Syro-Malabar Church carries on ancient traditions
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9/21/2009, in category "General News & Articles"
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Pete Sheehan of Long Isalnd Catholic writes about Syro-Malabar Church in West Hempstead.
Syro-Malabar Church carries on
By Pete Sheehan
WEST HEMPSTEAD When parishioners of St. Mary,s Syro-Malabar Church here came from India, they brought along their faith and their traditions.
Their Church, said Father Ligory Philips, pastor of St. Marys is an Oriental Catholic Church in full communion with and under the authority of the pope. Yet the Syro-Malabar Church has a liturgy, legal system, and other traditions that reflect its origins centuries ago in India.
Having our parish here means everything to me, my family, and our community, said Mathew Joseph, a real estate tax assessor for New York City and a parishioner of St. Marys. We want to live our faith and preserve our traditions.
His family is one of almost 400 families on Long Island and Queens and Brooklyn active in St. Mary&rsquo;s. St. Thomas the Apostle Church in West Hempstead allows St. Mary,s to use its chapel building on Hempstead Avenue, about two miles from the main church, said Father Philips, who lives at St. Thomas rectory.
The Syro-Malabar Church traces its origins to the ministry of St. Thomas the Apostle, who according to tradition evangelized the southern part of India in 53 A.D.
In the 16th century, Father Philips said, Vatican directives forced the Syro-Malabar Church to comply more with Latin-rite customs, but reforms by Pope Pius XII and the Second Vatican Council have enabled the Syro-Malabar Church to recover many of its traditional practices.
Those traditions are apparent at St. Marys, Joseph said, and they are something that we want to pass on to our kids and grandchildren.There are probably 1,000 Syro-Malabar families on Long Island and in Queens and Brooklyn, Father Philips said. For years, Masses in the Syro-Malabar tradition were offered at various parishes, including St. Patrick&rsquo;s Church in Glen Cove, St. Boniface Church in Elmont, and parishes in Queens.
Five years ago, the St. Thomas Syro-Malabar Eparchy (Diocese) for the U.S. in Chicago decided to bring them all together to form St. Mary,s. Father Philips, who is also from India, became pastor early this year.
The parish offers Mass each Sunday at 5 p.m. We have one Mass each month in English, Father Philips said. The other three weeks the Mass is offered in Malayalam, one of the languages of southern India. In India, Syro-Malabar communities offer Mass in whatever language is used in that particular part of India.
We have catechism classes each Sunday, Father Philips said, and every Saturday we have the rosary at 8:30 a.m. Every First Friday we have eucharistic adoration and Mass. For each Friday in Lent, we have Stations of the Cross and Mass.
In addition, we are trying to focus on the family, Father Philips said, encouraging families to engage in regular prayer, such as family rosaries. Each October, the parish has a celebration of their patron, Mary, mother of Jesus.
The parish looks to the future with hope. When we started, we had 150 families. Now we have almost 400, said Joseph, who is vice chairperson of the building committee and a member of the finance committee.
They are happy to be able to worship at St. Thomas chapel, but we are hoping to have our own church, Joseph continued. We would be willing to purchase a building or purchase land and build our own. The parish has a fundraiser, a musical and dance show, planned for Oct. 24 at Chaminade High School auditorium in Mineola at 6 p.m.
St. Marys sees its mission as going beyond the Indian immigrants and their families who comprise their parish community, Father Philips said. We have a lot to offer to others looking for a place to worship and a community to worship with. I think God has a plan to use us to evangelize. That is why God has brought us here and built our community.