The Syro Malabar Catholic Church is one of the 22 Catholic denominations usually called “Rites” in full communion with the pope in Rome. It is the third largest catholic denomination. Syro Malabar is an apostolic church, which traces its origin to St. Thomas the Apostle who came to Cragannore (presently known as Kodungaloor), Kerala India in AD 52 and founded seven Christian communities. At present this is a Major Archi Episcopal Church with an elected Major Archbishop as it head.
Syro Malabar Catholics began immigrating to the United States in the 1960’s. There are currently more than 90,000 Syro Malabar church members in the US. They are united under a single diocese at present as the St. Thomas Syro Malabar Catholic Diocese of Chicago. More than 170 Syro Malabar Catholic families worship at the mission in Rockland. On
July 1,2012 the Syro Malabar Catholic Mission moved to St. Boniface church parish at Wesley Hills New York. Until then the Rockland Mission had worshipped at Our Lady Queen of Peace chapel at Rockland Psychiatric Centre (RPC) Orangeburg
Fr.George Kalapura CMI (a Malayalee Religious priest) was working in Rockland for the Archdiocese of New York in the early 1990’s. He organized prayer meetings in the homes of Syro Malabar and Syro Malankara Catholics and eventually started the Syro Malabar Masses in Malayalam at RPC. Chaplain Mgr.Cox followed by Rev.Fr. Driscoll granted permission to Fr.George Kalapura CMI to celebrate Malayalam Masses at OLQP Chapel initially on the second Sunday of the month and later every Sunday. This was the beginning of the Syro Malabar Liturgy in Rockland under one banner.
Rockland Syro Malabar Catholics under India Catholic Association
There was no appointed clergy representing the Syro Malabar or Syro Malankara Church from Kerala. So the scattered laymen organized themselves and formed the
Indian Catholic Association of New York comprising of all the catholic denominations. The ICA took the leadership for the spiritual needs of their members for a quarter century inviting religious and diocesan priests from Kerala and working in the tri state area.
Fr. George Kalapura moved to Houston Texas The India Catholic Association took over the responsibility of worshipping in Malayalam Liturgy at OLQP chapel at RPC. There were no priests appointed to serve the spiritual needs of the people. So priests from Westchester, Bronx and New Jersey were brought in to celebrate Malayalam Masses at the RPC chapel every second Sunday of the month.
Fr George Vadakel, Fr. Abraham Orapankal, Fr Abraham Vallayil were some of the early visiting priests.
In the mean time
Fr. Jos Kandathikudy was delegated to Rockland on October 1
st,1999 to look in to the possibilities of organizing a Syro Malabar Community/Mission by the Apostolic Bishop. He was given residence at St. Anthony’s church, Nanuet by the New York Arch Diocese. He registered Syro Malabar Catholic Mission in Rockland, grouping together a few people and took over the Malayalam Liturgy services from the India Catholic Association.
Liturgical services in Malayalam began at St. Joseph’s Church, Spring Valley and continued at OLQPC chapel in Orangeburg. Fr Jose Kandathikudy started the Novena to Our Lady of Perpetual Help on Saturdays. A year later because of the lack of space at St.Joseph”s Chapel the services were moved to Our Lady Queen of Peace chapel in Orangeburg with blessings of
Fr.Driscoll, the chaplain.
THE FIRST SYRO MALABAR CATHOLIC DIOSCESE IN THE US
On March 13, 2001 His Holiness Pope John Paul II established St. Thomas Syro Malabar Catholic Diocese of Chicago. Mar Jacob Angadiath was appointed the first bishop and his episcopal ordination was on July 1,2001 with the inauguration of diocese. His Eminence Cardinal Eagan allotted St. Valentine’s Church of the Arch Diocese of New York in the Bronx to the Syro Malabar Community in 2002.
The Church was renamed St. Thomas Syro Malabar Catholic Church and declared it a parish. Bishop Mar Jacob Angadiathu appointed Rev.
