Plans for 2018’s 19th All-American Council take “another step forward”

Robert Butchko, Frs. Eric Tosi and Timothy Sawchak, and Dcn. Peter Ilchuk at recent AAC local committee meetings.

Planning for the 19th All-American Council [AAC] of the Orthodox Church in America, slated to be held in Saint Louis, July 23-27, 2018, took another step forward as the AAC Executive Committee met with local committee chairs May 31-June 1, 2017.

Members of the Executive Committee include Archpriest Eric G. Tosi, OCA Secretary; Archpriest Timothy Sawchak, Overland Park, KS, Local Committee Clergy Chair; Deacon Peter Ilchuk, AAC Manager, and Robert Butchko, Saint Louis, MO, Local Committee Lay Chair.

“During the series of meetings with the chairs of the local committees, the AAC’s form has begun to take shape,” said Father Eric.  “The local committee chairs have assembled a wonderful team from the Kansas City Deanery.  All of the committees and chairs have been filled and have begun their work.”

Father Eric describes the local committees as “an integral part of the AAC’s operation—the ‘boots on the ground’ responsible for ensuring that the AAC runs smoothly.”

Among the local committees are bishops’ accommodations and welcome, city guide and transportation, AAC workbook, registration and credentials, AAC meals, signage, formal dinner and reception, public relations, secretarial, youth program support, and exhibits, displays and vendors.

Also present at the meeting was Carol Deerson, representing the Fellowship of Orthodox Christians in America [FOCA].  The FOCA once again will hold is annual National Convention at the same venue in the days leading up to the AAC opening.  Priest Benjamin Tucci, Minneapolis, MN, Director of the AAC Youth Program, was in attendance as well and toured the facilities and sites for the youth outings during the Council.  He will be soliciting adult volunteers for the program this summer and sending material to parishes to begin the registration process for youth programs.

In addition to meeting with representatives of the AAC venue—historic Saint Louis Union Station Hotel—executive and local committee members interviewed and selected a photographer, a parliamentarian, and an exhibition company.  Committee members also have been in regular contact with the Convention Visitors Bureau of Saint Louis as part of the planning process.

In related news, the Preconciliar Commission met via teleconference on Monday, June 5 to review the planning process to date and to begin work on the AAC agenda, which will be submitted for approval to the members of the Holy Synod of Bishops at their Fall 2017 Session.

Father Eric also announced that the official 19th AAC web site is slated to go live in July 2017—one year before the Council’s opening.

“The web site will have a variety of videos and articles throughout the year to introduce the Council and its theme—‘For The Life of the World’—to the Church, Father Eric said.  “Participants may register for the Council on the web site beginning in January 2018.  All Council material will also be posted on the web site well in advance.”

Father Eric added that an initial mailing for exhibitors, vendors and displayers will be sent out in the next few weeks.

Among other concerns yet to be determined is the slate of AAC speakers, the liturgical services and other events.

History of the Nativity of the Virgin Mary Orthodox Church and Parishioners in Madison, Illinois

1900 – 2017

In 1900, the seeds of Orthodoxy, which were planted by immigrants from Austria-Hungary, Galacia, Carpatho-Russia and the Ukraine, took root and blossomed in the city of Madison, Illinois.  Unfamiliar with the language, customs, and traditions of this new country, these immigrants turned to their one great resource of spiritual strength and comfort, their faith in God.

Having no church edifice at the time, the first regular place of worship was the home of Stephen and Martha Sawchak, located at 1017 Madison Avenue.  It was in this home that a missionary priest, Father Stephanov, heard confessions and celebrated the first Divine Liturgy.  Father Michael J. Potochy, the Orthodox priest in Streator, Illinois visited the faithful in Madison once a month to celebrate the Divine Liturgy.

In 1901, Archbishop Tikhon, Archbishop of the Russian Orthodox Church in America, visited the faithful in Madison, Illinois and granted the members permission to collect funds for the purpose of building a temple of worship in the city.  In addition, Archbishop Tikhon donated the Holy Gospel, the church bell (which is still being used today), and made a monetary donation toward the building expenses.  Archbishop Tikhon later became the Patriarch of Moscow and is now venerated by Orthodox Christians as Saint Tikhon of Moscow.  Additional financial assistance was also received from the Russian Orthodox Greek Catholic Mutual Aid Society of Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania.  The original members of this Society served as founding members of the church. 

