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 Kunnacherry to send a priest from Kottayam diocese to offer pastoral service to the Knanaya community here. In a letter dated March 18, 1981, Mar Kuriakose Kunnacherry reached out to His Eminence John Cardinal Cody, the Archbishop of Chicago, to seek help in creating a Knanaya Catholic Ministry in Chicago, which would be led 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. Whenever a Syro-Malabar priest was available, they organized Syro-Malabar Qurbana in the basement chapel of St. Alphonsus Church. On November 3, 1982, Bishop Mar Kuriakose Kunnacherry sent a letter to the newly appointed Archbishop of Chicago, Most Rev. Joseph L. Bernardin, requesting him to reconsider the plea for starting a new Knanaya Catholic Ministry in Chicago. In response to a request from community leaders, Rev. Richard J. Feller, the pastor of the Church of St. Ita, wrote to the Chancellor of the Archdiocese of Chicago on September 7, 1983, expressing his willingness to provide a residence for the proposed Knanaya priest from Kerala in his parish.
On September 27, 1983, Rev. John C. Hergenrother, Chancellor of the Archdiocese of Chicago, held a meeting with two representatives each from four associations, namely: (1) Kerala Catholic Fellowship, (2) Knanaya Association of North America, (3) Knanaya Catholic Congress, and (4) Knanaya Association of Chicago. They agreed to avail the service of Fr. Jacob Chollampel, proposed by Mar Kuriakose Kunnacherry to serve all Kerala Catholics in Chicago. Accordingly, on October 7, 1983, the chancellor of the Archdiocese of Chicago wrote to Mar Kuriakose Kunnacherry, extending a warm welcome to Fr. Jacob Chollampel for his service. On October 28, 1983, Fr. Jacob Chollampel arrived in Chicago and established a specialized ministry for Kerala Catholics. He lived in the rectory of St. Ita Church during this time.
In October 1984, a group of non-Knanaya Syro-Malabar Catholics living in Chicago addressed the Kerala Catholic Bishop’s Conference and Syro-Malabar Bishop’s Conference, requesting the establishment of a distinct ministry for their community. 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 in addition to Rev. Fr. Jacob Chollampel who is already appointed for the ministry to the Knanaya Community.” Following the request of the Bishop’s Conference, the Syro-Malabar Ministry was established and inaugurated by Joseph Cardinal Bernadine, the Archbishop of Chicago, on August 25, 1985. The Archdiocese of Chicago granted permission to use St. Bernadine church in Forest Park for monthly Holy Mass. Fr. Antony Kurialacherry has been 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.
On December 3, 1985, Fr. Anthony Kurialacherry, the Spiritual Director of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Community of Chicago, agreed to the request of the Knanaya Community members to continue the Syro-Malabar Mass at St. Benedict’s Church in Chicago every Saturday evening. Fr C.T. Vayalil from the Archdiocese of Changanacherry, who was functioning as a hospital chaplain in Chicago, also consented to aid the ministry. On January 23, 1987, Rev. Robert L Kealy corresponded with Fr. Zacharias Elapunkal, the director of the Syro-Malabar Ministry, to coordinate the services of Syro-Malabar priests who could celebrate the liturgy for the Knanaya Syro-Malabar Ministry.
