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 Bishop’s 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 in addition to 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 the arrival of 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 in addition to 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.
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 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 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 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 in support of 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 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.
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.
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 also. 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 common Religious Education Festival, youth retreat, seminars, and feast celebrations.
The Knanaya Catholic Society (KCS) of Chicago had bought a property in Hoffman Estates to build a community center. The society and participants of St. Mary’s unit came to an agreement on November 12, 2007 to have St. Mary’s Church and Community Center at the property of KCS. Decision was made at the General Body at OLV Church on November 16, 2008 to buy 2.42 acres of land at Hoffman Estates close to property of KCS for St. Mary’s Church. Fundraising programs were held to raise fund for the proposed St. Mary’s Church. Since the unit could not raise enough fund on time, the former decision to purchase property at Hoffman Estates for St. Mary’s Church was dropped in the general body held on February 22, 2009 at OLV Church.
Search was still going on for church building close to the homes of the parishioners. The General Body of St. Mary’s Unit held at OLV Church on June 7, 2009, decided to purchase a building in Arlington Heights for St. Mary’s Church. While the process of purchasing the building was going on, a synagogue was available for purchase in Morton Grove. So, the General Body at OLV church on August 16, 2009 decided to buy that synagogue at 7800 W. Lyons St., Morton Grove, IL 60053. The closing of that property was done on November 30, 2009 and the property became available from January 14, 2010. However, with mutual agreement, the seller continued to use the facility until May 31, 2010. Joseph (Thampy) Viruthikulangara, Polson Kulangara, and Stephen Kizhakkekuttu were the coordinators of the Fundraising Committee that did a marvelous effort to raise sufficient fund on time. A few committee members visited Guadalupe, Mexico from April 19-22, 2010 and bought religious items for the new church.
During the Holy Mass as OLV church on August 3, 2008 by the Bishop of Miao Mar George Palliparambil and by Mar Mathew Moolakkatt, Fr. Abraham Mutholath handed over sponsorship amount to Bishop Mar George Palliparambil to construct a church in the Diocese of Miao in the name of St. Mary on behalf of St. Mary’s Knanaya Catholic Unit in Chicago. Sacred Heart Parish and St. Mary’s Unit also sponsored the sanctuary of the Cathedral of the Diocese of Miao that was consecrated on May 2, 2010. Fr. Abraham Mutholath and Joy Chemmachel participated in the consecration of the cathedral.
The former Chief Minister of Kerala State Mr. Oomman Chandy along with Ramesh Chennithala and M.M. Hassan inaugurated the Morton Grove Knanaya Church Auditorium on June 11, 2010. The last mass of the St. Mary’s Unit at OLV church was held on June 11, 2010 and that of the KCS Community Center was on July 15, 2010.
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 boundary of St. Mary’s Knanaya Catholic Parish was formally restricted to Knanaya Catholics living to the north of 90 Express Way in the state of Illinois and in the state of Wisconsin.
A Visitation Convent in Chicago was also established on July 18, 2010. The convent building at 7801 W. Maple St., in Morton Grove near St. Mary’s Church was blessed on the same day after the consecration of the St. Mary’s Church in Morton Grove. Three sisters of the Visitation congregation live in this convent and help with the pastoral ministry of Sacred Heart and St. Mary’s Knanaya Catholic Parishes in Chicago.
During the informal visit of Cardinal Telesphore P. Toppo, the Archbishop of Ranchi to Chicago, the Sacred Heart and St. Mary’s parishioners offered him a reception at St. Mary’s church on August 3, 2010 along with Archbishop Mar Mathew Moolakatt and Bishop Mar Jacob Angadiath. The First Solemn Feast of B.V. Mary at St. Mary’s Church was held from August 6 to 8, 2010. Archbishop Mar Mathew Moolakkatt, Bishop Mar Jacob Angadiath, and Bishop Mar George Palliparambil were celebrants. Archbishop of Agra Most Rev. Dr. Albert D’Souza inaugurated the cultural programs.
Following the model of the Sacred Heart Church in Maywood, the parishioners of St. Mary’s parish also wanted to a have common burial place in a Catholic 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 Maryhill Cemetery in Niles with possibility of more than 1400 graves. The cemetery staff made a presentation at St. Mary’s church on July 24, 2011 and parishioners started buying plots from August 1, 2011. A shrine was installed in the cemetery with the name of the church. Vicar General Fr. Abraham Mutholath blessed the shrine on July 22, 2012.