In 1902, this dedicated group of immigrants completed construction of a small wooden structure on Ewing Avenue.  The iconostasis was built by hand using icons received from Galacia, Poland.  Archbishop Tikhon empowered The Very Reverend Father John Kochuroff, the second priest of Holy Trinity Cathedral in Chicago, to bless the church.  On February 16, 1902 this blessing took place according to the “Lesser Rite of Consecration of a Temple”.  He donated an old processional Icon of the Mother of God of Kazan that is found today in the northeast corner of the church nave.  On the reverse side of this icon is the following inscription:  In blessing to the Madison parish from the Priest John Kochuroff”. Father Kochuroff eventually returned to his homeland (Russia) and in the beginning of the Russian Revolution was brutally martyred.  He is now venerated by Orthodox Christians as St. John, New Martyr of Russia & Missionary to America.

In 1902, a tornado swept through the City of Madison, and moved the Church building approximately one foot off its foundation.  The next year in 1903, the city and surrounding areas were flooded with five feet of water.  When the water began to recede the church building moved back to its original place on the foundation.

The parish had a small cemetery near Wood River, Illinois some 15 miles.  However, in 1924, due to the distance from the Church, the parish purchased eleven acres of property closer to the Church in Glen Carbon, Illinois.  On May 30, 1925 His Eminence Archbishop Leonty dedicated the property for a parish cemetery.  It continues today as a final resting place for the “departed faithful” of our parish, the “Church Triumphant”.

Wanting to expose the youth of the parish to a portion of their ethnic heritage, the “Little Cossacks” dance group was organized in 1954.  Over the years, the “Little Cossacks” shared its rich Russian dance heritage and provided enjoyment to all groups it entertained.

In 1958, realizing the parish community was growing and the church building was in need of extensive repairs, a building fund was established with the goal of building a new church with adequate space for the expanding Church School needs.  The early 1960’s, under the leadership of Reverend Hieromonk Theodosius (Lazor), the parish priest, the building program was accelerated.  With the blessing of His Eminence Archbishop John of Chicago and Minneapolis, the parish began in earnest the task of building a new church on the corner of 5th Street and Ewing Avenue just a few hundred feet from the old church.

On the 62nd Anniversary of the church, celebrated on September 23, 1962, ground was broken and blessed by His Eminence Archbishop John.  A cross was planted on the property to mark the site of the new church.  However, it was not until Pentecost Sunday, June 21, 1964, that ground was broken for construction.

On September 20, 1964, His Eminence Archbishop John assisted by the clergy of the St. Louis Area, celebrated the Hierarchical Liturgy.  Immediately after Liturgy, a procession was made to the foundation of the new church for the “Rite of Blessing and Laying of the Cornerstone”. 

On the Sunday of Orthodoxy, March 14, 1965, the parish met in the old church for the last service, a Service of Thanksgiving. As the faithful came to receive the blessing, each was given an article to carry as all joined in procession to the new church.  After the blessing prayer in front of the church and the cutting of the ribbon, the doors were unlocked and the triumphant entry was made.  After a small blessing service, the first Divine Liturgy was celebrated in the new church.

On Sunday, June 6, 1965, the Holy Altar was consecrated and the church dedicated and anointed with Holy Chrism by His Eminence Archbishop John.  A holy relic of St. John the Russian, the New Confessor, was placed in the new marble Altar table.  The Right Reverend Alexander Schmemann, Dean of St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary was guest speaker for the occasion.

On September 10, 1972 just seven years after the consecration of the “new Temple”, the parish once again gathered to celebrate the “burning of the Church mortgage” and the groundbreaking for the construction of a new rectory.  The parish was honored to have in attendance for this event His Beatitude Metropolitan Ireney, Primate of the Orthodox Church in America, His Eminence Archbishop John and also His Grace Bishop Theodosius, Bishop of Pittsburgh and West Virginia.  It had just been seven short years since His Grace Bishop Theodosius (our parish priest in 1965) had served the first Divine Liturgy at this Altar. 