On the 7th of December 1987, Cardinal Joseph Bernardin corresponded with Mar Kuriakose Kunnacherry, expressing his readiness to welcome Fr. Cyriac Manthuruthil to serve in the Knanaya Syro-Malabar Ministry in Chicago. On May 24, 1988, Fr. Cyriac Manthuruthil arrived in Chicago, and subsequently, on May 31, 1988, the Archdiocese of Chicago appointed him as the director of the Knanaya Catholic Mission. He continued to live at St Ferdinand’s Church during his tenure. 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 liturgy was celebrated biweekly at 6:30 P.M. in St. Henry’s church. The Mass venue was moved 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 16th, 2003 and began living at Our Lady of Victory Parish in Chicago where he served as a 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 1st, 2001, Bishop Mar Jacob Angadiath reconstituted this mission on October 29th, 2003, as part of the Syro-Malabar diocese. He expanded its jurisdiction to include all Knanaya Catholics living in Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin. He also affirmed the appointment of Rev. Fr. Philip Thodukayil as the director of this mission. Upon his return to Kottayam, Bishop Angadiath designated Vicar General Fr. Abraham Mutholath as the director of this mission on July 1, 2004. Insufficient attendance led to the discontinuation of the Holy Mass at St. Isidore’s Church in Bloomingdale on August 7, 2004, and the mass at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church in Darien on August 21, 2004.
Mar Mathew Moolakkatt led the Solemn Feast held on August 8, 2004, in honor of Pope St Pius X, the first of its kind for the mission. Starting September 4th, 2004, the mission held Holy Mass every Saturday at 5:00 P.M. in St. Peter’s Church in North Lake. In addition, the mission started the Religious Education School at North Lake on September 11th and at IHM School on September 12th, 2004. The mission conducted the first marriage preparation course from December 3–5, 2004.
While delivering the homily at IHM Church on May 22, 2005, Mar Mathew Moolakkatt, the former auxiliary bishop of Kottayam, appealed to the Knanaya Catholics in Chicago to create their own church. Planning to establish our own church has been started. On June 18, 2005, the venue for the mass designated for the Chicago Suburb was moved from St. Peter’s Church in North Lake to the hall of St. Joseph’s Church in Addison. Mission began many pastoral programs, such as an adult Theology Course, diverse ministries, a religious education festival, the publication of a Sunday Bulletin, and youth retreats. Our Lady of Victory (OLV) church in Chicago became the new location for the Sunday 5:30 P.M. mass in September 2005. A committee was formed on October 2, 2005, tasked with finding a building suitable for purchase for our church.
To honor the Sacerdotal Silver Jubilee of the mission director, Fr Abraham Mutholath, certain members of the mission have arranged to gather $100 each to give him a personal gift. The mission director advised them to contribute $1000 each under their name to the church building fund on that day. Therefore, the members of the mission contributed $44,337 to the building fund of the church during the Jubilee Celebration meeting held at OLV School Hall on December 4, 2005. This generated momentum for raising more funds towards the building fund.
On April 28, 2006, Bishop Mar Jacob Angadiath established seven regions within the St. Thomas Syro-Malabar Diocese of Chicago. One of these regions is designated for all Knanaya Catholics within the diocese. On April 30, 2006, Mar Jacob Angadiath formally announced the establishment of the Knanaya Catholic Region at OLV Church Chicago and appointed Vicar General Rev. Fr. Abraham Mutholath as the Director of the Region.
The mission observed the Solemn Feast of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus at the Community Center, OLV Church, Taft High School Auditorium, and St. Joseph’s Church Addison from May 25 to 28, 2006. The principal celebrants were Archbishop Emeritus Mar Kuriakose Kunnacherry and Bishop Mar Jacob Angadiath. On the occasion of the feast celebration held on May 25, Mar Jacob Angadiath declared that the patron of the intended 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, represented by Auxiliary Bishop Most Rev. Joseph Paprocki, had made a commitment to sell one of their churches, which had not yet been closed, to the Knanaya Catholic Mission. Mar Jacob Angadiath, Fr Abraham Mutholath, and Joy Vachachira have been strictly instructed by the Archdiocese to keep the name of the church to be purchased strictly confidential until the Archbishop issues the decree on closing the church and selling it to the Knanaya Community. The church’s location and purchase were not disclosed to the community during the fundraising.