The front elevation of the St. Mary’s church was remodeled with the help of Artist Narayanan Kuttappan. Major Archbishop Mar George Alancherry, along with Mar Jacob Angadiath blessed it on October 25, 2011.
Mar Jacob Angadiath relieved Fr. Abraham Mutholath from Sacred Heart Parish and 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 Sacred Heart Parish in Maywood 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 Jacob Angadiath transferred Fr. Abraham Mutholath from St. Mary’s Parish to the Sacred Heart church for a second term with effect from October 18, 2014. Vicar General Fr. Thomas Mulavanal was appointed as the pastor of St. Mary’s Parish. Bishop Mar Jacob Angadiath elevated Sacred Heart Church in Maywood and a forane church on March 22, 2015 with Fr. Abraham Mutholath and the forane vicar. St. Mary’s Parish became part of this forane. 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.
This parish started Three Days Feast (Moonnu Nombu) and Purathu namaskaram on January 26-28, 2015. This is an imitation of the famous feast celebration in Kaduthuruthy Church, Kottayam. Bishop Jacob Angadiath elevated five parishes in the Knanaya Catholic Region as Forane Churches (Maywood, Houston, New York, Tampa, San Jose) on February 28, 2015. Chicago Forane Bible Fest was held at this church. Archbishop Mar Mathew Moolakatt and Bishop Mar Jacob Angadiath were present on that occasion.
The parish organized an Exhibition of Eucharistic Miracles from October 9-12m 2015. Bishops Mar Jacob Angadiath and Mar Paul Chittilappally were present for its inauguration. The Family Year programs ended in December 2015 with various celebrations including family gatherings, seminars, wedding anniversary celebrations of 10th, 20, 25th, 30th, 40, and 50th. Bishop Joy Alappatt declared St. Mary’s Church, Morton Grove as a pilgrimage church of Mercy in the Diocese of Chicag on February 23, 2016
St. Mary’s Church organized the 10th anniversary celebration of the Knanaya Catholic Region on September 10, 2016. Major archbishop Mar George Alancherry, Bishop Michael Mulhall (The delegate appointed by Oriental Congregation to study the Knanaya Catholic Community), Archbishop Mar Mathew Moolakatt, Bishop Mar Jacob Angadiath and Bishop Mar Joy Alappatt were present at the Regional representative meeting.
On March 17, 2017, we opened the remodeled Kitchen of our Church. In addition, we completed a major project of construction 105 new parking places for our church. Archbishop Mar Kuriakose Kunnacherry called for eternal rest on June 14, 2017. Knanaya Catholic Regional family conference was held at SMKC parish. Bishop Joseph Pampalany, Bishop Jacob Angadiath, Bishop Joy Alapatt and Bishop Mar Joseph Pandarassery were present at the conference.
On November 16, 2017, Bishop Mar Jacob Angadiath blessed the newly constructed perpetual Adoration Chapel at our Church. It is open for adoration daily 9 am to 9 pm. We have constructed a new Grotto of our Lady of Lourdes in front of our Church. St. Jude Koodarayogam members contributed its construction costs. Bro. Joseph Thachara received a minor order of Karoya from Mar Mathew Moolakatt at our church on July 26, 2018. On September 28, 2018 we had a regional representative meeting at our church. On May 26, 2019 Church bought a new Rectory at 9405 Michael Ct, Morton Grove and blessed it by Archbishop Mar Mathew Moolakkatt. Main sponsor was Jose and Mary Pinarkayil.
On March 15, 2020, Covid 19 restrictions were declared and allowed only 10 people for daily mass at a time. On May 25th 2020 the covid Pandemic situation became peak and we took the Blessed Sacrament and the Statue of Mother Mary to all houses in the parish. God graciously spared all lives of the parishioners without any deadly incidents. During that time, church front elevation and altar renovation had been done beautifully. It took almost two months for renovation.
Fr. Jose Illikunnumpurath, Fr. Saji Pinarkayil, Fr. Siju Mudakkodil, Fr. Suni Padinjarekkara, Fr. Jose Chirappurath, Fr. Boban Vattampurath, Fr. Bins Chethalil, and Fr. Joseph Thachara served as associate pastors. Fr. Lijo Kochuparambil is the present associate pastor from June 15, 2022.