Once again our parish was blessed in a special way as it celebrated its 75th Anniversary.  His Eminence Archbishop John, and His Grace Bishop Theodosius con-celebrated the Hierarchical Divine Liturgy along with our Parish Priest, V. Reverend Vladimir Lecko.  During this Liturgy, Deacon Joseph Hirsch of Kansas City was ordained to the Holy Priesthood by Archbishop John. It was our humble privilege to be a part of the beginning of this progress.

In August, 1979, Reverend Thomas Succarotte was assigned to serve the Parish, which he served diligently and faithfully until January, 2011 for over 32 years.   “Father Tom” reposed in the Lord on August 8, 2015.  Reverend Nicholas Finley, a native St. Louisan and member of St. Michael the Archangel Church in St. Louis, MO was assigned by His Eminence, Archbishop Job to serve the Church, helping our parishioners continue in their spiritual journey.

As the Parish approaches it 117th Anniversary, we continue to pray and work together to spread the word of Orthodoxy.  We, like those who came before us, have our faith in God and His holy Church to guide us through our struggles and hardships. 

Holy Synod announces 19th AAC theme during Spring Session

During the Spring Session of the Holy Synod of Bishops of the Orthodox Church in America, held at the Chancery March 28-31, 2017, “For the Life of the World” was selected as the theme of the 19th All-American Council [AAC].

The theme of the AAC—slated to convene in Saint Louis, MO July 23-27, 2018—is based on the seminal book of the same name by the late Protopresbyter Alexander Schmemann, which initially appeared in the 1960s and has established itself as a “classic.”  The AAC logo, which features a cross and Saint Louis’ iconic Gateway Arch, also was approved by the hierarchs.

Following opening services in the Chancery’s Saint Sergius of Radonezh Chapel, His Beatitude, Metropolitan Tikhon addressed the Holy Synod, focusing on his work over the past six months.  He shared the text of a proposed video on the “Four Pillars,” which he had introduced at the 18th All-American Council.

Reports were offered by the OCA’s officers.  Archpriest John Jillions, Chancellor, reported on a variety of matters.  Together with Priest Nathan Preston, Administrator of the Department of Pastoral Life, he noted recommendations for a demographic study of clergy ages and retirements, clergy compensation and recruitment of new clergy.  Also heard was a report on the Office of Review for Sexual Misconduct Allegations [ORSMA] by Cindy Heise, Coordinator, and a report on the Sexual Misconduct Policy Advisory Committee [SMPAC] by Bernard Wilson.  Archpriest Eric G. Tosi, Secretary, also reported on a variety of issues, including the proposed renovation of the OCA Archives storage facilities, ongoing work on the OCA web site redesign and upgrades, and the third OCA Mission School, slated to be held this summer.  The hierarchs approved the publication of a new Metric Book for parish use, which will be released in the near future.  Melanie Ringa, Treasurer, reported on the status of the OCA’s finances, offering a positive update on the shift to proportional giving.  She also updated the Synod on the new finance plan for the All-American Council, in which dioceses, rather than parishes, will be assessed, thereby allowing each diocese to determine its own assessment plan.

Judge E. R. Lanier, OCA General Counsel, updated the Holy Synod on a number of legal matters affecting the OCA.  The Holy Synod blessed the Corporate Signing Policy and the Corporate Gift Policy that had been approved at the Spring Session of the Metropolitan Council.  Judge Lanier further updated the Synod on the status of the adoption of the revised Statute of the Orthodox Church in America and addressed the issue of parish cemeteries.  Also discussed were the matter of an OCA Legal Advisory Team and the OCA’s participation in two amicus curiae cases.  Metropolitan Tikhon thanked Judge Lanier for his service to the Church during the two years he has served as Legal Counsel.

