Syro Malabar..

History

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History of Holy Family Syro-Malabar Catholic Church in Oklahoma

As a lot of Syro-Malabar Catholics emigrated to the major cities of India, it was difficult for them to practice their faith in their own rite outside Kerala.  On September 8, 1978 Pope John Paul II appointed His Eminence Antony Cardinal Padiyara, the then  Archbishop of Changnacherry, as the Apostolic Visitor to study the problems faced by the Syro-Malabar Catholics outside Kerala. The Indian visit of Pope Paul II in 1986 gave him a first hand experience of the strong faith of the Syro-Malabar Christians of India. The diocese of Kalyan was thus established on April 30, 1988 for the Syro-Malabar emigrants in Bombay. Now there are thirteen Syro-Malabar dioceses in other states of India to meet to the spiritual needs of the Syro-Malabar Catholics.


It was from the 1960s that a great number of Indian immigrants reached the United States and Canada. By the 1980s, the number of Syro-Malabar Catholics increased in large numbers in major cities. The Kerala catholic immigrants established several Syro-Malabar missions in different cities of the United States. His Excellency Mar Gregory Karotemeprel, Bishop of Rajkot, who was in charge of the Syro-Malabar migrants made a visit to the United States and Canada in 1996 to have a personal assessment of the situation of the Syro-Malabar Catholics. He sent the report of his assessment and evaluation to the Syro-Malabar Synod as well as to Rome. In his report, he requested for the establishment of a diocese for the Syro-Malabar faithfuls in USA and Canada.  In 1998 His Beatitude Mar Varkey Cardinal Vithayathil made an extensive visit to main cities of USA and Canada and he also recommended to Rome the need of a Syro-Malabar diocese in USA.  His Holiness, Pope Paul ll, recognizing the need to preserve the faith and liturgical tradition of the Syro-Malabar Catholics established the diocese (Eparchy) of Chicago on March 13, 2001, and appointed Fr. Jacob Angadiath as its first Bishop. Since its birth in 2001, the diocese has grown by leaps and bounds. In 2009 the St.Thomas Syro-Malabar Catholic Diocese of Chicago has 13 churches and 20 missions of which ten are Knanaya missions scattered all throughout USA and Canada.


In the 1970s there were only very few Syro-Malabar Catholics in Oklahoma City.  In 1978 all Indian Catholics in Oklahoma City met in the house of Mr. Jose Kunnath and discussed the need for an Indian catholic group to conduct our prayers and to promote our traditions and heritage. That was the beginning of the India Catholic Association in Oklahoma. Dr. Mathew Chathanatt was the first president of India Catholic Association, Dr K.M. George secretary and Mr. Justine Francis treasurer. There were catholic members not only from Kerala but also from other states in India belonging to Syrian and Latin rites. In the 1980s, the number of Syro-Malabar Catholics in Oklahoma City increased steadily. As the number increased the India Catholic Association became more vibrant and there were participation from the catholic families from Tulsa and Stillwater. In 1983 His Excellency Charles A. Salatka, then Archbishop of Oklahoma City (now diseased) celebrated a mass for Indian Catholics, blessed our association, praised the spirituality of Indian Catholics, and promised his help.  Until 1984 we did not have a regular Malayalee priest to conduct Holy Mass in Malayalam and for other spiritual needs.  It was all changed in 1984 when Fr. Jacob Angadiath came to Dallas as the associate pastor at St.Pius X Catholic Church.  Fr Angadiath was the first Syro-Malabar priest officially appointed to begin a Syro-Malabar ministry in USA.  He was very gracious to come to Oklahoma whenever we invited him for Holy Mass and other religious functions. On March 13, 2001 Fr. Angadiath was appointed as the first Bishop of the newly formed St. Thomas Syro-Malabar Catholic Diocese of Chicago. We are very happy to note that the Oklahoma City Catholic community of Kerala origin has a special and deep-rooted relationship to our Bishop Mar Jacob Angadiath.


