History Of Parish
Chennai (formerly called as Madras), one of the four major metros of India inherits a rich cultural heritage, the “Bharath Culture” in its diversified forms of religious social and literary achievements. The Dravidian Culture believed to be the most ancient of its kind had its cradle here, which is still undisputed. St. Thomas, one of the twelve apostles of Jesus Christ came to India to preach the gospel of his Lord, and accepted martyrdom and was buried in this soil and thus sanctified Chennai.
People of Tamil Nadu are noted for their spirit of hard work and their straight forwardness. These qualities enabled them in their fast development of Industries and hundreds of factories started during the second half of this century. Job opportunities were available in plenty and this attracted the Keralites. A good number of them came to Chennai, in order to earn their livelihood. On seeing the deep motivation and the hard work of Keralites, the Tamil community welcomed and encouraged them. Among them a number of Malankara Catholics also settled in and around Chennai. In the initial stages, life was not a bed of roses to these people. With a meagre salary and poor living conditions, the working class had to put up with a lot of difficulties. The inadequate transport added to their misery.
In Chennai there are a number of Catholic Churches but Latin liturgy is practiced in Tamil. There were only one or two churches where in Malayalam Mass was offered, namely Chetpet Marthoma Church and the Broadway Orthodox Church. The Broadway Orthodox Church is about 15 Kms. from Padi. It was rather tedious for the people of Padi to reach the Broadway Church to attend the liturgy. So Participation in the liturgy was restricted to obligatory days like, Good Friday services, Easter Sunday and Christmas days for the Malankarites. On other occasions they were forced to be content with personal prayers and some of them went to Latin Churches. Still in their heart of hearts there was a craving for a community which would bind them together in the love of God.
After many years of continued effort, the Malayalee Christian Group of Padi formed a congregation The St. George congregation in 1966. It was started basically as a prayer group. Britannia School hall of the CSI management at Padi was used as their rendezvous. Rev. Fr. Karippayil from the Orthodox Church, Avadi used to assist and guide them. This group organized prayer meetings and Christmas carols. On certain Sundays, Holy Mass was offered at Britannia School Hall. The longing for a church with their own traditions and liturgy became deep-rooted in their minds. This group approached the Broadway Church representing the Malankarities at Padi. The Broadway Church was the nearest accessible church to them and also majority of the St. George group was Orthodox Christians. The Broadway Church authorities promised to help them.
His Grace Mar. Gregorios appointed Rev. Fr. Samuel Pallivathukal and Rev. Fr. Samuel Edamannil to attend to the spiritual needs of the newly formed Malankara congregation. For about a month staying at Mr. K.G. Joshua's house in Ambathur, they visited houses and through personal contacts they enlisted the Malankarites. They offered holy mass at the Mannurpet church.
On March 4th 1974 Rev. Fr. George Jacob took charge as the first vicar of the Padi Malankara Catholic Congregation. It indeed was an auspicious day for the people of Padi. Their earnest desire for a church, a liturgy of their own and a priest with whom they can share their woes and happiness was coming true. Most Rev. Dr. Arulappa gave permission to conduct their services at Mannurpet Latin Church. Rev. Fr. George Jacob stayed at the house of Mr. Joshua for few days, but to make the activities livelier and since most of the Malankarites were staying in and around Padi, he shifted to Padi as the shepherd wanted to be with his fold. It was a building which accommodated twelve families and Rev Fr. George also stayed there. His neighbors were very helpful to him in those days.
For the newly formed community, a place of their own was a must. Although they had selected a plot at Pattaravakkam they felt it was not suitable for future development and so they started searching for a new place. In the meantime His grace Mar. Gregorios visited Madras on his way to Rome. His grace along with Rev Fr. George Jacob and the members of the community visited many places. At last they came to the place where the church now stands. At that time this place looked very unattractive because it was too marshy. But Gods providence was different. It was a vacant land of 12 acres of one Dr. Murthy and this was 53 Cents of the above land allocated for religious purposes. Entrusting the responsibility of negotiation to purchase the land on Rev Fr. George Jacob, His grace went to Rome. Later permission was granted to Rev Fr. George Jacob to purchase the land.
Exodus Through Times
On April 17th 1974 the Palm Sunday was celebrated at the Mannurpet Church. Although they had planned Good Friday and Easter Services at this church, God willed another way. Only on Palm Sunday did this group come to know that on Good Friday the Mannurpet Church conducts adoration from morning till afternoon and after that at 3 O' Clock the way of the cross, which meant there was no chance of conducting the Good Friday Services for the Malankarites in the church, which normally starts at 8.00 am. in the morning and ends at 4.00 pm. in the evening. So they were compelled to find a new place for their services. Some suggested they could conduct it at the
Britannia School hall. But majority preferred a place of their own to conduct the services. Representatives of the congregation under the leadership of Rev Fr. George Jacob went to the house of Dr. Murthy. The landlord of the place they had already selected. They fixed the rate of the land and paid an advance for Rs. 1,000/- and Dr. Murthy permitted them to go ahead with Good Friday services to be conducted at that place.