Fr. Jos Kandthikudy as its first vicar on March 24, 2002.
This created a vacuum in the Rockland mission. Rockland Mission was left with no priest after Fr. Jos Kandathikudy left as vicar of the Bronx church. Bishop Mar Jacob Angadiath appointed Fr
Abraham Vallayil CMI who was serving as an associated pastor at St. Catherine’s church Blauvelt, as Rockland Mission director. Fr. Abraham Vallayil started Holy Mass every Saturday and Sunday of the week.
Negotiating for OLQP Chapel at Rockland Psychiatric center.
On October 2002 the parish committee with the mission director Fr. A.Vallayil started negotiating with the Arch Diocese of New York to buy the OLQP chapel. At a crucial meeting held on the 18
th of February 2005 at the Archdiocese Head quarters with Chancellor Msgr. Thomas Gilleece and attorney Mr. David Brown, affirmed the commitment of the Arch Diocese to transfer the chapel to the Syro Malabar Community, pending transfer of the land by the New York State on which the chapel is built. Immediately the director and the committee began to raise funds to purchase the chapel from the New York Arch Diocese. Due to several unresolved issues the deal did not go through. Mgr. E. Nevin the administrator of OLQP chapel finally closed the chapel and its services in July of 2013.
In the meantime Fr.Abraham Vallayil left for India and
Fr. Antony Kudukkamthadthil MST was appointed the new Mission director in July 2005. He also served as the associate pastor at St. Catherine’s church. Fr Anto made good progress in attracting more families to the Mission. He started CCD classes from grade 1-8. He organized retreats for the spiritual needs of the community. In August 2010 after five years of dedicated service he went back to India to continue his mission work in the state of Madhya Pradesh
Rev. Fr. Thadeus Aravindathu was appointed the Director of Syro-Malabar Catholic Mission, Rockland with effect from August 15, 2010. Fr. Thadeus hails from the Archdiocese of Ernakulam-Angamaly. With no place to call a home Fr.Thadeus was given a place to stay at St. Francis Assisi Church in West Nyack due to the generosity of Msgr. Edward Weber.
Fr.Thadeus has been instrumental in negotiating with Cardinal Dolan to get a church for our community. In 2012 Cardinal Dolan with a public proclamation gave Rockland Syro Malabar Catholics a permanent home at St Boniface church in Wesley Hills, which they had been seeking for over 15 years. Fr.Tahdeus also have been serving the the Latin Community of St.Boniface church.
ST. Boniface Church Wesley Hills NY. Our New Home starting July 1st,2012
More than 500 people filled St. Boniface Church in Wesley Hills on
Aug.1st 2012 to celebrate the inauguration of the
St. Mary’s Syro-Malabar Catholic mission. Cardinal
George Alencherry of Ernakulam-Angamaly, the major archbishop of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church, traveled from Cochin, India, to preside at the three-hour evening celebration. The liturgy marked the move of the Rockland community Syro-Malabar Catholic mission to St. Boniface parish. Until July 1, the group had worshiped at Our Lady Queen of Peace Chapel at the Rockland Psychiatric Center.
Archbishop Alencherry was joined at the altar by more than 20 priests and bishops, including Auxiliary
Bishop Gerald Walsh, vicar for clergy for the NY Archdiocese and
Bishop Jacob Ang
diath of the St.Thomas Syro-Malabar Catholic diocese of Chicago and
Kunnath of Adilibad, India. Father Hugh Grace, who recently retired as pastor of St. Boniface parish, and Msgr. Edward Weber.
Our community has grown under the strong leadship of our vicar
Fr. Thadeus Aravindathu. We are known as
St.Mary's Syro Malabar Church. At present We have over 170 children attending CCD classes, up to grade 10. We have various Liturgical committees and groups with over 450 members attending our sunday Holy Mass in Malayalam.