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.
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 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. Nevertheless, 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.
On the 24th of September in the year 2006, Mar Jacob Angadiath blessed the newly completed interior architectural work of the church and officially declared the Knanaya Catholic Mission as the Sacred Heart Knanaya Catholic Parish. He appointed the Mission Director Rev Fr Abraham Mutholath as pastor of 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.
The Knanaya Catholic Society (KCS) of Chicago had purchased a property in Hoffman Estates, intending to construct a community center. The society and participants of St Mary’s unit reached a consensus on November 12, 2007 to establish St. Mary’s Church and Community Center at KCS’s property. The General Body at OLV Church decided on November 16, 2008, to purchase 2.42 acres of land near KCS property in Hoffman Estates for St. Mary’s Church. Fundraising programs were conducted with the purpose of raising funds for the proposed St. Mary’s Church. The resolution to acquire property at Hoffman Estates for St. Mary’s Church was abandoned during the general assembly held on February 22, 2009 at the OLV Church, because of insufficient funds.
The search for church buildings in proximity to the homes of the parishioners was ongoing. On June 7, 2009, during the General Body of St. Mary’s Unit held at the OLV Church, a decision was made to acquire a property in Arlington Heights for St. Mary’s Church. While the purchase process for the building was in progress, a synagogue in Morton Grove was available for purchase. On August 16, 2009, the General Body of OLV church resolved to purchase the synagogue at 7800 W Lyons St, Morton Grove, IL 60053. The property’s closure was executed on November 30th, 2009 and it became available on January 14th, 2010. Nevertheless, the parties mutually agreed that the seller would continue to utilize the facility until May 31, 2010. Joseph (Thampy) Viruthikulangara, Polson Kulangara, and Stephen Kizhakkekuttu served as the coordinators of the Fundraising Committee and made exceptional efforts to raise sufficient funds within the timeline. From April 19-22, 2010, several members of the committee made a trip to Guadalupe, Mexico, where they 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 took part in the cathedral’s consecration.
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.
St. Mary’s Church in Morton Grove was consecrated by Mar Jacob Angadiath on July 18, 2010. The main celebrant of the First Mass offered in this Church immediately after the consecration was Mar Mathew Moolakkatt, the Archbishop of Kottayam. 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 bordered to Knanaya Catholics living in the northern part of Illinois and Wisconsin, above 90 Express Way.
A Visitation Convent was established in Chicago on July 18, 2010 as well. 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.
Similar to the Sacred Heart Church in Maywood, the parishioners of St. Mary’s parish also expressed the desire for a communal burial ground in a Catholic Cemetery. The parish applied to the Archbishop of Chicago, with the support of Mar Jacob Angadiath. A separate section for the parish has been obtained at Maryhill Cemetery in Niles, with the potential to hold over 1400 graves. The cemetery staff delivered a presentation at St. Mary’s church on July 24, 2011, and from August 1, 2011, the parishioners started purchasing plots. A shrine has been erected in the cemetery bearing 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.
Fr. Abraham Mutholath has been relieved of his duties at Sacred Heart Parish by Mar Jacob Angadiath, and Fr. Saji Pinarkayil, who previously served as an associate pastor at Sacred Heart and St. Mary’s Knanaya Catholic parishes in Chicago, has been appointed as the new pastor of Sacred Heart Parish in Maywood effective 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. On September 12, 2015, the Chicago Forane Bible Fest took place at St. Mary’s Church, attended by Archbishop Mar Mathew Moolakkatt and Bishop Mar Jacob Angadiath.
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.
The parish hosted an exhibition of Eucharistic Miracles from October 9-12, 2015. Bishops Mar Jacob Angadiath and Mar Paul Chittilappally were in attendance for the 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 Mar Joy Alappatt declared St. Mary’s Church, Morton Grove, as a pilgrimage church of Mercy in the Diocese of Chicago 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. We have accomplished a major construction project that comprises 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 Pamplany, 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 from 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 the 26th of May in 2019, the Church purchased a new Rectory located at 9405 Michael Ct, Morton Grove and it was blessed by Archbishop Mar Mathew Moolakkatt. Main sponsor was Jose and Mary Pinarkayil.
On March 15, 2020, COVID-19 restrictions were announced, limiting the number of people allowed for daily mass to 10 at a time. When the pandemic situation of COVID-19 reached its peak on May 25th, 2020, we carried the Blessed Sacrament and the Statue of Mother Mary to all the houses in the parish. By the grace of God, none of the parishioners lost their lives in any fatal incident. At that time, the church’s front elevation and altar were renovated beautifully. The renovation process took nearly two months.
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.