On their way back to Padi, they met a contractor and entered an agreement with him to construct a shed before the coming Thursday for Rs. 2,000/- and he started the work of the shed, on Monday itself. On the same day Bro. Daniel Kuzhithandathil reached Chennai to assist Rev. Fr. George Jacob. He brought along with him the cross to be erected on the “Gogultha”. On Tuesday His grace Mar Gregorios, on his return from Rome reached Padi and blessed the half finished shed. Very much impressed by the love and care of the Arch Bishop the contractor agreed to donate the mat to be spread on the floor inside the shed. By Thursday evening the constructions of the shed was completed. That night each and every one of the Padi community worked hard to clean the shed and its surroundings.
The Promised Land
12th April 1974 is a memorable day not only for the members of this community but also for the Malankara Catholic Community as a whole. This was the day when their dreams came to be fulfilled. The community praised God and thanked him. The joy of the St. George congregation, knew no bounds that waited for eight long years. Perhaps it was the first time in Chennai they were participating in the Good Friday services led by Rev. Fr. George Jacob and assisted by Bro. Daniel Kuzhithadathil was a real heavenly experience. Heavenly peace and glory had descended over the thatched shed.
Think of the day when this community could participate in their daily Liturgy and mass. Till yesterday they had to go door to door begging for a priest to assist them in Liturgy. Now there was one priest to share the sorrows and happiness of the people. Yes, he really shared. May be he had suffered much more than the people had. Many a time he had starved. He cried with the people, he consoled them and imparted the peace of the Lord to them.
The St. Thomas Malankara Catholic Church at Padi (Chennai) was the First Bahya Kerala Church of the Malankara community. People began to purchase land in and around the church premises and started constructing houses. Not only the Malankara Catholics but also other Malayalee’s as well as Tamil people also started purchasing land and began to stay there and the locality came to be known as “Maria Nagar”. During the initial stages, the great services rendered by Rev. Sr. Emiliana, Rev. Sr. Leena, Rev. Sr. Marietta, Rev. Sr. Candida, Rev. Sr. Ancy all from the congregation of the Daughters of Mary and Rev. Sr. Kochu Thresia from the Bethany congregation require special mention. They were students of the Stella Maris College and on all Sundays and obligatory days they came to Padi, and assisted the Parish Priest.
Education of the young ones was a crucial problem faced by the Malankara community in the initial stages. “Hari Nam Bhavan” an English Medium School a Tamil medium school were the only educational facility available for their children. The people were not financially sound enough to send their children to far away English Medium Schools.
As a solution to this problem a nursery school was started in the name of “Sacred Heart of Jesus” on June 21st 1974, the feast day of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. 21 students and 3 staff comprised the first batch Mrs. Rachel a member of the Parish, Mrs. Adline from Ambattur Parish and Ms. Esther an emigrant from Israel was the staff. The School was a great blessing to the families of the factory workers.
The school that was started in a low profile is now a Higher Secondary School. Some of the great Shepherds who led this institution to these heights are Rev. Fr. George Jacob, Rev. Fr. Koshy Varghese, Rev. Sr. Aniysia, Rev. Sr. Deepa, Rev. Sr. Susan need special mention.
The Malankara congregation, which started with fifty members gradually, grew and its activities began to spread to other parts of the city. Sub stations were established at Tiruvottiyur on 27th April 1977 and Perambur on 2nd April 1978. The thatched shed continued to be the Chapel for five long years. On Sundays, services were conducted and on other day's classes were conducted for the school children in the shed. On Thursday the 27th April 1978 at 6.00 PM the foundation stones for the Church was laid by the Arch Bishop His Grace Dr. Arulappa in the presence of His Grace Benedict Mar Gregorious. Through very hard work and a lot of sacrifices the construction of the church was completed in a year. Almost all the parishioners donated their one-month's salary for the construction of the church. On 8th May 1979 in the presence of Mar Phelexinos, Msgr. C.T. Kuruvilla and a number of priests and nuns, the Church was blessed by His Grace Benedict Mar Gregories. Chennai Arch Bishop His Grace Dr. Arulappa offered Holy Mass in the church the next Sunday, since he could not participate in the blessing ceremony.
After the construction of the church, the construction of the Bethany convent building started and it was completed by 1980. On 28th May 1980, the convent was blessed by His Excellency after that, the land for the school was bought and the school was shifted to the new place. The work of the parish became hectic and the need for an assistant Vicar arose. On 8th June 1982 Rev. Fr. Koshy Varghese, came over to share the responsibilities of Rev. Fr. George Jacob.
