KNANAYA CATHOLIC REGION IN THE UNITED STATES
When Knanaya Catholics migrated to the United States, they got organized for religious and cultural programs. Since they missed the Malayalam Syro-Malabar liturgy, Knanaya Catholic Associations had contacted His Excellency Mar Kuriakose Kunnacherry, the then bishop of Kottayam to send priests to offer spiritual services for our people. Because the Bishop of Kottayam has no ecclesiastical jurisdiction here, he encouraged our people to contact the Latin bishops of the locality also, to start Knanaya Missions under the Latin dioceses served by priests sent from the Diocese of Kottayam. Some of the Latin bishops were generous to honor our request to start Knanaya missions. This was continued until the establishment of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Diocese of Chicago on March 13, 2001 and inaugurated on July 1, 2001. The following are the nine missions in the order of the year of establishment that were in existence before the formation of the St. Thomas Syro-Malabar Catholic Diocese of Chicago:
Brooklyn, NY (1993)
Westchester and Bronx, NY (1993)
Newark, New Jersey (1996)
Rockland, NY (1996)
San Jose (2000)
With the establishment of the St. Thomas Syro-Malabar Catholic Diocese of Chicago, all the Knanaya Catholics and Knanaya Catholic Missions in the U.S. came under this diocese. His Excellency Mar Jacob Angadiath appointed Rev. Fr. Abraham Mutholath on October 3, 2001 as the Syncellus (Vicar General) of the Eparchy. His special charges in the diocese were over Catechism, Youth, Pious Associations, Vocations, Family Apostolate and Special Concerns of the Knanaya Catholic Community. Bishop Mar Jacob Angadiath established St. Pius X Knanaya Catholic Mission in Los Angeles on March 17, 2002 and appointed Fr. Abraham Mutholath as the first mission director. At the request of the bishop, Fr. Abraham Mutholath moved his residence from Los Angeles to Chicago in February 2003.
Bishop Mar Jacob Angadiath sent his official acceptance letter of missions to the mission directors on October 29, 2003. All the directors in the respective missions were asked to continue their service in the missions.
KNANAYA CATHOLIC REGION
Bishop Mar Jacob Angadiath established Knanaya Catholic Region in the diocese on April 30, 2006. Fr. Abraham Mutholath, the Vicar General of the diocese was appointed as the director of this region. This region consists of all the Knanaya Catholic missions, parishes, and all Knanaya Catholic faithful living within the boundary of the St. Thomas Syro-Malabar Catholic Diocese of Chicago (all over the United States). Hence, the Vicar General for the Knanaya Catholics shall be the proper pastor of all the Knanaya Catholics in this diocese that do not belong to a Knanaya Catholic mission or parish. All the pastoral activities of the Knanaya Catholics in the diocese are coordinated through the region director and vicar general assigned for the Knanaya Catholics.
Fr. Abraham Mutholath motivated the Knanaya Catholics all over United States to establish new Knanaya missions and to buy churches for the missions so that they can grow as parishes. At the request of Mar Jacob Angadiath, His Grace Mar Mathew Moolakkatt has been generous to send more Knanaya priests from the Archeparchy of Kottayam to serve the Knanaya Missions in the United States.
On February 8, 2014, Bishop Mar Jacob Angadiath appointed Rev. Fr. Thomas Mulavanal as the Vicar General and director of the Knanaya Catholic Region. Fr. Thomas Mulavanal moved from Los Angeles to Chicago in October 2014.
At present we have 12 parishes and 9 missions in the region served by 15 priests from the Archdiocese of Kottayam and two other Knanaya Catholic Priests. We are in the process of establishing more missions and parishes.
VISION AND MISSION OF MISSIONS AND PARISHES
The Knanaya Community from its origin in 345 A.D. has always been a church-based community and always had local churches and oftentimes centralized church structure like coordination of pastoral activities under a Knanaya Vicar General or a Knanaya (Arch) diocese. This setup has been helping the community to keep up its faith, morals, and unity. The community needs to keep up this church-based structure and ethnicity regardless of where they migrate. This identity as an Eastern ethnic church with personal jurisdiction within the Syro-Malabar church, favors that Knanaites can have their own Knanaya churches served by Knanaya priests. The community has to take advantage of this favorable situation to sustain and develop the community all over the world.
The goal of the Knanaya Catholic parishes and missions is to take care of the pastoral needs of the community while promoting the ethnicity and valuable traditions of the community. We achieve this by conducting regular Holy Mass, Religious Education Schools, and all possible liturgical and spiritual services. We need to establish churches and other facilities for these purposes in all possible areas where our people have migrated.
The Syro-Malabar church has translated its liturgy in English, Hindi and various other languages so that the coming generations and new converts can follow the liturgy. Here in the United States, many of our parishes and missions have started liturgy also in English with the active involvement of children and youth. The medium of Religious Education, Youth Retreat, and ministries for children and youth is English. We need more adaptations in the future.
THE FUTURE OF KNANAYA MISSIONS AND PARISHES
Unlike the Latin Catholics who have migrated in the United States, the Catholics of the Eastern churches have the privilege, right, and responsibility to establish their own churches and hierarchy for the preservation of their sui juris churches. The directives of the Catholic Church are in favor of this. Hence the Syro-Malabar faithful in the United States have achieved a diocese of their own with all possible pastoral setup within the diocese. The Knanaya Catholics who have migrated from the Archdiocese of Kottayam, have the permission from Rome to establish our own Knanaya Catholic missions and parishes served by Knanaya Catholic priests. No other single diocese of the Syro-Malabar church has this privilege. Let us thank the Lord and our church hierarchy for giving us this consideration. We shall make use of this great opportunity to develop our Knanaya Church setup for the betterment of our community and the continuation of this ethnic community.
The Knanaya Missions need to develop as full-fledged parishes by establishing churches and other facilities for pastoral activities like daily mass and Religious Education Schools. The missions and parishes shall concentrate on the pastoral needs of the community like Baptism, First Communion, wedding, funeral, memorial services, feasts of saints, retreats, prayer groups, Religious Education, and Pious Associations. The parishes will help to bring our people together on every weekend for prayer and socialization. This will promote the unity and intimacy of the community. Moreover the parishes will help to train our children, teenagers, and youth according to our liturgical and community traditions and culture. This will foster the ethnicity of the community also.
The establishment of the St. Thomas Syro-Malabar Diocese of Chicago has great impact on the Syro-Malabar church and its faithful in North America. It also helped Knanaya community’s ecclesiastical growth here. Until the establishment of this diocese, our pastoral growth was very limited. The establishment of Knanaya Region in the United States also has contributed much in the development of Knanaya missions and parishes. So, following the vision of Bishop Mar Mathew Makil we need to develop our Knanaya Region as a Knanaya Diocese in the United States. That will facilitate the development of the community in the model of the Archeparchy of Kottayam that has been doing tremendous contributions for the betterment of Knanaya Catholics. In order to establish our own Knanaya diocese here, we need to establish maximum number of Knanaya missions, and develop our missions as parishes. We also need the support of the Syro-Malabar hierarchy to achieve this goal. So our cooperation with the St. Thomas Syro-Malabar Diocese of Chicago is essential in this journey for development.