The name and location of the church to be bought were disclosed by Mission Director Fr. Abraham Mutholath during a Music Concert conducted by Rev. Fr. Paul Poovathumkal at Taft High School Auditorium on June 24, 2006. The musical concert was an event planned by the women’s ministry to raise funds for the acquisition of a new church. People were quick to accept the decision. Certain members of the mission raised a security concern regarding the City of Maywood, where the proposed church was situated. The matter achieved substantial momentum and was met with vehement protest. A group of individuals gathered signatures from nearly 400 families and submitted a petition to Mar Jacob Angadiath, expressing opposition to the acquisition of the church. Although the bishop and mission director were prepared to abandon the church, another group made a compelling plea to purchase it. Mar Angadiath instructed them to gather the signatures of over 400 families in favor of their appeal.
Archbishop Mar Mathew Moolakkatt, Archbishop Emeritus Mar Kuriakose Kunnacherry, and Rev. Fr. Thomas Kottoor journeyed from Kerala to attend the blessing and inauguration of the church, which was scheduled for July 15th, 2016. Instead, a con-celebrated 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.
A banquet was organized on July 16, 2006, at Crown Jewel Banquet Hall in Des Plaines, to honor the dignitaries as part of the proposed parish inauguration. At the banquet, supporters of the acquisition of the church, led by Alex Kannachanparambil, presented a petition from over 400 families to support the purchase. 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 already departed for Kerala when the Archdiocese transferred ownership of the church, effective September 1, 2006. The first Syro-Malabar Qurbana was offered by Mission Director Fr. Abraham Mutholath 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 to be a center of pilgrimage for Our Lady of Guadalupe. At their request, we permitted them to take the statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe with them from the church. The Knanaya mission organized a pilgrimage to the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico between September 14 and 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 Archdiocese of Chicago transferred the St. James Church property’s ownership through a deed executed on September 22, 2006. On September 24, 2006, Mar Jacob Angadiath consecrated the new interior architectural work of the church and pronounced the Knanaya Catholic Mission as Sacred Heart Knanaya Catholic Parish. Rev. Fr. Abraham Mutholath, the Mission Director, has been assigned as the pastor of the parish. Bishop also blessed the shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in the Church. Following the inauguration by His Excellency Bishop Thomas Paprocki, the City Mayor of Maywood, Henderson Yarbrough, extended a warm welcome to the community and pledged support to the parish.
Because of objections from 50% of the parishioners regarding the purchase of the church in Maywood, the Qurbana at Our Lady of Victory Church in Chicago has been ongoing as an extension of the parish on Sunday evenings. Vicar General Fr Abraham Mutholath released a circular on December 25, 2006, in which he disclosed the establishment of St. Mary’s Unit for Knanaya Catholics at OLV church to cater to their pastoral requirements. The effective date of this initiative was 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 within the Sacred Heart Parish. Attempts were made to minimize the division within the community through the arrangement of joint programs for participants from Sacred Heart and St. Mary’s, such as a shared Religious Education Festival, youth retreat, seminars, and feast celebrations.
May 31, 2007 marked the signing of the deed for the rectory, which was transferred from the Archdiocese of Chicago to the Sacred Heart Knanaya Catholic Parish. The parishioners favored a unified burial location in a cemetery. With a recommendation from Mar Jacob Angadiath, the parish applied to the Archbishop of Chicago. The Queen of Heaven Cemetery in Hillsdale has assigned a separate section to the parish that can accommodate over 1600 graves. On June 1, 2007, the Knanaya Catholic Parish Cemetery at the Queen of Heaven Cemetery was dedicated 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 erected in the cemetery under the name of our parish, and it was blessed by Mar Joseph Pandarasseril on July 13, 2008.
The parish provided funds for the construction of a new church in the Catholic Diocese of Miao, in the Arunachal Pradesh, India. The church was named after the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus as a gesture of gratitude for the church they could acquire in Chicago. On the third of June 2007, a special collection was taken during Holy Qurbana for this specific purpose and was subsequently given to the officiating Bishop of Miao, Mar George Palliparambil. From January 11 to 23, 2008, the parish organized a mission pilgrimage to the North East India, which included the Diocese of Miao.