In other reports, Protopresbyter Leonid Kishkovsky, Director of External Affairs, reported on the state and status of world Orthodoxy and relations with Church and other organizations.  He also noted that the search for a new candidate for the OCA’s Representation Church of the Great Martyr Catherine in Moscow is underway.  Archpriest John Matusiak, OCA web site editor, reviewed the OCA’s past and current communications efforts.  Matushka Valerie Zahirsky, Chair of the Department of Christian Education, and Donna Karabin, Chair of the Department of Christian Service and Humanitarian Aid, reported on the work of their respective departments, while His Grace, Bishop David of Sitka and Alaska, Synodal Liaison, reported on the OCA Pension Plan.  Archdeacon Joseph Matusiak offered an update on the Stewards of the Orthodox Church in America [SOCA].  Plans for the appointment of a new Chair for the Department of Youth, Young Adult and Campus Ministry also were considered.

In other matters,

  • the Holy Synod heard reports on the state of the OCA’s seminaries by Archpriest Steven Voytovich, Dean of Saint Tikhon’s Seminary; Archpriest Chad Hatfield, President of Saint Vladimir’s Seminary; and Bishop David, on behalf of Saint Herman’s Seminary.  The Board of Theological Education was asked to work with the seminaries’ leadership and bishops to draft a proposal for a special program for individuals identified by their respective hierarchs as possible candidates for the priesthood but are unable to leave their jobs to pursue seminary studies and pastoral formation.
  • His Grace, Bishop Alexander of Dallas, the South and the Bulgarian Diocese, was elevated to the dignity of Archbishop.
  • the hierarchs reviewed and approved a variety of awards and elevations for clergy and lay persons and established new guidelines for the OCA’s award system.  The Holy Synod further awarded the annual Order of Saint Romanosfor exceptional contributions in the field of liturgical music, education and conducting to John Sutko of Saint Peter and Saint Paul Church, Burr Ridge, IL.
  • reviewed the texts of the three major Divine Liturgies being prepared for publication by Saint Tikhon’s Monastery Press, which will be forwarded to the Department of Liturgical Music and Translations for review and input.
  • At the request of Bishop David, the Synod gave its blessing to continue the collaborative work with local Alaskan authorities to investigate the possible location of the grave of Saint Jacob Netsvetov.  [See related story.]
  • reviewed plans for the upcoming celebration of the 100th anniversary of the election and enthronement of Saint Tikhon as Patriarch of Moscow in 2017 and the 120th anniversary of his arrival in New York after his election as Bishop of North America in 1897.  They also reviewed plans for the celebration of Alaska Day on Wednesday, October 18, 2017.

During the four-day session, Metropolitan Tikhon concelebrated the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts with His Eminence, Archbishop Alejo of Mexico and His Eminence, Archbishop Irénée of Ottawa on Wednesday evening.  Graduating OCA seniors from Saint Tikhon’s and Saint Vladimir’s Seminaries sang the responses and, together with their wives, engaged in a dialogue with Holy Synod in a question and answer session after the dinner that followed.  On Thursday morning, Metropolitan Tikhon presided at the reading of the Great Kanon of Saint Andrew of Crete, while on Friday morning, His Eminence, Archbishop Melchisedek of Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania presided at the celebration of the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts marking the Feast of Saint Innocent of Alaska.

The Holy Synod of Bishops is the supreme canonical authority in the Orthodox Church in America.  Chaired by the Metropolitan, the Synod includes as voting members all diocesan bishops.

A photo gallery will be available on the OCA web site and Facebook page shortly.

19th AAC theme, youth program, related issues reviewed

St Louis
The historic St. Louis Union Station Hotel will be the site of the 19th AAC.

A variety of issues including possible themes and youth participation related to the Orthodox Church in America’s 19th All-American Council [AAC] topped the agenda of the Preconciliar Commission during its second meeting on Friday, February 24, 2017.  See related story.

The 19th AAC is slated to convene July 23-27, 2018 at Saint Louis, MO’s landmark Union Station Hotel.

In his opening reflections, His Beatitude, Metropolitan Tikhon emphasized the importance of involving youth in the Council in a meaningful way.  He also offered insights into proposed themes and the AAC’s general operations.

