The Armenian Church in Palos Heights, Illinois is likely the only Armenian Church in the world with the ecclesiastical name of Sts. Joachim & Anne. Godfather of the church, Mourod Fundukian, wished that the church be named after his parents, Hovagim and Armav Fundukian. The Primate of the Diocese, in discussion with Mr. Fundukian and the 1958 Parish Council, consecrated the parish as Soorp Joachim (Hovagim) & Anna after the Virgin Mary's parents.
Sts. Joachim & Anne parish did not begin in Palos Heights forty years ago. In fact, she has had an arduous journey from West Pullman, where she was first consecrated on November 30, l958, to Palos Heights, where she was reconsecrated in 1983. She has gone through four phases of spiritual and physical transformation. Presently, she serves the spiritual needs of a community that extends from Chicago's Southwest suburbs to all of Northern Indiana.
Sts. Joachim & Anne's history is intertwined with the history of Armenians in the Midwest, especially in West Pullman. It begins in the early l880’s when young men, mainly from the Turkish province of Kharpert and its villages of Peri, Mazgerd and Pertad, arrived in West Pullman to take jobs in the factories and plants. They settled, started families, and had their friends and relatives from the same villages join them. Their numbers grew dramatically after the 1915 Armenian Genocide. By the l920's the first parish to be established in the greater Chicago area began to take shape. Holy Savior Armenian Church of West Pullman was consecrated in l924. Sadly, the founding fathers of Holy Savior in l934, following the political events among Armenians in Chicago and elsewhere, suddenly found themselves to be without a church. For over twenty years thereafter, through the Great Depression of the thirties and on through World War II, this tightly knit community "made do" by holding services in each other's homes and rented sanctuaries. A young organist and choir director, Mrs. Genevieve Semerdjian, and the longtime altar servers of the church, Mr. Hovagim Fundukian and Nazar Halajian devoted themselves to directing the parish through these difficult times.
In 1957, at a special parish meeting, thirteen families pledged $7,000 toward building a new church; the Diocese provided them with a $3000 interest-free loan. A suitable building was bought and renovated. The first Sts. Joachim & Anne parish sanctuary was consecrated in l958. Soon afterwards, existing property adjacent to the building was purchased; and through the dedication and generosity of its members, all remaining debts were paid. By 1965, it was time to move the parish from what had been a converted storefront sanctuary to a new home in a newly designed sanctuary that was specifically Armenian in architecture.
The second location of Sts. Joachim & Anne Church was just next door to the first, and had its groundbreaking on May 30, l965. Work on the building was completed in less than a year. On April 17, l966, then Primate Archbishop Sion Manoogian consecrated the church and the hall. The new hall was named after benefactor, George Garabedian.
During this period, membership continued to grow with renewed immigration of Armenians from the Middle East. Also, during this era, demographic changes sweeping through Chicagoland were compelling enough to consider relocation to a suburban site. Accordingly, the West Pullman property was sold in l974. A new building committee was formed to execute plans for yet another church sanctuary, this time in suburban Palos Heights.
During this third phase, the community built the Hovanessian Cultural Hall--named aptly after generous benefactors, Dr. & Mrs. Raffy and Vicky Hovanessian. Here services were held until the formal sanctuary was built and consecrated in the spring of l983. The church kept its Sts. Joachim and Anne name, in tribute to its original Godfather. Sixteen new Godfathers of the Church, and many new benefactors sponsored the beautifully made stained-glass windows, pews, vestments, artifacts, fixtures, etc. that have been part of Sts. Joachim's present sanctuary for the past fifteen years.
With renewed strength derived from our parish's miraculous growth in the past decades, the next logical step was to acquire the services of a permanent pastor. Chairman Kegham Giragosian and the Parish Council instituted stewardship pledges, and hired the late Fr. Krikor Hairabedian in October 1985. When Fr. Hairabedian left to serve in New York, the search for a new pastor brought Fr. Diran Papazian and Yeretsgin Rosalie in January 1989. Shortly after Fr. Papazian's retirement in l993, Sts. Joachim & Anne welcomed her new pastor, Fr. Tavit Boyajian and Yeretsgin Tirouhi in January of 1995.
The life of the parish reached its acme in Palos Heights. Within a span of a few years in Palos Heights, the Armenians in the South Chicagoland had, once more, attempted and accomplished the blessed process of building a sanctuary, establishing a healthy parish, and were looking at a financially sound future. Besides hosting the Diocesan Assembly in spring of l983, the parish hosted the ACYOA Juniors regional conference, ACYOA Seniors "Take the Hye Road to Palos" Annual Sports Weekend, and the Diocesan 49th Annual Assembly of the Association of Church Choirs of America. Sts. Joachim & Anne "burned its mortgage" in l987. In the spring of 1993, the magnificent marble altars and specially commissioned altar paintings donated by Mr. & Mrs. Greg Srabian completed the beautification of the church sanctuary. In On December 9, 2001 His Eminence Abp. Khajag barsamina consecrated a beautiful ten foot high Khatchkar monumnet which was placed on the church grounds in memory of those who lost their lives during the genocide of 1915-1918. A multitude of fellowship events, programs, dinners, dances, cultural events, etc, enriched our parishioners' spiritual and ethnic identity.