Knanaya Catholics who migrated to Chicago and nearby areas from the Diocese of Kottayam gathered in January 1981 and requested the Bishop of Kottayam Mar Kuriakose Kunnassery to send a priest from Kottayam diocese to offer pastoral service to the Knanaya community here. Mar Kuriakose Kunnacherry wrote on March 18, 1981 to His Eminence John Cardinal Cody, Archbishop of Chicago, asking his help to make provisions for establishing a Knanaya Catholic Ministry in Chicago served by a Knanaya Catholic priest. However, the reply by the Chancellor of the Archdiocese of Chicago Rev. John R. Keating was that “it is our judgment that the creation of such a special ministry would not be appropriate at the present time.”
However, from 1982 the Knanaya Catholics in Chicago attended Saturday 5:30 P.M. Latin Mass at St. Alphonsus Church and had social gathering on alternate Saturdays at the parish hall after the Mass. They arranged Syro-Malabar Qurbana in the basement chapel of St. Alphonsus Church whenever a Syro-Malabar priest was available. Bishop Mar Kuriakose Kunnacherry sent a letter on November 3, 1982 to the then new Archbishop of Chicago Most Rev. Joseph L. Bernardin to reconsider the request for starting a new Knanaya Catholic Ministry in Chicago. At the request of the community leaders, Rev. Richard J. Feller, the pastor of Church of St. Ita wrote on September 7, 1983 to the Chancellor of the Archdiocese of Chicago expressing his willingness to provide residence in his parish for the proposed Knanaya priest coming from Kerala.
Rev. John C. Hergenrother, Chancellor of the Archdiocese of Chicago held a meeting on September 27, 1983 with two representatives each from four associations: (1) Kerala Catholic Fellowship, (2) Knanaya Association of North America, (3) Knanaya Catholic Congress, and (4) Knanaya Association of Chicago. They reached an agreement to avail the service of Fr. Jacob Chollampel, proposed by Mar Kuriakose Kunnacherry to serve all Kerala Catholics in Chicago. Hence, the chancellor of the Archdiocese of Chicago wrote on 1983 October 7 to Mar Kuriakose Kunnacherry welcoming the service of Fr. Jacob Chollampel. Fr. Jacob Chollampel reached Chicago and started special ministry October 28, 1983 to the Kerala Catholics while living in the rectory of St. Ita church.
Non-Knanaya Syro-Malabar Catholics in Chicago wrote in October 1984 to Kerala Catholic Bishops’ Conference and Syro-Malabar Bishop’s Conference asking for a separate ministry for them in Chicago. The Syro-Malabar Bishop’s Conference held on December 3rd 1984 authorized His Excellency Mar Joseph Pallikaparambil to correspond with the Archbishop of Chicago “to get a priest for the Syro-Malabar Rite appointed for the special ministry to the non-Knanaya Syro-Malabarians in Chicago besides Rev. Fr. Jacob Chollampel who is already appointed for the ministry to the Knanaya Community.” Based on this request of the Bishop’s Conference, the Archbishop of Chicago Joseph Cardinal Bernadine approved and inaugurated the Syro-Malabar Ministry in Chicago on August 25, 1985. The Chicago Archdiocese gave them permission to use St. Bernadine church in Forest Park for monthly Holy Mass. Fr. Antony Kurialacherry was appointed as the director of the ministry.
Since Fr. Jacob Chollampel was returning to Kottayam, Mar Kuriakose Kunnacherry wrote to Joseph Cardinal Bernardin on April 15, 1985, proposing to send Fr. Cyriac Manthuruthil to continue the special ministry of Knanaya Catholics in Chicago. However, Rev. Robert L. Kealy, the chancellor of the Archdiocese of Chicago, wrote on August 31, 1985 to Mar Kuriakose Kunnacherry that clarification is to be made on membership issue of the Knanaya Ministry before Fr. Cyriac Manthuruthy could come and take over the ministry. Fr. Jacob Chollampel returned to India, and the community kept waiting for Fr. Cyriac Manthuruthil.
