Kelly Ramke Lardin is the author of the children's books Josiah and Julia Go to Church, and Let's Count From 1 to 20 (bilingual counting books in French and Spanish). She holds degrees in French from The University of the South and Tulane University and studied translation at SUNY-Binghamton. She has always enjoyed writing and loves studying languages. She converted to Orthodoxy shortly after marrying her husband, who is also a convert to Orthodoxy. Her journey to the faith was fraught with struggle, but she wouldn't trade it for anything. Together she and her husband are raising their two daughters in the Orthodox faith. This continuing journey still has its moments of struggle but is also a joy. Visit her at kellylardin.com for more information on her books and to read short stories and other writings. She also blogs about her faith, family, and life in Chicago at A Day's Journey. She is available for speaking engagements through the Orthodox Speakers Bureau.
Holy Trinity Cathedral in Chicago was established in 1882. At the time, it was called St. Vladimir’s. At the turn of the 20th century, the current cathedral building was designed by renowned architect Louis Sullivan and built under the guidance of St. John of Chicago and St. Tikhon, Patriarch of Moscow. The parish has a rather blessed history. Not only has it known the presence of saints, but for many decades after World War II, it was the home of the Tikhvin icon, one of the most celebrated Orthodox icons.
I was fortunate to move into the parish not long before the Tikhvin icon was returned to its home in Russia. I have listened to the harrowing tales of Fr. Sergei who, along with Bishop John of Chicago, smuggled the icon out of Riga, Latvia to safety in America during World War II. Although the Tikhvin icon is no longer with us, visitors can still see and venerate St. Tikhon’s Epitrachelion and other icons and relics. It makes one feel proud to belong to a church with such a rich history. However, the history alone does not make this church what it is.
The people of this parish make it what it is today, and that is very good. They are loving and welcoming. If you decide to visit, someone will greet you at the door of the narthex and welcome you in. If you stop for the coffee hour after Liturgy on Sunday morning, expect to have someone sit with you and converse. If you visit and live anywhere in Chicago, expect us to tell you all the reasons why Holy Trinity should be your new home. We are a family, and we love it when our family grows. Don’t get me wrong, we all have our flaws, and sometimes our family looks a little dysfunctional. But when it comes down to it, we forgive each other and continue on.
There’s no “cry room” at Holy Trinity; as I said, “we’re a family.” Families have children, and ours attend liturgy with us. Sometimes they cry. Sometimes they roam around. Sometimes they even stand still and quiet — for a second or two. No matter how they act, though, they are welcome. One Pascha when my older daughter was about one year old, someone who doesn’t attend regularly did not like that she was crying just before the service was to start. We had woken her to attend the midnight service, so she wasn’t happy yet. He asked our Parish Council President to ask me to leave because I “shouldn’t be here with a crying baby.” Instead, the President asked this man to leave. My daughter and I had been to all the Holy Week services. We were part of the family and were welcome to participate in the joy of the Lord’s Resurrection. The crying stopped, and we both had a wonderful time at that liturgy. The Late Archbishop Job echoed the sentiments of our Parish Council. When anyone had a problem with my rambunctious daughter, he reminded us that Jesus called the little children to Himself, and that children would never be turned away at Holy Trinity Cathedral.
Families also have mothers, fathers, grandmothers, grandfathers. These also are abundant at Holy Trinity. Several parishioners are in their 80s or even late 90s. One lovely 96-year-old still makes delicious soups for parish dinners (or special coffee hours). She attends Liturgy every week. Another sings with the choir at every liturgy. She likes to remind us that Holy Trinity is her home, and she’s not going anywhere. That’s just how we should all be.
When we first arrived at the parish other parishioners welcomed my husband and me, and as our family grew, it became apparent that they were also our family. Our deacon and his wife stood as Godparents for our younger daughter. People often assume they are our daughters’ grandparents because we have become so close. When I went into labor with my younger daughter and needed someone to watch the older one in a pinch, we dropped her off with our priest and his wife until our originally scheduled caregivers could take over. I like to have some of the older ladies over for tea or brunch after weekday feasts, and sometimes just because we could all use a little extra company. Our parish family is always ready to help when they can.
Holy Trinity has a pretty illustrious history, but in my experience, it also has a very promising present. So, if you’re ever in the neighborhood, stop by and visit. You are always welcome, and if you come on a Saturday, we’ll even give you a tour!
Photo: Whimsical Wings Photography
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