Diocese: Bulgarian Diocese
Deanery: Bulgarian Diocese Chancery
5944 W Cullom Ave
Chicago, Illinois 60634
St John of Rila Church is conveniently located in Jefferson Park area of Chicago, one block south of W Montrose Ave and one block east of N Austin Ave, approximately 11 miles from downtown Chicago; approximate travel time from downtown is 21 minutes.
From downtown Chicago
Take I-90 west, take the Irwing Park exit west. Turn left onto W Irwing Park Ave, turn right onto N Central Ave, and turn left onto W Cullom Ave. The Church is on the right.
From the west suburbs
Take I-90 east, exit at the N Austin Ave exit. After 1.4 miles turn onto W Cullom Ave. The Church is on the left.
Schedule of Services
Services are held in Church Slavonic, Bulgarian, and English.
10:30 AM Divine Liturgy.
Confessions are heard one half-hour before the Liturgy.
Please call 773-794-2470 or fax 773-427-8155 for schedule of other services, or to arrange Baptisms, Marriages, Memorials, Thanksgiving and other special Services.
In February of 1996, a group of several individuials took the initiative to establish the new Bulgarian Orthodox Church of St John of Rila, Wonderworker to answer the need for an indigenous place of worship for the ever-growing Bulgarian community in Chicago. Today, with its unofficial estimate of 80,000 Bulgarians, Chicago is the largest single Bulgarian settlement in the United States.
With the blessing of the Most Rev Kyrill, Archbishop of Pittsburgh and the Bulgarian Diocese, Fr Valentin Noztkov celebrated the first Divine Liturgy in March, 1996 at the kindergarten of one of the church’s members. After 7 months, with the help and the blessing of His Grace Bishop Iakovos of Chicago, the faithful were given the opportunity to celebrate services at the Holy Cross Chapel, which is part of the St Andrew Greek Orthodox Church in Chicago.
From the very beginning, the parish began making plans and raising funds for its own temple. By the end of its second year, St John of Rila had grown substantially. Some young, intelligent, well educated and professional people joined the church during that period. With their help and the support of the parish trustees, a number of options for a new and larger facility were considered. During its meeting at the end of November 1998, the church board decided to take part in the sealed bid auction on December 10, 1998, bidding for Peace Lutheran Church at 5944 W Cullom Ave in Chicago.
Originally constructed in 1928, this beautiful brick and limestone church building has approximately 3,979 sq ft above grade area, including a 552 sq ft balcony, overlooking the main church floor, and seats approximately 216 people. The 3,427 sq ft finished basement has a large auditorium with stage and a fully-equipped kitchen. All of these features, together with the highly visible corner location, at Mason and Cullom Aves, made the Peace Lutheran Church very attractive and suitable for all of St John of Rila’s needs. Everything that followed is in the history books.
In a highly competitive auction, St John of Rila won the building. On February 4, 1999, the president of the church signed all the necessary documents. A few days later, on February 7, 1999, the first services at the new beautiful church were celebrated.
In 2008, the church went under reconstruction. The Altar was moved to face east. A new entrance was constructed. The Sunday School wing was also renovated to add six new classrooms. The South Gate of the Church is handicapped-accessible.
Today, St John of Rila is the spiritual home for over 150 children and adults, with their numbers at holiday services swelling to over 400. The church proved to be an extremely important center for the Bulgarians in Chicago because of the specificity of the national churches in America to function not only as a religious place, but also as an important social center devoted to maintaining social awareness, language, and tradition through Sunday schools and social gatherings.