At the request of the Knanaya Community members, Fr. Anthony Kurialacherry, Spiritual Director of Syro-Malabar Catholic Community of Chicago, agreed on December 3, 1985 to continue the Syro-Malabar Mass at St. Benedict’s Church, Chicago on every Saturday evening. Fr. C.T. Vayalil from the Archdiocese of Changanacherry, who was serving as a hospital chaplain in Chicago, also agreed to help with the ministry. Later, Rev. Robert L. Kealy wrote to Fr. Zacharias Elapunkal, the director of the Syro-Malabar Ministry on January 23, 1987 to coordinate the services of the Syro-Malabar priests who might celebrate the liturgy for the Knanaya Syro-Malabar Ministry.
On December 7, 1987, Cardinal Joseph Bernardin wrote to Mar Kuriakose Kunnacherry expressing his willingness to accept the service of Fr. Cyriac Manthuruthil for the Knanaya Syro-Malabar Ministry in Chicago. Fr. Cyriac Manthuruthil came to Chicago on May 24, 1988 and the Archdiocese of Chicago appointed him on May 31, 1988, as the director of Knanaya Catholic Mission while residing as St. Ferdinand’s Church. The inaugural Mass of the new “Knanaya Catholic Mission” took place on July 23, 1988 at St. Henry’s at 6:30 P.M. Chancellor Rev. Robert L. Kealy delivered a message during the mass. Syro-Malabar was offered at St. Henry’s church on every other Saturday at 6:30 P.M. The venue of the Mass was shifted from St. Henry’s to Immaculate Heart of Mary (IHM) Church on April 15, 1989.
Archdiocese of Chicago appointed Fr. Simon Edathiparambil as the director of Knanaya Catholic Mission on August 16, 1995 with his residence at IHM Parish. Fr. Philip Thodukayil took charge as the director of Knanaya Catholic Mission with his residence at Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish on June 25, 1999. Fr. Philip Thodukayil started Saturday evening mass at 6:00 P.M. from February 5, 2000 on every first Saturday of the month at St. Isidore’s Church in Bloomingdale. This is besides the Sunday evening Mass at the IHM church on every Sunday. Fr. Philip Thodukayil started an additional Sunday morning mass at 10:00 A.M. at KCS Community Center, followed by Religious Education Classes at the center from January 14, 2001.
Fr. Philip Thodukayil started an additional Saturday evening mass from February 16, 2002 at 6:00 P.M. on every third Saturday of the month at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church in Darien. At the request of Mar Jacob Angadiath, Vicar General Fr. Abraham Mutholath moved to Chicago on February 16, 2003 and started living at Our Lady of Victory Parish in Chicago while working as chaplain at Our Lady of Resurrection Hospital at Addison and Central in Chicago.
After the inauguration of the St. Thomas Syro-Malabar Catholic Diocese of Chicago on July 1, 2001, Bishop Mar Jacob Angadiath reconstituted this mission as part of the Syro-Malabar diocese on October 29, 2003 extending its boundary to include all Knanaya Catholics living in the states of Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin. He also confirmed the appointment of Rev. Fr. Philip Thodukayil as the director of this mission. When he returned to Kottayam, Bishop Angadiath appointed Vicar General Fr. Abraham Mutholath as the director of this mission on July 1, 2004. Due to lack of enough people’s participation, the Holy Mass at St. Isidore’s Church in Bloomingdale was stopped on August 7, 2004 and the mass at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church in Darien was stopped on August 21, 2004.
The mission celebrated a Solemn Feast for the first time in honor of Pope St. Pius X on August 8, 2004 with Mar Mathew Moolakkatt as the main celebrant. The mission started Holy Mass from September 4, 2004 at St. Peter’s Church in North Lake on every Saturday at 5:00 P.M. The mission also started Religious Education School at North Lake on September 11 and at IHM School on September 12, 2004. The mission conducted the first marriage preparation course from December 3 – 5, 2004.
During the homily at IHM Church on May 22, 2005, Mar Mathew Moolakkatt, then auxiliary bishop of Kottayam requested the Knanaya Catholics in Chicago to establish our own church. The planning to have our own church started. Mass for Chicago Suburb was moved from St. Peter’s Church in North Lake to the hall of St. Joseph’s Church in Addison on June 18, 2005. Mission began to be active with many pastoral programs like Theology Course of adults, various ministries, religious education festival, publication of Sunday Bulletin, and youth retreats. The Sunday 5:30 P.M. mass was shifted in September 2005 to Our Lady of Victory (OLV) church. A search committee was formed on October 2, 2005 to find a suitable building to buy for our church.