Archpriest Eric G. Tosi, OCA Secretary, reported that a proposed theme and logo will be presented for approval to the members of the Holy Synod of Bishops at their March 2017 Spring Session.  He also reported that a contract had been signed for a dedicated AAC web site, slated to be launched this summer.  Related AAC projects in process include a video on the Council theme, diocesan videos, possible workshops themes, and a host of functions including a breakfast for clergy wives and a breakfast for youth and the members of the Holy Synod.  He further noted that the Sitka Icon of the Mother of God and the Myrrhstreaming Icon of Saint Anne will be present during the Council, as will the reproduction of the Tikhvin Icon of the Mother of God recently enshrined in Chicago’s Holy Trinity Cathedral.  AAC attendees also will have an opportunity to view artifacts from the Metropolitan Museum at Saint Tikhon’s Monastery, South Canaan, PA.

With regard to communications, daily video updates and live-streaming of AAC plenary sessions once again will be made available.

Deacon Peter Ilchuk reported on the finalization of additional contracts, coordination with the Local Committee, and other matters related to the planning process.  Archpriest Timothy Sawchak and Robert Butchko, clergy and lay co-chairs respectively, noted that all local committee chairs have been filled and that the response for volunteers has been strong.

Melanie Ringa, OCA Treasurer, reported on the current budget for the AAC.  She related the recommended finance plan that involves billing each diocese for AAC assessments directly, rather than billing individual parishes as in years past.  She stressed that parishes should budget appropriately for AAC expenses.  Fees were set for AAC observers and other attendees, although retired clergy and widowed clergy wives will no longer have to pay a fee to attend.

Priest Benjamin Tucci outlined the proposed youth program.  He will begin to recruit and vet volunteers in the months ahead.  A database of youth delegates is being planned.  Potential donors to offset the cost of the youth program are being explored.  Becky Tesar shared plans for the Fellowship of Orthodox Christians in America’s annual convention, slated to be held concurrently with the AAC.

Protopresbyter Leonid Kishkovsky related his conversations with some of the recommended AAC speakers, while a list of ecumenical and interchurch observers was reviewed.

Additional information will be made available after the Holy Synod of Bishops’ Spring Session.

19th AAC Local Committee holds organizational meeting

19th AAC
Fr. Eric Tosi meets with AAC Local Committee volunteers.

The Local Committee charged with planning the 19th All-American Council [AAC] of the Orthodox Church in America held its first meeting in Saint Louis and Kansas City December 14-15, 2016.

The 19th AAC will be convened at the historic Saint Louis Union Station Hotel, Saint Louis, MO July 23-27, 2018.  See related story.

Archpriest Eric G. Tosi, OCA Secretary and Council Supervisor and Deacon Peter Ilchuk, Council Manager, met with Archpriest Timothy Sawchak, Dean of the Kansas City Deanery and Local Council Clergy Chair; Robert Butchko, Local Council Lay Chair; and Kansas City Deanery faithful who have expressed an interest in assisting with planning efforts.  An overview of expectations and duties of the Local Committee, which compliments the work of the Preconciliar Commission, was reviewed.

“The goal was to organize the chairpersons and volunteers and to begin the work of the Council,” Father Eric said.  “There are over a dozen committees, including transportation, the AAC dinner, and delegate registration, and in general there is a need for nearly 100 volunteers to operate the Council.”

Meetings were also held with the hotel staff of the Saint Louis Union Station Hotel.

Faithful living in the Saint Louis area who are interested in volunteering in a number of capacities may do so by contacting Father Timothy at or Mr. Butchko at  Additional information on the AAC theme, additional arrangements and the soon-to-be-launched AAC web site will be posted as it becomes available.

Preconciliar Commission holds first organizational meeting


The first meeting of the Preconciliar Commission, tasked with organizing the 19th All-American Council [AAC] in Saint Louis, MO July 23-27, 2018, was held at the Chancery here during the second week of December 2016.