The Torch Bearers and their Services
Rev. Fr. George Jacob after his long and patient service of 12 years went back to Trivandrum in the year 1985 and Rev. Fr. Koshy Varghese took Charge as the vicar of the Parish. Under the able guidance of the Vicar; the church and its activities began to spread to the neighbouring places of Padi. Through the Mathru Samajam, Pithru Samajam and MCYM our parishioners began rendering help to the patients of nearby Hospitals by donating blood, assisting them in their sickness, and giving financial assistance, Visiting Leprosy ?Hospital, Orphanages, General Hospitals, Mental Hospitals, old age Homes and Institution for the Handicapped and mingling and living with them is quite common for our Parishioners. The Parishioner helped the Poor in their housing, educational and employment needs.
The New Dimensian
As days went by, the Strength of the Parish increased and the Parish at Padi was not sufficient to accommodate the community. So, in the year 1992 the expansion of the Church was done. The reconstructed Church was blessed by Late. Bishop Lawrence Mar Ephraem on 26th December 1993.
In the same year, the Parish had the great privilege of conducting the 5th Bahya Kerala convention at Chennai from 27th to 31st December 1993. It was an event, which revealed the co-operation and hard work of the Parishioners. Divided into different groups and committees they worked day-in-and day-out for the success of the convention. Great leaders and Orators led the convention. It was really an enriching experience. “Witnessing Christ” the theme of the Convention was very informative and interesting.
The Government of Tamil Nadu through the Housing Board World Bank Scheme allotted 7½ acres of land for a college at Mugappair Chennai – 58 and the college was inaugurated as Mar. Gregorios Engineering College on 3rd July 1994. Since the Management could not satisfy the requirements of the Eng. College, the management decided to make it an arts and science college and was inaugurated on 8th September 1997. The Institution has now grown steadily by the grace of God and the good will of its stakeholders. It is doubtless that the institution reflects the noteworthy characteristic values for which our forefathers had laboured. At this juncture it is apt to remember with gratitude the services offered by various priests who headed the institution all these years.
The people of Chennai, especially Padi, were overwhelmed with joy when the Vicar Rev. Fr. Koshy Varghese was elevated to the post of Vicar General of Trivandrum on 5th March 1996. On 28th March 1996 Rev. Fr. George Charuvila took charge as the 3rd Vicar of the Parish. Another great moment of joy was when former Vicar of Padi parish Mgr. Koshy Varghese was ordained as the Auxiliary Bishop of Trivandrum Archdiocese as His Excellency Joshua Mar Ignathios. In this context the great services rendered by Rev. Fr. Mathew Manakarakavil. Rev. Fr. Joseph Kurumbilethu, Rev. Fr. Placid (OIC), Rev. Fr. Philip Vaizaneth, Rev. Fr. Boben Zachariah, Rev. Fr. Varkeys Attupurrathu, Rev. Fr. Stephen Kulathumkarot and the Brothers from Poonamalle Seminary, the Salesian sisters of Tiruvottiyur and above all the Bethany Sisters who are always with this congregation deserves special mention. All of them had played vital roles in the up-bringing of this congregation. The services that were rendered by Rev. Fr. Sleeba Das, then Asst. Parish priest is laudable.
The Silver Jubilee Year
This congregation has been celebrating its silver Jubilee, during the year 1998 - 199. Spiritual and social activities were undertaken during the year in order to mark its significance. Looking behind at those 25 years that had gone by the Padi congregation has grown in virtue, and in God's abundant blessings, God's blessings were so great that they were far more than their wildest dreams. Yes, God had been guiding and nurturing them all along their way. The weekly prayer meetings, fasting, caring for the invalid and needy irrespective of their caste and creed were their Christian motives. Better knowledge of the Bible and study classes on the Bible has improved their vision of Christ and their neighbours. They found that without love and mercy to their fellowmen, the poor and the needy, Christianity wouldn't grow. Their pilgrimage to the holy places, St. Thomas Mount once in every month and to Annai Velankanni shrine in Nagapattinam once in every year deepened their faith.
Rev. Fr. Jose Chamakalayil took charge as the vicar of the parish on 25th May 2000. During this period, the shrine was renovated and a new adoration chapel was built. His grace Moron Mor. Cyril Baselios Catholicos blessed and renovated the shrine and adoration chapel on 3rd July 2005. Separate mass timing for the Tamil speaking people of Malankara Catholic (Marthandam diocese) has been set and catechism classes in Tamil was also arranged.
On June 2007, Rev. Fr. George Puthenvilayil took charge as vicar for a period of one year. On May 2008, Rev. Fr. Johnson Parackal took charge as the vicar of this parish. He was the bursar and vice principal of Mar Gregorios Arts and Science College, since 2001. On Oct 12, 2008 a religious centre and library in the name of St. Alphonsa was blessed and opened for public. The eighth MCC ETRI MCYM convention was also held in Chennai on October 26th to 28th in a grand manner.
