While on a pilgrimage to Rome, George and Jo Ann Lazansky's faith was tested to the utmost when their airplane was hijacked and held hostage by terrorists.
TWA Flight 847 from Athens to Rome was hijacked June 14, 1985, by Shiite Hezbollah militants who forced the plane to land in Beirut, Lebanon.
The Lazanskys were among 20 members of the St. Margaret Mary Parish in Algonquin taken hostage that day. The parish family, and the world, prayed, watched and waited on edge as events unfolded. Most of the passengers were released unharmed after 17 days in captivity.
George Lazansky said God never abandoned them throughout the ordeal, which strengthened the couple's faith.
"It gave us time for prayer," said Lazansky, 82. "We were concerned not only about each other, but we were concerned about our families back home. It not only affected the group that (was) on the tour, it affected the community. When your life is taken away, you have no control, you just wonder what is next. You just turn to God and pray, and that we did. We now know that our community back here was doing that also."
The Lazanskys will share the story of their harrowing experience as part of the "Faith on Fire!" series from 7:30 to 9 p.m. Tuesday at the church's McDonnell Hall, 111 S. Hubbard St.
The talk is among the highlights of the church's centennial year celebrations, which kicked off in October.
"The idea is that each month we are going to have a timeline covering stories of faith within a certain decade," said Greg Haluczak, publicity chairman for the parish's centennial committee. "Just kind of make it an ongoing series that's hopefully relevant."
The centennial theme is "A Century of Faith and Community: 1915-2015."
In 1915, St. Margaret Mary Parish was a mission church along the Fox River where Cornish Park stands today. It was formed by the Rev. Joseph Lonergan, who founded several parishes, including Saints Peter and Paul in Cary, with the help of 26 families. The new church was dedicated on Thanksgiving Day.
Today, the parish has grown to 3,300 families comprising mainly European, English, Irish, Filipino and Polish origins. It has more than 300 ministries serving the parish and Algonquin communities.
"This is actually the third building, which we've had since 1983," Haluczak said. "We have 16 families that go back four generations or better."
In 2002, church officials purchased 10 acres from Hampshire-based Community Unit District 300 with the former Eastview Elementary School building. It allowed for the church's grade school to expand, from prekindergarten through eighth grade.
Among the events being planned to mark the centennial year is a special collection for food pantry items -- spices, toiletries and candy -- before Christmas. In January, there will be a joint, ecumenical service along with several Algonquin churches.
In June, the church's Polish pastor, the Rev. Peter Sarnicki, will lead a group pilgrimage to Poland in the footsteps of the late Pope John Paul II.
During the nine-day trip, parishioners will visit Warsaw, Krakow and a mountain retreat where John Paul learned to ski, Haluczak said.
Throughout the year, parishioners also are being encouraged to participate in the church's "100 Good Deeds for 100 Great Years" campaign. While they will be given some suggestions to trigger ideas, parishioners can choose whatever good deed they want to perform.
"Hopefully, that will make it easy for them to come up with their own actions," Haluczak said. "At some point, we are going to try to recap how many deeds did get accomplished, be they small or large."
Centennial celebrations will culminate with a closing Mass and banquet in October at the Boulder Ridge Country Club in Lake in the Hills.
For more information, call (847) 658-7625 or visit SMMnext100.org.