A brief history of the Syro Malabar Catholic Missions in New York and New Jersey
From 1999 to 2014
You have been dreaming about a Syro Malabar Church of your own in this tri-state metropolitan area for the last 30 years since your immigration to the United States. Many of you were earnestly praying for that dream to become true.
In 1993 many of your representatives and leaders met together and drafted a memorandum with more than thousand signatures. You sent it to the Syro Malabar Bishops Synod through the then Major Archbishop Mar Antony Cardinal Padiyara. Mar Abraham Kattumana, the pontifical delegate and administrator took this memorandum seriously and selected me, Fr.Jos Kandathikudy, from the Diocese of Mananthavady to be sent to New York. The Synod requested Bishop Mar Gregory Karottemprel, the chairman of the commision for evangelization and migrants in America, to contact the Hierarchy in New York and New Jersey to establish Syro Malabar Catholic Missions in this tri-state Metropolitan Cities and to appoint me,Fr.Jos, as the director. Thus he contacted His Eminence John Cardinal O’Connor of New York Archdiocese, and His Grace Theodore McCarric of Newark Archdiocese. He also contacted the Bishops of Brooklyn and Rockvillecentre. But they were not favorable to his request.
So I was sent to Chicago in 1995. I worked in the Arch diocese of Chicago as the director of the Syro Malabar Catholic Mission established by His Eminence Joseph Cardinal Bernardin. I divided this community geographically into 14 ward prayer groups and conducted Bible classes every month in each ward. The Arch diocese of Chicago honored me as the excellent Religious Instruction Director and presented me an achievement Award. Our Major Archbishops Mar Antony Cardinal Padiyara and Mar Varkey Cardinal Vithayathil visited this mission, participated in the liturgical services and Bible classes and expressed their love and appreciation for the organic growth of the Mission. We had established all parish pious associations in the mission. Every Sunday we published colorful news bulletins. As the apostolic Visitator, Bishop Gregory Karottembrel visited our mission several times. I arranged his apostolic visits to 44 Cities in USA and conducted Syro Malabar meetings and spoke to them about their Syro Malabar identity and the need for establishing a Syro Malabar Diocese in this country. We motioned a mass petition and memorandum with almost 2000 signatures and entrusted to Bp. Gregory to be presented to The Holy Father.
Finally in 1999 after repeated requests , Bp.Gregory succeeded to get a green light from New York, and transferred me from Chicago to New York City to establish a Mission in this tri-state Metropolitan area where majority of Malayalees are settled from 1965 onwards. But no appointment order was issued from New York even in June 1999. Then I accompanied His Excellency Bishop Gregory to meet His Eminence Mar John Cardinal O’Conor and convince him about the urgent need of establishing a Syro Malabar Mission in New York. Yet no favorable reply was received in spite of several correspondence. At last Mar Varkey Vithayathil our Major Archbishop went to meet the Cardinal O’Conor. Msgr. Stern, the president of the CNEWA argued and interceded for us and then the Cardinal agreed to establish a Mission in New York and to appoint me its Director.
On 27th September I came off from Chicago and took charge of this Mission on the 1st of October 1999. On October 1st 1999 he erected a Syro Malabar Catholic Mission in New York Archdiocese and appointed me its first Director and allotted me residence at St.Antony’s Church in Nanuet, Rockland County and accommodated our Liturgical celebrations at St.Joseph’s Shrine Church in Spring Valley and at Psychiatric Centre Chapel in Orangeburg.
After my arrival I was staying 3 days a week at Nanuet. I tried to make a survey by family visits and circulated a membership (census) form to collect detailed statistics. Many of you have filled up and returned those forms. Besides Sunday Masses at the St.Joseph’s Shrine Church in Spring Valley and at the Queen of Peace Chapel of the Psychiatric Centre in Orangeburg. We established St.Vincent De Paul Society in Rockland, and started Novena of the Mother of Perpetual Help on all Saturdays in Spring Valley.
