painting by L. Steinbach

A Brief History of Good Shepherd

The dedication and persistence of a small group of Palos people led to the formation of a new church in a southwest suburb of Chicago.  Sparked by Mrs. Irene Hutzler, a few Lutherans kept working at the project until they persuaded the English District of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod to inaugurate worship services in the community. After three months of 7:00 P.M. “trial services” held in Palos East School, it was evident that there were some highly interested people in Palos anxious to have their own Congregation. The climax came in the formal organization of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd on February 4, 1953, representing 29 communicant members and 55 baptized souls.

Palos East School was the location for Worship Services until the Dedication of the Church of “award-winning design” on Pentecost Sunday in 1956. At that time, the membership totaled 210 communicant members. Later, items such as the parking lot, enlarged organ and stained glass windows were added. The parsonage, adjacent to the Church, was constructed in 1965.

Good Shepherd’s first Pastor was the Rev. Dr. Harry Huxhold. The Rev. Dr. Jaroslav Pelikan of the University of Chicago Divinity School served for a year as Assistant Pastor and then as Interim Pastor until the arrival of the Rev. Victor L. Brandt, who was installed in June, 1960. Pastor and Mrs. Brandt came to Palos from Amherst Church of suburban Buffalo, New York. Through the years, Mrs. Irene Brandt supported the ministry of Good Shepherd by serving as Church Organist, Junior and Bell Choir Director.

A major turning point in the life of this vibrant church family took place in the mid ’70s. In response to the controversies within the Missouri Synod, the decision was made in November of 1976 to become a charter congregation of the English Synod of the Association of Evangelical Lutheran Churches. At the time, Good Shepherd’s first two Pastors were elected vice presidents in the new Synod. Pastor Brandt would later become Bishop. This new association would ultimately lead to the formation of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America in January of 1988, bringing together more than 5.3 million American Lutherans represented by 11,000 congregations.

The Good Shepherd family took another new step in 1977 by calling an Associate Pastor to work with Pastor Brandt in expanding the congregation’s ministry. Wayne A. Basch, a native of Cleveland, Ohio, who was soon to graduate from Concordia Seminary in Exile, was called in February and ordained by Bishop Harold Hecht at Good Shepherd that May.

With the arrival of a second Pastor, attention was given to the enlargement of our facilities. In 1978 with a clear vision and a “Leap of Faith,” a major expansion of facilities including a multi-purpose “Family Life Center” was built. This $475,000 program demonstrated that the 25 year old Congregation was on the threshold of an enlarging ministry in the name of Christ.

Upon Bishop Brandt’s retirement from the parish ministry in October of 1986, Pastor Basch was called as Senior Pastor.  In January of 1993, a new ministry began with the addition of Diane Sweeney as Director of Christian Education. Mrs. Sweeney was another wonderful gift of God to His Church. She served as Director of Christian Education until August, 2002, when she resigned to devote more time to her family. When Diane left, Mrs. Lori Puttkammer accepted the position of Director of Children’s Ministry. Lori has brought joy and dedication to her work.  In 2003, another new ministry began as Ron Skoglund assumed the duties as the Director of Youth & Family Ministry.  Ron faithfully worked to see our youth and young people deepen their faith until the Fall 2019.

Our music staff experienced a great loss in 2009 upon the death of our Minister of Music, James Helfert, who had faithfully served for 27 years.  We are pleased that Aaron Basch has stepped forward to carry on the tradition as our Director of Music. We continue to be blessed by the talents of Cindy Gansel, Organist since 1986; Donna Choquette has served as Assistant Organist since 1989, and in 2005 began directing the Cherub Choir which was directed by Betty Jane Quigley since 1986.   We were pleased to welcome Michelle Podewell  as Director of the Joy Ringers this year after 10 years of service by Sue Hennessy.  In 2004, Joy Ausec began directing the Flute Choir. Our music ministry was enriched in 2006 with the addition of Kyle Gansel as the director of the Carillon Bell Choir and with Michelle Podewell as the director of the Jr. Choir in 2011.

The Office Staff which has been so ably and lovingly filled by Jan Elsner for 30 years has made a recent change with Donna Choquette assuming the duties of Administrative Assistant.  Donna will be assisted by Amy Meier who followed Donna Dinkmeyer after 25 years of service.  Jan Nelson has been our able custodian since 2001 after following the loving and dedicated services of Bob and Alma Kinstedt who held that position for 40 years.

The year 2001 was an especially exciting year in the life of Good Shepherd. After five years of planning and study and “Growing Together in Christ,” a capital fund campaign, the congregation broke ground on a three million dollar construction project including the building of a new sanctuary and a remodeling of our Sunday School and music space. All the hard work, dedication and commitment culminated with a faithful and festive dedication of our new facilities on March 17, 2002. The faithfulness, love and generosity of the church family has been abundantly evident in their support, thus enabling this project to be completed debt free.

2016 has begun another new chapter in the ministry of Good Shepherd with the calling of Rev. Chris Buresh as Associate Pastor.  Pastor Buresh and his wife Mandy have two children, Rachel and Adam and they look forward to celebrating faith, hope and love with the Good Shepherd family.  Pastor Basch retired in the summer of 2018 and Good Shepherd called Pastor Buresh as our Senior Pastor.

For over 60 years, Good Shepherd has been blessed with dedicated and capable members who, in turn, bless the church with their talents and leadership, each touching the life of our congregation with their unique reflection of God’s love. As Good Shepherd looks ahead, we do so with great gratitude for the blessings of the past, and with great hope and excitement about the possibilities and opportunities for sharing God’s love in Christ in the future.