St. Thomas New Jersey Church, History

The birth of the St. Thomas Syro Malankara Catholic Mission of New Jersey took place on an autumn afternoon on September 24th, 1995. His Eminence Cardinal Emeritus, Theodore E. McCarrick (at the time Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Newark) celebrated the inaugural Holy Mass with Rt. Rev. Charles Stengel, Pastor and (Rev.) Varughese Kilichumala, Vicar concelebrating, at St. John the Baptist Roman Catholic Church in Jersey City, New Jersey.
Although the young, small mission endured several hardships it grew to seventeen families. During these challenging times, the Mission was provided pastoral care by (Rev.) Varughese Kilichumala, (Rev.) Boban Zachariah, Rev. Samuel Thykoottathil (now Remban), Rev. Joy Mankulam and Rev. John Karavila. While Rt. Rev. Samuel performed his pastoral duties, he translated the Malankara Catholic Church liturgical missal and Sunday morning prayers into its present English form. Following Samuel Remban, Rev. Joy Mankulam and Rev. John Karavila served the mission for about eight long years.
As the population of St. John the Baptist R.C. Church declined and the Church could not afford all the expenses incurred, our vicar Rev. John Karavila had to move to a church in Brooklyn, NY as an associate pastor. Four families joining the Malankara parish in Rockland, NY and the moving of our vicar put our mission in a predicament. On January 1, 2003 the last Holy Mass in Malankara Rite was celebrated at St. John the Baptist Church by Most Rev. Dr. Isaac Mar Cleemis (now His Beatitude Baselios Mar Cleemis Catholicos) and the Mission relocated to the old Malankara Center in Howell, NJ for several months.
In order to accommodate our parishioners time constraints we relocated yet again to St. Paul Evangelical Lutheran Church on February 9, 2003 in Elizabeth, NJ (83 Galloping Hill Road, 07208). Eventually the Mission found a temporary and more suitable spacious place to worship in the chapel of St. Elizabeth of Hungary Roman Catholic Church in Linden, NJ, and started the Malankara Catholic services there on December 18, 2004.

While at St. Elizabeth’s Church the community was reinvigorated under the continuing pastoral care of Rev. John Karavila and the membership grew by several families. In order to solidify the Mission as an official organization, it was incorporated as a not-for-profit organization in the State of New Jersey as St. Thomas Malankara Catholic Church of New Jersey, effective December 14, 2007. On Sunday, April 27, 2008 the community along with Most Rev. Joseph Mar Thomas, Apostolic Visitator and Administrator of Syro Malankara Catholic Missions in North America presided over the Silver Sacerdotal Anniversary of Rev. John Karavila.