While planning to celebrate the Sacerdotal Silver Jubilee of the mission director Fr. Abraham Mutholath, some mission members planned to collect $100 each to give him a personal gift. Instead, the mission director encouraged them to donate $1000 each in their name to the church building fund on that day. Thus, the mission members contributed $44,337 to the church building fund during the Jubilee Celebration meeting at OLV School Hall on December 4, 2005. That gave a momentum to raise more funds for the building fund.
Bishop Mar Jacob Angadiath established seven regions in St. Thomas Syro-Malabar Diocese of Chicago on April 28, 2006. One of these regions is for all Knanaya Catholics in the diocese. Mar Jacob Angadiath officially declared the establishment of Knanaya Catholic Region at OLV Church Chicago and appointed Vicar General Rev. Fr. Abraham Mutholath as Region Director on April 30, 2006.
The mission celebrated the Solemn feast of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus at Community Center, OLV Church, Taft High School Auditorium, and St. Joseph’s Church Addison from May 25 to 28, 2006. Archbishop Emeritus Mar Kuriakose Kunnacherry and Bishop Mar Jacob Angadiath were the main celebrants. During the feast celebration on May 25, Mar Jacob Angadiath announced that the patron of the proposed new church would be the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus and the name of the parish would be “Sacred Heart Syro-Malabar Knanaya Catholic Parish.”
The Archdiocese of Chicago through the Auxiliary Bishop Most Rev. Joseph Paprocki had promised to sell one of their churches that was not yet closed to the Knanaya Catholic Mission. However, the Archdiocese gave strict instruction to Mar Jacob Angadiath, Fr. Abraham Mutholath, and Joy Vachachira that the name of the church to be bought should be strictly confidential until the Archbishop issues the decree on closing the church and selling to the Knanaya Community. So, while the fundraising was going on, the community members were not aware of the church to be bought and its location.
Mission Director Fr. Abraham Mutholath revealed the name and location of the church to be bought during a Music Concert by Rev. Fr. Paul Poovathumkal at Taft High School Auditorium 2006 June 24. The music concert was a fundraising program organized by women’s ministry for the purchase of the new church. At that time the people gladly accepted the decision. However, some mission members raised security issue in the City of Maywood where the proposed church was located. The issue got great momentum and there was severe protest. Some people collected signatures of around 400 families and submitted a petition to Mar Jacob Angadiath against the purchase of that church. Though bishop and mission director were willing to give up, another group came with the strong request to purchase the same church. So, Mar Angadiath asked them to collect the signatures of over 400 other families to support their request.
Archbishop Mar Mathew Moolakkatt, Archbishop Emeritus Mar Kuriakose Kunnacherry, and Rev. Fr. Thomas Kottoor had arrived from Kerala for the blessing and inauguration of the church that was scheduled to take place on July 15, 2016. Instead, a concelebrated Mass was offered on the same date at Addison School Hall by Archbishop Mar Kuriakose Kunnacherry, Archbishop Mar Mathew Moolakkatt, and Bishop Mar Jacob Angadiath.
As part of the proposed parish inauguration, a banquet in honor of the dignitaries was arranged on July 16, 2006 at Crown Jewel Banquet Hall in Des Plaines. During that banquet, those in favor of purchasing the church under the leadership of Alex Kannachanparambil submitted a petition of more than 400 families in favor of buying the church. Based on that, Mar Jacob Angadiath announced his decision to purchase St. James Church in Maywood for the Knanaya Catholic Mission.
Because of the Syro-Malabar Synod, the bishops had gone to Kerala by the time the Archdiocese handed over the church with effect from September 1, 2006. The mission director Fr. Abraham Mutholath offered the first Syro-Malabar Qurbana at St. James Church in Maywood on Friday, September 1st. On Sunday, September 3, 2006, Fr. Abraham Mutholath and parish council members inaugurated the possession of the church after 10:00 A.M. Qurbana by lighting a candle.