India Catholic Association in Oklahoma had several able and enthusiastic presidents, secretaries, treasures, and members in the last three decades. Mr. Philip Joy, Mr. Joseph Kurian, Mr. Thomas Makel, Mr. Joseph Mathews, Mr. Joy C. Mathew, Mr. Bob Mathew, Mr. Joe Philips, and Mr. Philip Antony were past presidents of India Catholic Association. Medical Sisters of St. Joseph in Oklahoma City, Mr. Theophine Chamakala from Stillwater, and Dr. George Thivelikath from Tulsa provided valuable support to the association. This association had members belongs to Syro-Malabar and Knanaya, Syro-Malankara, and Latin rites. It was a true India Catholic Association. Every year we celebrated Easter, All Saints’ Day, and Christmas. During summer we had annual picnics and Christmas carols before Christmas. Association conducted yearly retreats and several cultural programs. Mr. Joseph Mathews and Mrs. Mariamma Kunnath took initiative, made arrangements, and brought priests for the annual retreats. In 1996 His Excellency Mar Gregory Karotemeprel during his American visit came to Oklahoma City accompanied by Fr. Jacob Angadiath. Before leaving Oklahoma City, Bishop Karotemeprel and Fr. Angadiath visited Most Reverend Eusebius J. Beltran, the Archbishop of Oklahoma City. The relationship started on that day is now alive and well and still flourishing.


Before the arrival of Fr. George Parackal in Oklahoma City in 2002, Fr. Joseph Vas from Sri Lanka, then Chaplain of St. Anthony’s Hospital, and Fr. Joseph Vadakkecherayath were our spiritual leaders and celebrated mass for us in all requested occasions. There were no regular Sunday Masses for Indian catholics in Oklahoma. The Indian catholic families in Oklahoma were members of local Catholic Churches for their religious needs. The occasional masses for the Indian Catholics were celebrated in various Catholic Churches in greater Oklahoma City area.


Realizing the spiritual needs of the Syro-Malabar catholics in Oklahoma, on July 15, 2002 Mar Jacob Angadiath appointed Rev. Fr. George Parackal as the spiritual leader of the Oklahoma City Syro-Malabar catholics. Fr. Parackal was made the chaplain of St Anthony’s Hospital and resident priest at St. Joseph Old Cathedral Church in Oklahoma City. On August 4, 2002, Fr. Parackal celebrated his first Holy Mass in Malayalam in St. Joseph’s Old Cathedral Church. Subsequently, he celebrated Holy Mass in Malayalam on every Sunday and looked after the spiritual needs of Syro-Malabar catholics until October 2007. In a general body meeting in August 2002, India Catholic Association was dissolved unanimously and Syro-Malabar Catholic Mission of Oklahoma was started and given the name of Holy Family Syro-Malabar Catholic Mission of Oklahoma. Since 2002, the arrival of several new catholic families helped to increase the mission membership. Sunday school was started and catechism was taught to youngsters under the leadership of Mrs. Ann Philips, the first religious education director. It was a dream of Syro-Malabar Catholics to have a place of their-own for their worship. Rev. Fr. George Parackal was very enthusiastic and determined about this matter. A building fund and fund raising efforts were started in December 2005. On September 2, 2007 a nine member building committee was formed to find a suitable church.


On November 7, 2008 Mar Jacob Angadiath appointed Rev. Fr. Davis Cherayath as the Mission Director and he became the spiritual leader of our mission. For the next five months, Fr. Cherayath celebrated the Holy Mass in the rented May Fair Center. Rev. Fr. Cherayath provided the leadership to find a church for our mission. On April 7, 2008 we purchased a church at 3916 S. Highland Park Dr, Oklahoma City, OK 73129. Families started registering as members of the new Holy Family Syro-Malabar church and pledged for building fund and for church maintenance. Currently, a total of 64 families attend our church of which 40 families have already registered. Generous contributions and pledges from members of the mission and others helped to purchase this church and help to keep it maintained. On April13, 2008 Mar Jacob Angadiath dedicated and inaugurated the church and Rev. Fr. Davis Cherayath became the first parish priest of our newly formed church.  Thus the Syro-Malabar Catholic Mission was changed to the Holy Family Syro-Malabar Catholic Church of Oklahoma. In April 2008, general body elected a parish council consisting of Fr. Davis, Mr. Thomas Abraham as trustee, Mr. Philip Antony as treasurer, Mr. Jobby Joseph as secretary, and other members. Subcommittees headed by parish council members were formed to carry-out all required day to day functions of our church. In May 2008, the Holy Family Church was divided into three wards for prayer and ward meetings. St Joseph ward covered Northwest Oklahoma City and Edmond, Infant Jesus ward covered southeast Oklahoma City and Yukon and St. Mary’s ward covered Southeast Oklahoma City and Midwest City. Each ward conducts ward meetings and prayers every month in member houses. Our Church has a talented Choir, devoted altar servants, dedicated Sunday school teachers, and devout liturgy. We are very fortunate to have Rev. Fr. Paul Kodakarakkaran from Tulsa always willing to celebrate Holy Mass for us on occasions of our vicar’s absence.