When St. Elizabeth’s parish decided to sell the chapel building to a private developer the Mission was again placed in a predicament. By God’s providence and the tireless efforts of the Vicar and Dr. Thomas T. J., who was secretary at that time, the community was graciously invited by Rev. Dennis Kaelin, Pastor of Divine Mercy Parish to use the facilities of St. Mark Roman Catholic Church, 287 Hamilton Avenue, Rahway, NJ 07065. On October 5, 2008, the St. Thomas Malankara Catholic Church relocated and remains at this current location for the past two and half years. After moving to St. Mark’s Church, the long term vicar Rev. John Karavila was reassigned in August 2009 and was temporarily replaced by Rev. Augustine Mangalath (now the Chancellor of the Exarchate). Rev. Mangalath served the community for over a year while actively performing his parochial responsibilities full time in New Rochelle, NY and fulfilling his duties at the Malankara Center in New Hyde Park, NY. The community of St. Thomas is extremely grateful for the hard work and dedication of Rev. Augustine Mangalath. Furthermore, the community expresses its gratitude of service to Rev. Dr. Bonaventure Thekkeveettil who celebrated Holy Mass at St. Thomas Church on numerous occasions when Rev. Mangalath was not able due to his demanding schedule.
St. Thomas Malankara Catholic Church was extremely joyful when His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI erected an Apostolic Exarchate for the Syro Malankara Catholic Church in United States of America and appointed Most. Rev. Dr. Thomas Mar Eusebius as its first Bishop. Almost seventy members from St. Thomas attended the inauguration and installation ceremony conducted on October 3, 2010 at the Kellenberg High School, Uniondale, New York.
After a prolonged period of uncertainty, the parishioners were extremely happy when it was announced by Most. Rev. Dr. Thomas Mar Eusebius, Exarch of USA that Rt. Rev. Dr. Peter Kochery and Rev. Jacob John will become the Vicar and Assistant Vicar, respectively, of the congregation of St. Thomas Malankara Catholic Church of New Jersey. Msgr. Peter and Rev. Jacob commenced their pastoral duties in January 2011. Presently, the congregation consists of twenty-five families and they are geographically dispersed from Central New Jersey to Northern New Jersey as well as Staten Island, NY.
The community, although small is vibrant, passionate and caring. During the term of Rev. John Karavila the congregation established the “poor fund”, which has benefited numerous families in Kerala (India) and other locations. The families of St. Thomas contribute generously to this fund annually and as requests come for aid through the Vicar or other members of the Church the Committee decides the merit of the request and allocates the money.
The community is also extremely proud of the energetic members of the Malankara Catholic Youth Movement led by co-coordinators Dr. Thresia Thomas and Mr. Binu George. During the past two plus years, both of these coordinators along with the St. Thomas MCYM Presidents, Ms. Jocelyn Karakattu, Mr. John Z. Thomas and Mr. Jimmy Mathew, were instrumental in growing and nurturing the small group into an active Malankara Christian movement. The MCYM’s conscience was refocused to serve the local community as well as globally with assisting the local homeless shelter, food bank for the poor, victims of Haiti earthquake and more recently the desolate of Japan after the devastating earthquake of tsunami. The MCYM members participate in all local, regional and national MCYM events and have the backing of the Community at large.
St. Thomas Malankara Catholic Church is extremely proud of the fact that its members were instrumental in the establishment and growth of the Malankara Catholic Church in U.S.A. Mr. John Varghese (Kochuonnoonny) and Mr. Ponmelil Abraham, a former member of St. Thomas, along with Mr. Baby Thomas, Mr. Benjamin Mathew and Mrs. Elsy Nirmal were part of the inaugural committee in 1981. Mr. John Varghese was selected as the President of the group. When the Church was officially organized in the U.S.A., Mr. Abraham Ponmelil (past member of St. Thomas) and Mr. George James served as the secretary of the Malankara Catholic Mission of North America.
One of the greatest highlights during the past sixteen years of existence of the Church was the trip to the Holy Land in the year 2000. The travel planning and funding for the trip took nearly two years. The travel to Israel finally occurred in August 2000 with eightyone members of St. Thomas Malankara Catholic Church and several families from Philadelphia, New Rochelle and Long Island missions. The ten day journey was inspirational and memorable to all who participated.
The traditions of the Church are preserved and practiced every week by all in various ways. These traditions are as wide as the spectrum of light of the rainbow. It includes traditional Holy Qurbono, Sunday morning prayers, house prayer meetings, catechesim, and celebration of Feast of St. Thomas, the Patron. Moreover, the Church actively participates in all regional and national meetings and conventions.
The congregation of the St. Thomas Malankara Catholic Church is extremely proud of their Malankara Catholic heritage and traditions. The members seek to preserve this unique identity and pass on to the next generation the priceless lessons of the Gospel and our forefathers. We pray to God and Mother Mary to strengthen and grow the Malankara Catholic Church as a whole and St. Thomas Malankara Catholic Church of New Jersey. May our Catholicos, Fathers and other eminent leaders of the Church be filled with the grace of the Holy Spirit to lead the Church during this time of transformation.