The Spanish people considered St. James Church in Maywood as a pilgrim center of Our Lady of Guadalupe. At their request, we allowed them to take with them the statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe from the church. So, the Knanaya mission arranged a pilgrimage to the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico from September 14 to 16, 2006. Fifty-two parishioners took part in it and they asked the intercession of Our Blessed Mother for the new church and bought a statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe and got it blessed in the Basilica.
The deed for the purchase of St. James Church property from the Archdiocese of Chicago took place on September 22, 2006. On September 24, 2006, Mar Jacob Angadiath blessed the new interior architectural work of the church and declared the Knanaya Catholic Mission as Sacred Heart Knanaya Catholic Parish. He appointed the Mission Director Rev. Fr. Abraham Mutholath as pastor of the parish. Bishop also blessed the shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in the Church. His Excellency Bishop Thomas Paprocki inaugurated the meeting that followed, and Henderson Yarbrough, the City Mayor of Maywood welcomed the community to Maywood and offered support to the parish.
Since half of the parishioners had objected to the purchase of the church in Maywood, the Qurbana at Our Lady of Victory Church in Chicago was continued as an extension of the parish on Sunday evenings. On December 25, 2006, Vicar General Fr. Abraham Mutholath issued a circular announcing the formation of St. Mary’s Unit for those Knanaya Catholics who attend OLV church for their pastoral needs with effect from January 1, 2007. Religious Education classes, pious associations and ministries for various ages were held there as well. Thus, St. Mary’s Unit functioned as a quasi-parish under the Sacred Heart Parish. Efforts were made to reduce the division in the community by organizing common programs for Sacred Heart and St. Mary’s participants, including the common Religious Education Festival, youth retreat, seminars, and feast celebrations.
The Sacred Heart Knanaya Catholic parish signed the deed for the rectory from the Archdiocese of Chicago on May 31, 2007. The parishioners preferred a common place for burial in a cemetery. The parish applied for that to the Archbishop of Chicago with the recommendation of Mar Jacob Angadiath. The parish got a separate section at Queen of Heaven Cemetery in Hillsdale with the possibility of over 1600 graves. The dedication of the Knanaya Catholic Parish Cemetery at the Queen of Heaven Cemetery took place on June 1, 2007 by Bishops Mar Jacob Angadiath, Bishop of Miao Mar George Pallipparambil, and Most Rev. Dr. Thomas Paprocki, the Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Chicago. A shrine was constructed in the cemetery with the name of our parish, and Mar Joseph Pandarasseril blessed it on July 13, 2008.
The parish funded to build a new church in the Catholic Diocese of Miao in the state of Arunachal Pradesh in India in the name of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus in thanksgiving for the church they could buy in Chicago. A special collection was taken on June 3, 2007 during Holy Qurbana for this purpose and handed over to the Bishop of Miao Mar George Palliparambil who officiate the Qurbana. The parish then arranged mission pilgrimage to the North East India, including the Diocese of Miao, from January 11 to 23, 2008.
On January 19, 2008, Rev. Fr. Abraham Mutholath blessed Sacred Heart Church in the Diocese of Miao sponsored by Sacred Heart Knanaya Catholic Parish in Chicago. Thirty members from Chicago Knanaya Catholic Parish took part in the function.
The parish celebrated the Silver Jubilee of Knanaya Catholic Mission on August 3, 2008 at Sacred Heart Church. Mar Mathew Moolakkatt, Mar Jacob Angadiath, and Mar George Pallipparambil, Mr. Thomas Chazhikadan M.L.A., Mr. Baby Kanatt, President, Knanaya Catholic Congress of the Archeparchy of Kottayam were the guests. A Jubilee Souvenir of the Knanaya Catholic Mission was published during the meeting.
The parish organized a pilgrimage to Holy Land and Rome from September 30 – October 14, 2008. Along with this, the participants attended the Canonization of Sr. Alphonsa in the Vatican on October 12 by Pope Benedict XVI. The sanctuary of the Sacred Heart Church was renovated with the help of Artist Narayanan Kuttappan and was blessed by Archbishop Mar Mathew Moolakkatt and Bishop Mar Jacob Angadiath on October 26, 2008.
