St. Mary's Chicago Church, History

The first presence of Malankarites in Chicago can be traced back six decades, when Mr. John Mathai and family immigrated to America; subsequently in the seventies many more Malankarites migrated to the United States. Until 1983, the Malankara Catholic families gathered together as prayer groups and had liturgical celebrations conducted in Malayalam by visiting bishops and priests from India, but only occasionally.

In 1983, His Grace The Most Rev. Benedict Mar Gregorios established a mission in Chicago consisting of thirteen families. He appointed Fr. Ninan Tharakan, a doctoral student at Notre Dame University, as the first vicar with the permission of the Archbishop of Chicago, His Eminence Joseph Cardinal Bernardin of blessed memory. Holy Qurbono was celebrated once every two weeks at St. Margaret Mary Church as well as the Angel Guardian Church. After completing his Ph.D. in 1988, Fr. Tharakan left Chicago. Following this, the Chicago Mission was entrusted to the Bethany priests. Fr. Jerome Peedikaparampil OIC was appointed director of the mission by Mar Gregorios and he took charge in October of 1989. The spiritual leadership of Fr. Jerome paved the way for future growth and truly united the church.

When Fr. Jerome was elected as the Superior General of the Bethany Fatehrs in June of 1992, Rev. Fr. William Nedumpurathu OIC was appointed the vicar of the mission and he took over immediately. Liturgical services were held in St. Gregory the Great Church in Chicago. With hopes of building a church of our own, we obtained a property of land in 1994. At the same time, we kept our eyes open for already-existing church buildings within the Archdiocese of Chicago. In 1995, under the leadership of Fr. William and with God’s grace, the Chicago Mission was the first among the North American missions to acquire a church and facilities of its own, namely the Ascension of our Lord Church in Evanston, of the Archdiocese of Chicago. The church was sold for a price by the Archdiocese, but after a discussion between The Most Rev. Cyril Mar Baselios and His Eminence Francis Cardinal George, His Eminence waived the price as a Jubilee Year (2000) donation. Bishop Thomas J. Paprocki, the then Chancellor of the Archdiocese, was instrumental in our efforts to attain the church. Our church was dedicated on 4th July 1995 by his Excellency The Most Rev. Geevarghese Mar Thimotheos, with St. Mary as our Patroness. The Rectory, adjacent to the church is our vicar’s permanent residence now. In 1996, the Chicago Mission had the honor of hosting the 3rd National Malankara Catholic Convention at North Park University. It was a great privilege for the Chicago Mission to host the solemn celebration of conferring the title of Chor Bishop to Rt. Rev. Geevarghese Mannikkarott, in connection with the convention.

When Fr. William left in July of 1996, Rev. Fr. Zacharias Nanthiattu OIC took charge of the mission. He worked tirelessly until June 1999. After he left, Rt. Rev. Geevarghese Mannikarott was appointed Interim vicar from June 1999 to February 2000. Then it was Fr. P.T. Thomas’s turn to give guidance to the mission for a short period, from February 2000 to May 2000. Rev. Fr. Thomas Vattaparampil took charge as the vicar in May 2000 and he served until March 2003. When he left for India, Fr. John Thundiyathu led our church until November 2003. After that, Fr. Saji G. Mukkoot served as the vicar from November 2003 to July 2010, the longest served tenure at the Chicago Mission. Following this, Rev. Fr. Johnson Charivukalayil was appointed as the interim vicar from July 2010 to September 2010. Then, Fr. Mathew Perumbilikunnel was appointed as the vicar in October 2010.

Today, the Chicago Mission has grown to sixty-six families and approximately 200 members. Every Sunday at 10:30AM, we have Morning Prayer services followed by Holy Qurbono. Church groups and activities include Sunday school, Fathers’ Forum, Mothers’ Forum, MCA, and MCYM, which meets at 9:30AM every Sunday prior to liturgical services. We observe obligatory days, conduct memorial masses, Stations of the Cross every Friday during the Lenten Season as well as Eucharistic Adoration on the first Friday of every month. Every Sunday soon after Mass, we pray the St. Antony’s Novena. We celebrate during the course of the year Mar Ivanios Day, Mar Gregorios Day, Mar Baselios Day, Reunion Day, Feast of St. Thomas, and conduct discussions on these days which are followed by agape. Sitting together for a meal after the Holy Eucharistic meal is a characteristic feature of the Chicago community. Parishioners take turns in bringing the meal to the church.

We keep very cordial relationship with the Archdiocese of Chicago. We actively participate in the annual Illinois Catholic Prayer Breakfast and the annual National Catholic Prayer Breakfast. Active involvement in the Ecumenical Council of Kerala Churches in Chicago is another hallmark of our mission. The members of the MCYM give dynamic leadership to our church activities. They are involved in teaching Sunday school, serving on the Parish Council, leading church choir, altar serving, leading retreat services, and cleaning the church premises. Members of MCA hold discussions on Bible passages and church history; additionally, educational presentations on general topics are conducted. Under MCA, we have a well-versed Chenda Melam Team. We also have a multi-talent workshop, with machines for making and repairing household utensils. Fathers’ Forum holds discussions on a variety of subjects, such as the prophets of the Old Testament, miracles of Jesus Christ, Holy Spirit, the Saints, Apostles, Evangelists, and so on. Mothers’ Forum prays the rosary, as well as a Novena to our Holy Mother and observes the May Crowning Ceremony.

We celebrate our parish feast in September on the weekend after the Nativity of Mother Mary. In September 2008, we celebrated the Silver Jubilee of our church with the Most Rev. Joseph Mar Thomas, the Most. Rev. Thomas J. Paprocki, various priests from the Ecumenical Council of Chicago, our former vicars, and the mayor of the city of Evanston. To honor the 25th anniversary of our church, we donated money to construct twenty-five houses for needy Malankarite families in various dioceses in Kerala. We achieved another milestone by sending off our Malankara son Bro. Lintu Markose to the seminary, another first for the Malankara Church in North America.

We extend our ministry to the Malankara Knanaya Catholic Community of Chicago as well. Once a month, our vicar celebrates Holy Mass in the Malankara Catholic Rite at the Knanaya Catholic Church. The Chicago Mission is proud to have a convent housing two religious sisters: Sr. Mariam SIC and Sr. Anaswara SIC. We appreciate their love-filled services and support for the activities of the church.

We express our gratitude to His Beatitude Moran Mor Baselios Cleemis Catholicos, the Most Rev. Joseph Mar Thomas, and the Most. Rev. Thomas Mar Eusebius for shepherding the North American missions. We also extend our heartfelt thanks to all of our former vicars, as well as our current vicar, Fr. Mathew Perumbilikunnel, for their guidance and leadership.

Our best wishes to the American Malankara Exarchate and its first bishop, the Most Rev. Thomas Mar Eusebius.