called “passion-bearers”. Paul and Betty Jachniw stained the wooden housing to complete the work.
Bishop Innocent Lotocky blessed the bells, bell tower, memorial cross and commemorative plaque.
May 17, 1989 Patriarch Myroslaw Ivan Cardinal Lubachivsky visited the parish. The parish numbered 80 families at this time. Following the departure of Fr. Chirovsky in 1991, a number of priests served as pastors of Immaculate Conception parish. These included the Revs. Alexander Prodywus, and Jose Hazuda, a multi-lingual, young and energetic priest born and raised in Argentina. Fr. Hazuda attempted to better serve the American-born and predominantly English speaking parishioners by introducing a Sunday English language Divine Liturgy. After the departure of Fr. Hazuda in 1992, the parish was served by several pastors, most of whom stayed for only a short time or were assigned on an interim basis. These included the Revs. Tom Dobrowolsky, Walter Klimchuk, Alexander Baran, and Ivan Krotec.
In 1991, the Soviet Union collapsed and Ukraine was an independent nation once again. These developments eventually resulted in a “fourth wave” of immigrants from Ukraine arriving on American shores. Since then slowly some have moved to the northwest suburbs and continue to join our parish.
Bishop Innocent celebrated the Divine Liturgy and our parish feast day in December.
1992 Michael Plishka wrote the icons of the Pantocrator and those of our Lord and the Mother of God which adorn our church.
1995 Father Mykhailo Kuzma and his wife Oksana arrived. Introducing Fr. Mykhailo Kuzma as the next pastor, Bishop Michael Wiwchar asked the parishioners to respect and support their priests.
1996 Parishioners made some 10,000 varenyky (pyrohy) for the “Taste of Palatine” weekend (July 18-20) and manned two cultural booths featuring cultural artifacts and books about Ukraine.
May 24, 1998 Deacon Andrew Plishka was officially assigned to the parish.
Under the leadership of Parish Council President John Panko Jr. the Parish Council began investigating the possibility of adding on to the present church or building a new church. This investigation was terminated with the death of John Panko Jr.
Between 1998 and 1999 parishioners and parish organizations funded the stained glass windows designed and completed by the craftsman T. Wandzura that adorn our windows.
December 10, 2000 Bishop Wiwchar visited the parish for the last time during the Praznyk banquet. Parishioners wished him God Speed and sang Mnohaya Leeta as he prepared to take up his new assignment as Bishop of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan in Canada
November 4, 2001 The 20th jubilee anniversary celebration of the ordination of Fr. Mykhailo Kuzma was held at the CYM hall. Fr. was elevated to the rank of cross-bearing archpriest.
October 5, 2003 In honor of the 40th anniversary of Immaculate Conception Church, a Pontifical Divine Liturgy was celebrated by Bishop Richard Seminack, followed by a gala banquet at the Wellington Banquet Hall.
In 2003, parishioners Slawko and Siasia Pihut wrote and published “Who We Are: Ukrainian Catholics”, an illustrated book of articles pertaining to our Ukrainian Catholic faith. The initial printing of 1,250 copies quickly sold out due to a nationwide demand. A second printing of 2,500 copies of the best seller came out the following year.
The Cross of St. Michael, blessed by Blessed John Paul II was donated to the parish by Christ Cordell, now Fr. Hyacinth.
2004 Apostleship of Prayer (“The Sisterhood”) celebrated their 30th anniversary.
January 22, 2005 Adrian Blanarovich organized a trip to Washington, D.C. for the Youth Brotherhood to participate in the annual nationwide March for Life. It was the second such annual trip for the Youth Brotherhood.
May, 2006 Rev. Deacon Andrew Plishka was ordained to the holy priesthood and celebrated his first Liturgy for the parish.
October 5, 2008 Bishop Richard visited the parish and gave his blessing for the gathering of information towards the planning of a new church. A Building Committee was formed from the Parish Pastoral Council. The first head was Frank Avant.
November 8, 2009 Frank Avant a Roman Catholic who was granted change of rites status, became a member of our parish and the Ukrainian Catholic Church and was tonsured as reader, candle bearer and cantor. Since then he was accepted as a candidate for the priesthood and will be concluding his studies in preparation for ordination at the end of the school year next summer.
November 13, 2010 Rev. Borys Gudziak, rector of the Ukrainian Catholic University, celebrated the Divine Liturgy and met with parishioners. His stories of the oppression of the university by the Yanukovych regime in Ukraine were chilling. It was a great honor to meet this future bishop.
September 26, 2011 Patriarch Sviatoslav Shewchuk celebrated the Divine Liturgy and blessed two foundation stones, one in Ukrainian, the other in English, for the planned parish church/shrine. The stones read as follows:
“This house will be called a house of prayer for all nations.” (Mk.11:17)
This commemorative stone was blessed by his beatitude Patriarch
Sviatoslav during his visit to Immaculate Conception Ukrainian Catholic
Church, September 26, 2011.
November 20, 2011 ?he parish celebrated the 30th anniversary of Fr. Kuzma’s ordination to the holy priesthood. Fr. Kuzma was honored with a visit by Bishop Richard Seminack during the occasion. A luncheon in his honor was very well attended at the Cotillion of Palatine.
October 28, 2012 The kickoff to a wonderful year of events to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Immaculate Conception began with a Divine Liturgy with Bishop Richard Seminack joining Father Kuzma. The “Beginning, Present, and Future…..The Best is Yet to Come” began with a Fall Festival. Good food, dancing, raffle, and children’s activities were enjoyed by parishoners as well as many guests from the Ukrainian community.
February 10, 2013 Founder’s Luncheon – a luncheon was held to celebrate the founding members of our church. Their hard work and dedication to this parish is an inspiration to all! A well attended event, we enjoyed a DVD of photos from the very beginning of the planning and building of the church and rectory courtesy of Mrs. Betty Jachniw.