Sacred Heart Parish and St. Mary’s Unit sponsored the sanctuary of the newly constructed Cathedral of the Diocese of Miao. Fr. Abraham Mutholath and Joy Chemmachel took part in the consecration of the Cathedral held on May 2, 2010.
Fund raising programs were held for the purchase of property for St. Mary’s Unit of the parish. Search was going on for an appropriate building for purchase. The General Body, held at OLV church on August 16, 2009 decided to buy a synagogue available in Morton Grove for sale. St. Mary’s Unit bought the Synagogue on January 14, 2010 at 7800 W. Lyons St., Morton Grove, IL 60053 for St. Mary’s Knanaya Catholic Church. Mar Jacob Angadiath consecrated St. Mary’s Church in Morton Grove on July 18, 2010. Mar Mathew Moolakkatt, Archbishop of Kottayam was the main celebrant of the First Mass offered in this Church immediately after the consecration. Mar Joseph Pandarasseril, the Auxiliary Bishop of Kottayam was con-concelebrant and gave homily during the Holy Mass. St. Mary’s Unit was elevated as a parish and Fr. Abraham Mutholath was appointed as its first pastor as an additional appointment. The Visitation convent building at 7801 W. Maple St., in Morton Grove near St. Mary’s Church was blessed on the same day by the three bishops after the consecration of the St. Mary’s Church in Morton Grove.
When St. Mary’s Knanaya Catholic Parish was established on July 18, 2010, the boundary of Sacred Heart Parish is formally restricted to Knanaya Catholics living to the South of 90 Express Way in the state of Illinois and in the state of Indiana.
Mar Jacob Angadiath appointed Fr. Saji Pinarkayil, who has been associate pastor of the Sacred Heart and St. Mary’s Knanaya Catholic parishes in Chicago as the pastor of the parish on January 1, 2012. Both parishes continued common programs for the unity of the community, like religious education festival, youth retreat, seminars, feasts, and pilgrimages. Mar Mathew Moolakkatt blessed the shrine of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus installed at the parking lot of the Sacred Heart Church at 6:45 P.M. on September 17, 2012.
The parish bought a house in Elmhurst on October 9, 2012 as a rectory for the parish. Mar Mathew Moolakkatt blessed the rectory on November 27, 2012.
Mar Jacob Angadiath transferred Fr. Saji Pinarkayil to Houston and transferred Fr. Abraham Mutholath from St. Mary’s Parish to the Sacred Heart church for a second term with effect from October 18, 2014. Mar Jacob Angadiath elevated the parish on March 22, 2015 as a Forane in the presence of Bishop Mar Joy Alappatt and Bishop Mar Lawrence Mukkuzhy. Fr. Abraham Mutholath was appointed as forane vicar.
On September 6, 2015, Fr. Abraham Mutholath inaugurated the 10th year observance of the parish. The Chicago Forane Bible Fest was held at St. Mary’s Church in the presence of Archbishop Mar Mathew Moolakkatt and Bishop Mar Jacob Angadiath on September 12, 2015. The tenth anniversary of the parish was celebrated on a large scale from September 9 to 11, 2016. Archbishop Mar Mathew Moolakkatt inaugurated the 10th anniversary celebration on September 9th. Mar Jacob Angadiath offered Holy Mass and started the 12-hour adoration on the second day. The final day celebration was started with a Holy Mass on September 11 by the Major Archbishop Mar George Cardinal Alancherry, Archbishop Mar Mathew Moolakkatt, Bishop Mar Jacob Angadiath, Bishop Mar Joy Alappatt, Bishop Most Rev. Dr. Michael Mulhall (Canada), priests from the Knanaya Region, and other invited priests from Chicago area. The parish sponsored the construction of another Sacred Heart Church in the diocese of Miao as a souvenir of the tenth anniversary of the parish. Mar George Palliparambil blessed it on January 15, 2017. A souvenir was also published in commemoration of the 10th anniversary celebration.
Fr. Tomy Vadakkevattukulam and Fr. Wilson had helped the parish with Holy Mass and hearing confessions. Fr. Jose Illikunnumpurath, Fr. Saji Pinarkayil, Fr. Siju Mudakkodil, Fr. Suni Padinjarekkara, Fr. Jose Chirappurath and Fr. Boban Vattampurath served as associate pastors.