History and Growth of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church in the USA
The Syro-Malabar Catholic Church, founded by St. Thomas the Apostle in South India, has a rich history of migration and growth in the United States. Established as the St. Thomas Syro-Malabar Catholic Diocese of Chicago in 2001, it has flourished over the years, catering to the spiritual needs of a growing community.
Migration and Establishment of Dioceses
The Syro-Malabar faithful embarked on a journey of migration, first settling in the Malabar region to the north and the High Ranges in the East. As farmers seeking better opportunities, they established their faith communities and built churches, leading to the formation of the Tellicherry and Kothamangalam dioceses in the 1950s.
Expansion to Different Cities
In the late 1960s and 1970s, a significant number of Syro-Malabar Catholics migrated to different cities in India, including Bombay, Delhi, Chennai, Bangalore, and Calcutta. To meet the spiritual needs of this dispersed community, the Kalyan Diocese was established in Bombay in 1988, and other cities like Bangalore, Chennai, and Delhi are awaiting dioceses.
Migration to Europe and the USA
In the third wave of migration, Syro-Malabar Catholics moved to Europe and the United States in search of better opportunities. Among the professionals, nurses played a vital role, in settling in major metropolitan cities and forming small communities. Initially referred to as “Malayalam Qurbana,” Holy Masses were organized by various Kerala Catholic Associations to preserve their cultural and religious identity.
Efforts for a Diocese in the USA
In 1996, His Excellency Mar Gregory Karotemprel, CMI, conducted a pastoral visitation to the USA and Canada, advocating for the establishment of a diocese for the Syro-Malabar faithful. His Beatitude Mar Varkey Cardinal Vithayathil, C.Ss.R., further reinforced this need during his extensive visit in 1998 and recommended hierarchical arrangements to Rome.
Establishment of St. Thomas Syro-Malabar Catholic Diocese of Chicago
On March 13, 2001, His Holiness Pope John Paul II established the St. Thomas Syro-Malabar Catholic Diocese of Chicago. Mar Jacob Angadiath was appointed as its first bishop, and his Episcopal Ordination took place on July 1, 2001. Later, on July 24, 2014, Pope Francis appointed Mar Joy Alappatt as the Auxiliary Bishop of the diocese.
The Journey Continues
The St. Thomas Syro-Malabar Catholic Diocese of Chicago has steadily grown, serving its community with 50 parishes, 34 missions, and 68 dedicated priests. The recent appointment of Mar Joy Alappatt as the second bishop marks another milestone in the journey of the Syro-Malabar Church in the United States.
The Syro-Malabar Catholic Church has a rich heritage and a remarkable history of migration and growth. The establishment of the St. Thomas Diocese in Chicago has been instrumental in providing spiritual care to the growing Syro-Malabar community in the USA, as it continues to thrive and preserve its cultural and religious identity.