St. Jude Philadelphia Church, History
The early Malankara immigrants prospered in the land of their choice, but they greatly yearned for the Malankara Liturgical Service, which was the center and the sustenance of their spiritual life in India. Their long cherished dream of the Malankara community came true when His Grace, the Most Rev. Benedict Mar Gregorios OIC, the Archbishop of Trivandrum and the head of the Malankara Catholic Hierarchy visited United States of America and Canada in August of 1982 and established prayer groups in major cities of this country. Since then, in Philadelphia, regular prayer meetings were held at the residence of members and Holy Masses were celebrated as and when Malankara priests were available. The presence of Rev. Ignatius Thangalathil OIC, a Malankara missionary priest who was on special assignment in New York, was the driving force in the formation of a Malankara community in Philadelphia in early 1983.
The subsequent visits of the Archbishop in 1993 and 1994 helped the community to stay strong and united. The Inauguration of the Malankara Catholic Mission of North America, at Fordham University (New York) in 1984, gave new hope and aspiration to all Malankarites in the United States, in general, and Philadelphia, in particular.
In March of 1985, Archbishop Mar Gregorios, in consultation with His Eminence John Cardinal Krol, Archbishop of Philadelphia, appointed Rev. Fr. John Kalloor to minister the spiritual needs of the Malankarites in Philadelphia and Washington. Under the guidance of Fr. Kalloor, the Malankara Catholic Community in Philadelphia blossomed and took over the shape of a full fledged parish with regularly scheduled Malankara Liturgy celebrated at Incarnation of Our Lord Church. While organizing the community, Fr. Kalloor initiated the Malankara Catholic Youth Movement (MCYM), which became the corner stone building of the parish.
Rev. Fr. Varghese Edathil, the successor of Fr. Kalloor, took charge of the community on March 30, 1987. He served as an associate pastor of Incarnation and spiritual director of the Malankara faithful. Under his leadership, Malankara Children’s League was inaugurated for the benefit and convenience of our youngsters, and religious instruction classes were initiated to provide a strong moral background, rooted in a strong Malankara faith. The timely paternal visit of Mar Gregorios, was the lifeline of the community. At the urging of Mar Gregorios, His Eminence Anthony Cardinal J. Bevilaqua, Archbishop of Philadelphia, officially established the Malankara Catholic Mission of Philadelphia on May 2, 1988. Rev. Fr. Alexander Panamkunil was the successor of Rev. Fr. Varghese and took charge as the Associate pastor of Incarnation and spiritual director of Malankara Catholics in October 1991. Fr. Alexander tirelessly worked for the spiritual growth and unity of the community. In April 1995, Rev. Fr. John Kalloor succeeded Rev. Fr. Alexander as the parochial vicar of Incarnation Church and spiritual director of the Malankara Catholic Mission of Philadelphia until he became the second bishop of the diocese of Marthandom in 1999.
Rev. Fr. Chacko Thadathil succeeded Rev. Fr. Kalloor in 1999 and led the community successfully. Rev. Fr. Geevarghese Vaidan succeeded Rev. Fr. Thadathil in 2002 and continued until 2006. Rev. Fr. Joseph Sundaram succeeded Rev. Fr. Vaidan until his appointment as the Vicar General of the Marthandom in 2010. It was under his dynamic leadership that the Malankara Catholic Church in Philadelphia brought its own Church and building. Rev. Fr. John Thundiyath was the interim vicar for six months as Rev. Fr. Joseph Sundaram left. Rev. Fr. Thomas Malayil took the charge as vicar in September 2010 and he is successfully leading the community to new horizons. We are profoundly happy that Rev. Fr. Jacob John, the assistant vicar of the Malankara Catholic Church in New Jersey, is a member of our parish.
The Philadelphia Malankara Church is extremely proud of its member, Brother Michael Edathil, who is in the formation of becoming a Malankara Catholic priest. The community was blessed by the gracious visits of all the Bishops of the Malankara Catholic Church.
Two family conferences of the Malankarites of the Eastern regions (New York, New Jersey, Washington and Philadelphia) were conducted in Philadelphia (1993 and 1995) to promote unity and solidarity among Malankarites and to discuss and evaluate issues pertaining to our life in this country and to find practical solutions to our individual needs. The second family conference was led and directed by His Excellency Mar Timotheos. The Philadelphia Malankara Catholic Mission hosted the Fourth and Millennium National Convention in 2000 with great success. The convention, attended by more than 650 Malankarites from all over the United States and Canada, was an opportunity for spiritual renewal and a cause for the strength and unity among members.
The dream of every Malankara Catholic in Philadelphia became a reality on October 31, 2009 when we bought our own church and building with enough parking. The church was previously a Lutheran Church and was renovated to its present style and fashion to suit our needs. His Grace the Most Rev. Thomas Mar Koorilos dedicated the Church to St. Jude Thaddeus as its heavenly patron saint.
The informal blessing was held by the Most Rev. Joseph Mar Thomas and the solemn blessing was held on August 16, 2009 by his Beatitude Moran Mar Baselios Cleemis Catholicos in the presence of many bishops, priests and religious leaders. Efforts of many people, mainly the Malankara Catholics in Philadelphia, resulted in achieving this goal of buying a place of our own. Many fundraisers were conducted under the leadership of the building committee and parish committees but the efforts of Msgr. Joseph Sundaram need to be specially mentioned.
Today, the St. Jude Malankara Catholic Church of Philadelphia consists of 75 families with 250 members. Holy Qurbana is celebrated on all Sundays and prayer meetings are conducted monthly at the residence of the members. Malankara Mass in English is celebrated on every first and third Sunday for the benefit of the youngsters. An active MCYM is functioning in the mission, assisting the Vicar in the spiritual and temporal needs of the mission.
In order to form a Catholic conscience and practice, Sunday School classes are held before every Sunday Mass. We successfully conduct all twelve grades in a regular and orderly fashion. The Altar servers have been well trained to carry on the fine traditions according to the Malankara Liturgy. Each altar boy takes turn in serving on the altar with great joy and reverence. We have a strong group of eighteen dedicated and vibrant servers.
Every Saturday and Sunday afternoon, boys, girls, and all members who are young at heart, gather at the Incarnation Gym or at a local park to play basketball, volleyball, and other activities of their choice.
The St. Jude Syro Malankara Catholic Church is grateful to all of our past and present Archbishops, bishops, priests and religious leaders, who have helped us to come this far, especially the head of the Exarchate in the US, the Most Rev. Thomas Mar Eusebius.
Under the leadership of Rev. Fr. Thomas Malayil, the St. Jude Malankara Catholic Church is a role model parish with dedicated forums and vigorous activities including Fathers’ Forum, Mothers’ Forum, Malankara Catholic Association (MCA), Malankara Catholic Youth Movement (MCYM), Sunday School, English choir, Malayalam choir and sports teams. As far as the Philadelphia Malankara Parish is concerned, the church is not only a place of worship but is the center of all religious, social and cultural activities.