Brief History of St.Thomas Syro-Malabar Catholic Church, Detroit

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Syro-Malabar Church is one of the 22 individual churches in the Universal Catholic Church. Though these 22 churches differ in liturgy, ecclesiastical discipline and spiritual heritage, they are equally entrusted to one faith under the guidance of Holy Pope, the Supreme Head of the Universal Catholic Church, located in Rome. They are consequently of equal dignity, such that none of them is superior to the others by reason of rite. Therefore, attention should be given everywhere to the preservation and growth of each individual church, so that every catholic could retain his/her proper rite, cherish it and observe it to the best of his/her ability. (Decree of Vat. II, on Eastern Catholic Churches) This teaching of the Church is the answer to the question “Why do we follow Syro-Malabar Liturgy in the United States as in Kerala?”

On this Church Doctrine, a faith community made up of few newly immigrated Kerala catholic families was formed in Detroit in September 1980 under the leadership of Dr. Joseph Pullukattu. Initially 22 families gathered at St. Patrick Parish on 58 Parsons Street, Detroit, Michigan. The families selected an executive committee with Dr. Joseph Pullukatt, President; Mr. Chacko Kalarickal, Vice President; Mr. Augusty Parapuram, Treasurer; Mr. Jose Vengalil, Secretary; Mr. Paul Dolfus, Joint Secretary; along with Mr. Tony Erinjeri and Mr. Thomas Karthanal. The gathering of these families was accepted and recognized as St. Thomas Indian Catholic Association by Late Cardinal Edward Szoka, Archbishop of Detroit. Prior to finding a home at St. Mary Magdalen Church, Melvindale, Michigan, the association met at St. Lucy Catholic Church, 23401 Jefferson Avenue, St. Clair Shores and St. Louise de Marillac Church, 2500 East Twelve Mile Road, Warren, Michigan.

Under the recommendation of Mar Joseph Pallikaparampil, Bishop of Pala and in charge of Syro-Malabar ministries outside India, Rev. Dr. Joseph Nagaroor of Kanjarappilly Diocese was appointed as Chaplain of the newly formed Syro-Malabar Community in Detroit. Rev. Nagaroor also served as an associate pastor at St. Mary Magdalen Church, 19624 Wood Street, Melvindale, Michigan. The new community started gathering at the St. Mary Magdalen Church for Mass, Social gatherings and other religious needs.

In October 1994, Rev. Fr. John Melepuram of Irinjalakuda Diocese joined St. Mary Magdalen Church as an associate pastor and was appointed as the new Chaplain of the Syro-Malabar Community. Later, by the request of the community, His Eminence Adam Cardinal Maida, the Archbishop of Detroit, established our community as a St. Thomas India Catholic Mission, a “Quasi-Parish” under the Archdiocese of Detroit.

In July 1999, Rev. Fr. Joy Chakian of Ernakulum Archdiocese joined St. Angela Church, Roseville, and was appointed as Chaplain of our mission. Since then our community met at St. Angela Church for weekend Malayalam Masses, monthly social gatherings and other religious needs.

In July 2001, St. Thomas Syro-Malabar Catholic Diocese of Chicago was established and appointed His Excellency Mar Jacob Angadiath as its first Bishop. In January 2005, Rev. Fr. Varghese Naickamparampil of Vincentian Congregation was appointed as the Administrator of our mission and a full time Associate Pastor of St. Angela Church. During these years, St. Thomas India Catholic Mission grew and had more than two hundred and fifty registered families. After 27 years of growth and development, the Syro-Malabar Catholic Community acquired its own parish site at 17235 Mount Vernon, Southfield, Michigan, a convenient location for all parishioners. The church was previously occupied by St. Beatrice Parish.

On Saturday, July 14, 2007, St. Thomas Syro-Malabar community inaugurated the new parish “St. Thomas Syro-Malabar Catholic Church-Detroit” by His Beatitude Varkey Cardinal Vithayathil, the Major Archbishop of Syro-Malabar Church and His Excellency Mar Jacob Angadiath, the Bishop of St. Thomas Syro-Malabar Catholic Diocese of Chicago. Rev. Fr. Varghese Naikamparampil was appointed as the full time vicar of the parish. We thank God for all the blessings received during the past years and pray to him for the future growth of our newborn parish. St. Thomas Syro-Malabar Parish members are thankful to the various churches of Archdiocese of Detroit and to its Bishops for hosting and supporting the Syro-Malabar Catholic church activities for the last 27 years.

In June 2010, Fr. George (Joshy) Elambasseril of Palai Diocese became the vicar of the parish when Fr. Naikamparampil was transferred to St. Alphonsa Syro Malabar Catholic Church, Coppell, Texas.

On ….In 2012, the church property was officially transferred to the Syro-Malabar Diocese and a payment plan was arranged with Archdiocese of Detroit with the intention to renovate the existing building.

The 2011-2012 parish council with the approval of Fr. Joshy conducted a preliminary study on the various possibilities of renovating and improving the church building and property. A Building Committee was formed with Mr. George Chirackal, then Parish Council Trustee, as the chairman. After careful consideration of several options it was decided to renovate the existing building in different stages. Since then major improvements were done to the building. On Saturday, September 13, 2014, Mar. Jacob Angadiath, Bishop of St. Thomas Syro-Malabar Diocese of Chicago, blessed the renovated sanctuary for the church. Renovation of the social hall was started soon after the blessing of the sanctuary.

In July 2015 Fr. Roy Moolahalil from Thamarassery, Kozhilode, was appointed as the vicar of STSMCC Detroit, and the spiritual development of the parishioners as well as the physical development of the building is moving along smoothly under his guidance and leadership. A new multi-purpose social hall named “San Thome Auditorium” was blessed and inaugurated by Fr. George Elamabasseril on October 23, 2015. The renovation and improvements of the front façade is expected to continue under the guidance of Fr. Roy Moolachalil.