Rev. Fr. Abraham Mutholath blessed Sacred Heart Church in the Diocese of Miao on January 19th, 2008. The church was sponsored by Sacred Heart Knanaya Catholic Parish in Chicago. Thirty individuals from the Chicago Knanaya Catholic Parish were present at the function.
On August 3, 2008, the parish celebrated the Silver Jubilee of Knanaya Catholic Mission 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. During the meeting, a Jubilee Souvenir of the Knanaya Catholic Mission was published.
The parish arranged a pilgrimage to the Holy Land and Rome from September 30 to October 14, 2008. In addition, the participants witnessed the Canonization of Sr. Alphonsa at the Vatican on October 12, officiated by Pope Benedict XVI. The sanctuary of the Sacred Heart Church underwent renovation with the assistance of Artist Narayanan Kuttappan. The blessing ceremony was conducted on October 26, 2008, by Archbishop Mar Mathew Moolakkatt and Bishop Mar Jacob Angadiath.
The sanctuary of the newly constructed Cathedral of the Diocese of Miao was sponsored by Sacred Heart Parish and St Mary’s Unit. Fr. Abraham Mutholath and Joy Chemmachel took part in the Cathedral’s consecration that occurred on May 2, 2010.
Fund-raising initiatives were conducted to acquire a property for the St. Mary’s Unit of the parish. The search was underway to find a suitable building for purchase. On August 16, 2009, during the General Body meeting held at OLV church, it was decided to acquire a synagogue that was available for sale in Morton Grove. On January 14, 2010, St. Mary’s Unit bought the Synagogue at 7800 W. Lyons St, Morton Grove, IL 60053 intending to use it 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, the Archbishop of Kottayam, was the main celebrant of the inaugural Mass conducted in this Church after its 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 F.r 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.
The establishment of St. Mary’s Knanaya Catholic Parish on July 18, 2010 resulted in the formal restriction of Sacred Heart Parish’s boundary to Knanaya Catholics residing south of 90 Express Way in the states of Illinois and Indiana.
As of January 1, 2012, Mar Jacob Angadiath appointed Fr Saji Pinarkayil as the pastor of the parish, having previously served as an associate pastor at the Sacred Heart and St Mary’s Knanaya Catholic parishes in Chicago. The two parishes continued to jointly organize programs aimed at promoting community unity. These included festivals for religious education, youth retreats, 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 purchased a house in Elmhurst on October 9, 2012, which serves as a rectory for the parish. Mar Mathew Moolakkatt blessed the rectory on November 27, 2012.
Mar Jacob Angadiath has transferred Fr. Saji Pinarkayil to Houston and Fr. Abraham Mutholath from St Mary’s Parish to the Sacred Heart Church, effective October 18th, 2014, for a second term. On March 22, 2015, Mar Jacob Angadiath, in the presence of Bishop Mar Joy Alappatt and Bishop Mar Lawrence Mukkuzhy, raised the parish to the status of a Forane. Fr. Abraham Mutholath was designated as forane vicar.
Fr. Abraham Mutholath inaugurated the observance of the parish’s 10th year on September 6, 2015. On September 12, 2015, the Chicago Forane Bible Fest took place at St. Mary’s Church, graced by the presence of Archbishop Mar Mathew Moolakkatt and Bishop Mar Jacob Angadiath. The parish’s tenth anniversary was celebrated extensively from September 9 to 11, 2016. On September 9th, Archbishop Mar Mathew Moolakkatt inaugurated the 10th anniversary celebration. On the second day, Mar Jacob Angadiath conducted the Holy Mass and initiated a 12-hour adoration. 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 financed the building of an additional Sacred Heart Church within the diocese of Miao, commemorating the tenth anniversary of the parish. Mar George Palliparambil blessed it on January 15, 2017. A commemorative souvenir was also published to mark 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.