MERRILLVILLE | Services for the Protection of the Virgin Mary Orthodox Church were first held at 13th and Madison Street in Gary in September, 1911, and this Friday, Saturday and Sunday the church, now located at 8600 Grand Boulevard, will host a series of events commemorating its 100th anniversary.
Friday's highlights include a fish fry from 4 to 6 p.m., Great Vespers at 6 and a Walk Down Memory Lane and Ice Cream Social at 7.
After Divine Liturgy at 10 a.m. Saturday, a free brunch will be held at 11:30, followed by Adult and Youth Educational Forums at 1 p.m., a memorial service for deceased parishioners at 4, and a free dinner at 5 followed by a fireworks display and a Bonfire with the Bishop.
Sunday's activities include a Hierarchical Divine Liturgy at 10 a.m., followed by a Grand Banquet at St. Elijah Serbian American Hall, 8700 Taft St., Merrillville.
Russian and other Slavic families who had moved to Gary in search of employment formed the church in 1911. Locally known as St Mary's, the parish found its first permanent home a year later at 17th and Fillmore Street in Gary under the guidance of the Rev. Benjamin Kedrovsky.
The church remained there and continued to grow as part of the Northwest Indiana community until a new church was consecrated by Archbishop John in 1962 on East 45th Avenue in Gary. The onion-shaped cupolas of the church were a distinct part of the Glen Park neighborhood for many years, and the church continued to grow with the Rev. Peter Rozdelsky as its rector.
By the late 1990s, the parishioners of Protection of the Virgin Mary, whose families featured a widening range of residences throughout Northwest Indiana, approved a relocation to the southeast Merrillville area near U.S. 30, and a new church was consecrated by Bishop Job at 8600 Grand Boulevard with the first services held in 2000.
While Protection of the Virgin Mary had strong Russian roots originally, it features a vast ethnic make-up today that includes many converts to the Orthodox faith. The Northwest Indiana parish is part of the Orthodox Church in America, which was once part of the Russian Orthodox Church that came to North America via missionaries who brought the faith to Alaska and the Aleutian Islands.
The church is currently under the direction of the Rev. Peter Bodnar who, along with His Grace, Bishop Matthias, and current Parish Council President Nicholas Rozdelsky, have extended an invitation to the public to share in the 100-year celebration with the extended family of Protection of the Virgin Mary Orthodox Church.
For more information, contact the Rev. Bodnar at (219) 947-4748 or Rozdesky at (219) 682-6823.