We are blessed by the visit of Most Reverend Eusebius J. Beltran, Archbishop of Oklahoma City to our church on August 9, 2008. His Excellency was very impressed with our parishioners and the special song and skit presentation by our Sunday school students. His Excellency is always helpful and supportive of our church and church efforts. Our church received generous help from the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City.  The Archdiocese provides our Parish Priest with accommodation and employment.


Our Holy Family Syro-Malabar Church is the result of the hard work, prayers, personal and financial support, and dedication of many people. They deserve our deep appreciation and profound gratitude. By no means, the work in the church is complete. There are several projects to be completed, the foremost being a moderate parish-hall. With God’s help and the support of all our parishioners everything is possible. May God bless our church and our church members!


Holy Family Syro-Malabar Catholic Church, Oklahoma City

Migration of the Syro- Malabar Catholics to Oklahoma City began in the early1970s.This continued in small numbers during the later years and it was in 1978 that the community joined together under the label, India Catholic association of Oklahoma City. All felt the urgent need to celebrate Holy Mass in their own original language and to give an awareness of their faith, tradition and heritage to their children. 

In1980s, the number of Syro- Malabar Catholics increased steadily. As the number increased, the India Catholic Association became more vibrant and there was the participation of the catholic families from Tulsa and Stillwater too. In 1983 His Excellency Charles Salaska, the then Archbishop of Oklahoma City ( now diseased) celebrated a Mass for the Indian Catholics, blessed the Association, praised the spirituality of Indian Catholics and promised his help. The Association had members belonging to Syro-Malabar including Knanaya, Syro-Malankara, and Latin rites. Thus it was India Catholic Association in its full sense. Every year they celebrated the great Feasts of Easter, All Saints’ Day, and Christmas and during Summer, annual picnic and before Christmas, Carol Service were conducted. Yearly retreats and several cultural programs were also undertaken by the Association.

Up until 1984, when Fr. Jacob Angadiath came to Dallas as the Associate Pastor at St. Pius X Catholic Church., they did not have a regular Malayali priest to celebrate Holy Mass and offer spiritual ministry in Syro- Malabar tradition. He had the good will to come to Oklahoma whenever invited, for Holy Mass and other religious functions. His service, along with the help of Frs. Joseph Vas, the then Chaplain at St. Anthony Hospital, and Joseph Vadakkechirayath was continued till March 2001 when Fr. Jacob Angadiath was appointed as the first Bishop of the newly formed St. Thomas Syro-Malabar Catholic Diocese of Chicago and till Fr. George Parackal was appointed as the first Director of the Syro- Malabar Mission, Oklahoma City in 2002. Thus, the Oklahoma City Syro Malabar Catholic community has a special and deep-rooted relationship to our Bishop Mar Jacob Angadiath. In 1996,  His Lordship  Mar Gregory Karotemprel, during his American visit, came to Oklahoma City accompanied by Fr. Jacob Angadiath and celebrated Holy Mass at St. Philip Neri Church, Midwest City and explained the purpose of his visit as commissioned by the Syro Malabar Bishops,  to the  Malayali catholics gathered there. He asserted the need to build up the community of Syro Malabar Catholics and hand over its tradition and rich heritage to the coming generation.  Before leaving Oklahoma City, Bishop Karotemprel and Fr. Angadiath visited the Archbishop of Oklahoma City and the relationship started on that day has been alive and ever more flourishing till this day.   

