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Saint's roots traced back to Streator

Priest makes regular trips to bless Russian cemetery

A Russian Orthodox cemetery on the north side of St. Anthony's Cemetery features a grave marker for St. John Kochurov, the patron saint of St. John of Chicago, whose roots trace back to Streator.
A Russian Orthodox cemetery on the north side of St. Anthony's Cemetery features a grave marker for St. John Kochurov, the patron saint of St. John of Chicago, whose roots trace back to Streator.

Father Andrew Harrison of St. John of Chicago Church in New Lenox makes a regular stop in Streator to bless the Russian Orthodox cemetery at the north side of St. Anthony's Cemetery.

Within the cemetery is a grave marker for St. John Kochurov.

St. John is the patron saint of St. John of Chicago, a traditional Russian Orthodox church, and while his name is used in New Lenox, his roots are tied to Streator.

The Church of the Three Hierarchs, formerly located in Streator, was commissioned by Tsar Alexander III of Russia and it was largely made up of pieces from the Russian Pavilion from the 1893 World's Fair in Chicago.

Harrison said St. John organized the shipping of the parts to Streator via train and the parish flourished during his tenure as its leader until he left both the Streator church and the Chicago church to return to Russia because of his homesickness.

"St. John Kochurov was recently canonized in our church and there wasn't a parish named after him, which I found strange because he's referred to as St. John of Chicago," Harrison said. "I don't know if there are any relatives left from the original group that attended church there, but I'd love to meet them if there are."

St. John was murdered in November 1917 during the Bolshevik Revolution in Petrograd, Russia.

Harrison said he was surprised to see how well kept the Russian Orthodox cemetery at the north side of St. Anthony's Cemetery has been.

"I came to town three years ago and we've actually blessed the graves every July since," Harrison said. "I was looking around, going from cemetery to cemetery when there was a man walking and he took me right to it."

As for the Church of the Three Hierarchs, the building was torn down in 1964 after it was sold to Beulah Baptist in 1910; it was sold to St. Casimir Catholic Church later, whose parish cited poor building conditions as the reason for tearing it down.

The original building featured the traditional large domes and artwork typical of Russian architecture and was designed by Petrovo Ropette, who also designed the Russian display at the World's Fair.

Harrison will be in Streator to bless the cemetery at 1:30 p.m. Sunday, July 14, and he urges the community to come out.

"There's not a huge difference between Orthodox and Catholic," Harrison said. "We're a much smaller group but our traditions have stayed mostly the same."

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