His Beatitude, Metropolitan Tikhon, chaired the meeting.  Participants included His Grace, Bishop Paul of Chicago, in whose diocese the AAC will be held; Archpriest John Jillions and Melanie Ringa, OCA Chancellor and Treasurer respectively; Archpriest Eric G. Tosi, OCA Secretary and AAC Director; Deacon Peter Ilchuk, AAC Manager; Archpriest Timothy Hojnicki, Metropolitan Council representative; Becky Tesar, Fellowship of Orthodox Christians in America [FOCA] representative; Priest Benjamin Tucci, Youth Activity Coordinator; and Archpriest Timothy Sawchak and Robert Butchko, Local Committee Clergy and Lay Chairs respectively.

According to Father Tosi, Commission members reviewed the AAC planning process and tasks completed to date.

“There was a review of the critical and mandated dates for the Council, while an action plan was discussed to ensure all deadlines are met,” he said.  “An in-depth review of the delegate survey conducted after the 18th AAC in Atlanta will enable Commission members to utilize responses in the planning of the 19th AAC.”

A preliminary budget and financing proposal were presented, along with a review of logistical needs and procedures for registration, certification, credentials and reports.

Metropolitan Tikhon chairs Preconciliar Commission meeting.

The Fellowship of Orthodox Christians in America [FOCA] will be holding its annual convention in conjunction with the AAC, as had occurred in Atlanta.  There will be a youth program at the AAC, and plans were considered with regard to the integration of both activities with the operation of the AAC.

“The bulk of the two-day meeting was devoted to discussing the theme, major agenda items, possible speakers, and a preliminary overall AAC agenda,” Father Tosi added.  “A comprehensive plan was developed for presentation to the Metropolitan Council and the Holy Synod of Bishops for approval at their respective Spring 2017 meetings.”

During the week of December 11, Father Tosi and Deacon Ilchuk will travel to Saint Louis and Kansas City to meet with local committee chairs, representatives of the Kansas City Deanery, and hotel personnel.

The 19th AAC will be held at the historic Saint Louis Union Station Hotel.  See related story.

Additional information will be posted as it becomes available.

Holy Synod approves St. Louis as site of 19th AAC


The members of the Holy Synod of Bishops of the Orthodox Church in America, during the course of their Fall Session here October 18-21, 2016, gave their blessing to convene the 19th All-American Council at the Saint Louis Union Station Hotel, Saint Louis, MO, July 23-27, 2018.

Nineteen US and Canadian cities had been considered in the extensive site search.

“The venues were whittled down to three finalists, and the final selection was presented to the Metropolitan Council in September for their recommendation,” said Archpriest Eric G. Tosi, OCA Secretary.  “The Metropolitan Council unanimously recommended Saint Louis.  Utmost consideration was given to lodging costs location, ease of access and associated costs, availability and range of dining options, and the flexibility and ability of hotels to accommodate our requirements.

“As with the 18th AAC in Atlanta, there will be a youth program during the Council, in conjunction with the annual Fellowship of Orthodox Christians in America [FOCA] Convention, which will be held at the same location July 20-23,” Father Eric added.

In related actions, the Holy Synod appointed the Preconciliar Commission, which is charged with organizing the AAC.  His Grace, Bishop Paul of Chicago and the Midwest, will chair the commission, which in addition to Father Eric, AAC Director, will include Archpriest John Jillions, Chancellor; Melanie Ringa, Treasurer; Protopresbyter Leonid Kishkovsky, Consultant; Deacon Peter Ilchuk, Council Manager; Archpriest Timothy Hojnicki, Metropolitan Council representative; Becky Tesar, FOCA representative; and Priest Benjamin Tucci, Youth Coordinator.  Archpriest Timothy Sawchak, Dean of the Kansas City Deanery, and Robert Butchko of Saint Louis will serve as the clergy and lay chairpersons respectively of the Local Organizing Committee.

“In line with the finance resolution adopted at the 18th AAC, the Holy Synod blessed that AAC assessments will be by diocese according to the proportion of the overall budget, with each diocese determining its own assessments for its respective parishes,” Father Eric added.  “It is strongly recommended that parishes begin to budget delegate expenses—travel, hotel and food costs, etc.—in order to be able to send delegates to the AAC.”

Additional information—theme, agenda, speakers, registration, etc.—will be posted as it becomes available.