Staying three days in a week at the Ascension Church in New Milford of the Archdiocese of Newark we started Novena of the Mother of Perpetual Help on all Wednesdays in New Milford. Moreover we started Bible Study Classes and prayer groups at Spring Valley, Yonkers, Bloomfield, Brooklyn, Union City and New Milford. We established the traditional ten days rosary and benediction in Rockland and Bergen Counties. I have visited most of our liturgical centers and communities and celebrated Holy Masses. I have preached retreats to our adults and youth in almost all our centers. We could organize 4 times three days’ stay in retreats for our youth at Peekskill Convent. We then established an adult choir and a children’s choir. In short, the Syro Malabar Catholic Mission in New York, and New Jersey have made tremendous spiritual progress.
As a result of many of my memorandoms I initiated while in Chicago for a Syro Malabar Diocese, and according to the report of Bishop Gregory Karottemprel, the apostolic Visitator, the Holy Father Pope John Paul the 2nd established a new Syro Malabar Diocese on March 13th, 2001 for all the St.Thomas Christians migrated to the united states and Canada. On July 1st 2001, the inauguration of the new diocese and the Consecration of Mar Jacob Angadiath, my successor in Chicago, as the 1st Bishop of the St. Thomas Syro Malabar Diocese of Chicago was very solemly conducted at Chicago during the 2nd Syro Malabar Convention.
Since then I was trying to find out and visit all our families in the Bronx, Manhattan, New Rochelle, White Plaines, Yonkers, Hawthorn, Thornwood, Scarsdale, Portchester, Tarytown, Peekskill, and Upper Westchester collecting datas in a membersip registration form. Then I started searching for a suitable church to accommodate our community of North East, in the the Greater New York. I approached the Archdiocese of New York and they have graciously agreed to give us their St. Valentine’s Church at 810, E. 221st Street in the Bronx.NY.10467.
Now our dream is realized. On the 9th of March, 2002 I convened an urgent meeting of the migrant Syro Malabar Families. We formed an ad hoc committee to organize it’s inauguration on the 24th of March 2002 –the Palm Sunday at 5.00 pm. We proposed to re name this Church as “ST.THOMAS SYRO MALABAR CATHOLIC CHURCH’.
On the 24th of March 2002, His Excellency Mar Jacob Angadiath, the bishop of the St. Thomas Syro Malabar Catholic Diocese of Chicago, inaugurated it. Thus Bronx became the third Parish of this new diocese. The St. Valentine’s Church of the Archdiocese of New York, was allotted to the Syro Malabar Community by His Eminence Edward Cardinal Egan. Bishop Jacob renamed the Church as St.Thomas Syro Malabar Catholic Church and declared it a Parish and annouced that Fr.Jos Kandathikudy is appointed its first Vicar, who was working in New York and New Jersey as the Director of the Syro Malabar Missions in both States from October 1st, 1999 onwards.
On 5th May 2002 we convened a “Pothuyogam” and established different committees with their chair persons to form the 1st Parish council and Jose Malaickal was the 1st Trustee with Abraham Kanji as the 1st Treasurer. I started visiting all families and formed 10 geographical wards and started prayer groups and Bible Classes. We started Sunday School for religious intructions and started all parish pious associations like Bronx Soldiers, Jesus Youth, Catholic Women’s Association(CWA), Society of Franciscan Order (SFO), Society of St. Vincent De Paul (SVDP), Mission League (CML), Syro Malabar Catholic Congress (SMCC). Bible classes are regularly conducted in all wards. White Plaines Ward finished 102 classes and the other wards are coming closer to 100. We have 25 parish council members including 3 Trustees. We publish regular Sunday bulletins and we updated our Website on February 23rd, 2014. Bishop Joseph Kunnath of Adilabad launched it.
Prepared by Fr.Jos Kandathikudy .