Rev. Fr. Mathew Puthenpurackal was the Co-vicar and Rev. Fr. Justin C was appointed from Marthandam Diocese as Co-vicar to give special care to the Tamil community in Chennai.
The Vision Accomplished
On May 8th 2010 Rev. Fr. Sabu M. Maruthoor took charge as Vicar of the Parish and Rev. Fr. Jacob Mathew and Rev. Fr. Wilbright took charge as Co-Vicars. The foundation stone for the new church was laid on Feb. 26th 2011 by His Beatitude Moran Mor Baselios Cleemis Catholicos, in the presence of His Excellency Dr. Joshua Mar Ignathios bishop of Mavelikara and His Excellency Most Rev. Dr. Jacob Mar Barnabas Apostolic Visitator of ETRI. Ordination and First Holy Mass of Rev. Fr. Antony Maria Bhavan and Rev. Fr. John Kallumpurathu were organized at our Parish. A new Mission at Adyar started on 1st May 2011. 50 Cents of Land was purchased at Perungavur Village to start an old age home and for other social activities. The foundation stone for a new parish for the Tamil Community in Ayapakkam was laid on 2nd June 2013 by His Excellency Vincent Mar Poulose Bishop of Marthandam and in the presence of His Excellency Jacob Mar Barnabas Apostolic Visitator of ETRI.
Mar Gregorios Public School (CBSC) was started on June 2014 in Mar Gregorios College Campus. Convent of Daughters of Mary sisters was inaugurated on 29th June 2015 by His Excellency Most Rev. Thomas Mar Anthonios (OIC) Bishop of exarchate of Khadki. On 26th March 2015, the day after the feast of the Annunciation, is the golden day on which the Holy See of Rome decreed and granted to the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church the right and duty to assume the mission of preaching the gospel throughout India. On that day His Holiness Pope Francis established the new Eparchy of St. John Chrysostam of Gurgaon and appointed His Excellency Most Rev. Dr. Jacob Mar Barnabas (OIC) its first Bishop. On the same day, The Holy Father established the new Exarchate of St. Ephrem of Khadki (Pune) for the Syro-Malankara Catholics and appointed His Excellency Most Rev. Dr. Thomas Mar Anthonios (OIC) its first Bishop. We are now under the Exarchate of St. Ephrem of Khadki (Pune).
On 21st June 2015 Rev. Fr. Moncy Kallekal and Rev. Fr. Stephan were appointed to our parish as co-vicars. Where Rev. Fr. Stephan is in charge of the Malankara Tamil community in Chennai and its new Parish.
Our Dream Accomplished
With great joy our new church was consecrated by His Beatitude Moran Mor Baselios Cardinal Cleemis Catholicos in the presence of all our Bishops on 30th June and 1st July 2017. It was a great occasion for all in Chennai as most of the Priests who served the Chennai community in the yester years were present for the occasion. Since then it’s a heavenly bliss.
The baton of leading the Church was now passed on to Rev. Fr. Philip Pulipra on 16th January 2018. The Church began to grow and glimmer in new vigor under his leadership. He is bestowed with many other responsibilities of the diocese and is also the director of MCCL. One more feather was added to the Malankara community when Rev. Fr. Philip Pulipra was elected as the secretary and treasurer for Tamil Nadu region of Xavier board of higher education in India on 15th September 2019. This was an achievement after a long gap when former parish priest Rev. Fr. Koshy Varghese (now the Bishop of Mavelikara diocese) His Grace Joshua Mar Ignathios was the secretary.
The Church is very vibrant in all activities initiated by the diocese. The Vicar and Co-Vicar extend all the needed support for us. Our Bethany and DM sisters worked tirelessly to find the scattered sheep of the Malankara Catholics in different part of Chennai like Vandallur and also in Pondicherry. We glorify God for these communities flourishing in their respective localities. We hope and dream to see them bloom into a parish of their own.
We are very grateful to our beloved Cardinal His Beattitude Moran Mor Baselios Cardinal Cleemis Catholicos, His Excellency Most Rev. Dr. Jacob Mar Barnabas our former Bishop and His Excellency Most Rev. Dr. Thomas Mar Anthonios (SIC) our present Bishop, and all the Malankara Catholic Bishops.
We are also very grateful to each and every Rev. Fathers, Rev. Sisters, the Bethany community, the DM Community, the faithful community, our departed ancestors and all lay leader for their service rendered to this Parish. Let us all with the Chennai congregation praise and thank the Almighty God for His providence and care upon this group all these years and let them be more and more strengthened by the spirit of the Lord in future.