Syro-Malabar Catholic Mission to Syro-Malabar Catholic Church of Oklahoma

Realizing the spiritual needs of the Syro- Malabar Catholics of Oklahoma City, Fr. George Parackal was appointed as the first Director of the Mission. A meeting was convened at the residence of Prof. Zacharias Vadakkethalackal on July 27, 2002 to discuss about the future plans. This meeting of about thirty people was the first get- together of the Oklahoma Catholic community under the direction of Fr. Parackal and he offered the first Holy Mass in the capacity of the Mission Director, on August 4, 2002 (Feast Day of St. John Maria Vianney) at St. Joseph’s Old Cathedral, Oklahoma City.   He was appointed by the Archdiocese of Oklahoma, the chaplain at St. Anthony Hospital and resident priest at St. Joseph Old Cathedral. The Holy Mass began to be celebrated in Malayalam and the Faith Formation classes to be conducted on every Sunday at St. Joseph’s Old Cathedral. In a general body meeting, India Catholic Association was formally and unanimously dissolved and Syro-Malabar Catholic Mission of Oklahoma City came in to being under the name of Holy Family Syro-Malabar Catholic Mission of Oklahoma.

In the years 2004 and 2005 there was a sudden boost to the growth of the community due to the arrival of several nurses and their families from Saudi Arabia and other gulf countries to the city sponsored by the major hospitals in Oklahoma City.  The new families were very religious, faithful, and generous and this gave a new impetus to the community to look for a place of their own for their worship and to satisfy the varied needs of the growing community.  Fr. George Parackal was very enthusiastic and determined about this matter and fund raising efforts were started.

It was a great blow to the community when in October 2007 the mission lost the service of Fr. Parackal and the facility of St. Joseph Old Cathedral to the mission. However, Mar Jacob Angadiath appointed Fr. Davis Chirayath as the Mission Director on November 7, 2008 and for the next five months Holy Mass was celebrated in the rented May Fair Center. The efforts for the new church continued under the leadership of Fr. Chirayath and the dream was

realized  when the present church was purchased in April 2008  at 3916 Highland Park Dr., Oklahoma City,  and was consecrated on April 13, 2008 by Mar Jacob Angadiath. Thus the Mission became a full- fledged parish with the name Holy Family Syro-Malabar Catholic Church of Oklahoma City and Fr. Davis Chirayath as the first Vicar.

Most Reverend Eusebius J. Beltran, the former Archbishop of Oklahoma City, was always helpful and supportive of our church from its birth to its infancy.  This is continued in great measure by his successor, Archbishop Paul. S. Coakley.   The Archdiocese provides the Parish Priest with very convenient and safe accommodation at the Pastoral Centre of the Archdiocese and employment aschaplains in the hospitals, accepting him as the member of the Presbyterate,   and considers the Syro -Malabar Parish as part of the Archdiocese.

When Fr. Chirayath returned to his own diocese in Kerala in December 2011, Fr. Kuriakose Kumbakeel took charge in January 2012 and he gave vitality to the community with new reforms till his transfer as the Forane Vicar of Coral Springs, Florida in November 2013. Fr. Paul Kottackal came as his successor in December 2013. He built and beautified the Pastor’s office, sacristy, vestry etc. within the short period of his ministry which ended in December 2014 when he joined the Latin Diocese of Corpus Christi, Texas. Dr. Francis Nampiaparambil who was the Mission Director of Hartford, Connecticut, took charge as the new Vicar on the 16th of December, 2014.

The growth and achievements of the Oklohoman Syro- Malabar Community, in its short span of beginning and growth, are really remarkable. Though the size of the community is comparatively small with just fifty two families, the united effort with one mind has led the Parish to this extent to own a church and a small hall with three acres of land. It looks forward to achieving greater aims in the near future.

(Edited and compiled by Dr. Francis Nampiaparambil, depending on the different written sources available and the records provided by Fr. George Parackal, the first Mission Director)

April 15, 2016.

 

Syro Malabar..

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