History of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Syro Malabar Catholic Church of Greater Washington
The Catholic Church is the communion of the Western (Latin) Church and 23 Eastern (Oriental) churches, that includes the Syro Malabar Church. The Syro Malabarians were also known as St. Thomas Christians or the Syrians. According to tradition, St. Thomas the Apostle came to India, Kerala in A.D. 52 and founded seven Christian communities. Around 1950, the Syro Malabar Christians started to migrate to different parts of the world and a great number of faithful arrived in different cities of USA forming small faith communities. On March 13, 2001, Pope John Paul II established a diocese for the Syro Malabar faithful in America based in Chicago and appointed Mar Jacob Angadiath as the Bishop of the diocese.
During the early 2000’s, many Syro Malabar families settled down around the Greater Washington area, including Maryland, Northern Virginia, and hence, in 2004, the Syro Malabar Catholic Mission of Greater Washington was initiated with Fr. Mathew Punchayil as the Mission Director. Holy Mass and services at the time were held at Mother Seton Parish in Germantown, MD. The first parish council was formed in February 2007 with Shaji Joseph Kottooran and Thomas Antony Puthussery as trustees of the mission. It was registered as a corporation in March 2007, and in June 2007, the community moved to St. Rose of Lima Parish, Gaithersburg for worship and services.
The parish trustees served during the period of 2008 to 2021 were as follows:
2008: Vinson Xavier Palathingal and Justin Jose Madathiparambil
2009-2010: Jijo Joseph Pallickal and Rony Thomas Parayankuzhiyil
2011-2012: Thomas Sebastian Anchukandathil and Thomas Abraham Theniaplackal
2013-2014: Dr. Johny Alencherry, Davis Chalissery, Rex Thomas Mullappalil and Roy Mathew Kannamtharappel
2015-2016: Dr. Johny Alencherry, Davis Chalissery, James Paul Mandapathil and Jasmin Jose Thundathil
2017-2018: Jasmin Jose Thundathil and Manoj Mathew Kollamparambil
2019-2021: Manoj Mathew Kollamparambil and Joyal Jose Thundathil were selected as the trustees and later, Thomas Abraham Theniaplackal assumed the role of trustee in place of Joyal Jose Thundathil.
On June 26, 2011, Bishop Mar Jacob Angadiath created a new mission called St. Jude Syro Malabar Catholic Mission of Northern Virginia, and appointed Fr. Joseph Elampara OCD as the Director of the Mission for the Syro Malabar faithful in the Northern Virginia area, who then became part of that mission. On September 27, 2014, Bishop Mar Joy Alappatt was ordained Auxiliary Bishop of the St. Thomas Syro Malabar Catholic diocese of Chicago. In September 2013, a building committee was formed with Johny Alencherry as the chairman, and Jasmin Jose Thundathil, Manoj Mathew Kollamparambil, and James Paul Mandapathil as the members of the committee.
On September 20, 2015, the community of greater Washington area moved to Visitation Parish, Darnestown, where Fr. Mathew was serving as the Parochial Vicar. During this time the community strongly felt the need for building a Church of their own and initiated many fund-raising events including car raffles, cultural events, and community programs. On November 16, 2016, while Jasmin Jose Thundathil, Johny Alancherry, Davis Chalissery, and James Paul Mandapathil were trustees and Manoj Mathew Kollamparambil was the building committee chairman, and Johnson John Kurichiel was the co-chairman, the Mission purchased land for building a Church in Gaithersburg and started approaching various banks for loans to begin the Church construction. On November 4, 2018, the community had to move yet again to Mother of God facility in Gaithersburg for Holy Mass and CCD classes. Fr. Mathew Punchayil retired on December 1, 2018, and subsequently, Fr. Roy Moolechalil was appointed as the mission director.
A year later, the bank loan was approved, and on September 22, 2019. Bishop Mar Joy Alappatt, Auxiliary Bishop of the St. Thomas Syro Malabar Catholic Diocese of Chicago, presided over the ground-breaking ceremony. A new energy radiated for the construction with leadership of the parish council with Manoj Mathew Kollamparambil and Thomas Abraham Theniaplackal as trustees of the Church. The building committee expanded with Johnson John Kurichiel as the Project coordinator. Several banks were unwilling to sanction a loan for this project because of the lack of credit and income in the Church account, and also because the project budget was much higher than the loan amount. Hence, separate budgets were made for the site work and building construction, and banks were approached for a loan only for the building construction. However, this too was not enough to convince the bank to approve the loan, but finally the timely intervention of several parishioners including Thomas Abraham Theniaplackal helped us gain momentum on gathering funds and increasing our financial strength, and on April 30, 2020, the bank loan was sanctioned from Revere bank (currently merged with Sandy Spring bank).
The hard work, contributions, and prayers of the parishioners are admirable. Several OLPH parishioners generously contributed by giving personal loans in various amounts, that were eventually returned before the consecration of the Church. The bank loan was approved only for the building construction, and additional funds were required for site work, utility services and other installations. Despite all the hardships of funding, hassles of labor management, setbacks in building construction, the Church construction commenced by the grace of God. Every family contributed to the best of their ability through fervent prayers, donations, loans and sponsorship. The hard work and dedication of the trustees Manoj Mathew Kollamparambil, Thomas Abraham Theniaplackal, the project coordinator Johnson John Kurichiel, the parish council and building committee members played a key role in the success of the building construction. The Church is adorned by the beautiful paintings of Jijo Joseph Pallickal and the funds raised through the sale of his paintings gave an extra mileage to this project.
Site work commenced on February 11, 2020, marked by the feast day of Our Lady of Lourdes, while the actual building construction began on November 2, 2020, on the feast of All Souls. On September 5, 2021, after the last mass was celebrated at the Mother of God Community, all parish members proceeded to the newly built Church for the installation of the Tabernacle. All who came that day, placed their names and intentions under the Tabernacle, which will remain forever in the presence of God. The names of all the contributors, prayer warriors, and parishioners have been placed under the tabernacle. After nine months and four days of intense work supported by prayer, fasting, sacrifice, penance, and generous contribution of the Community, the Church construction was completed and dedicated on September 6, 2021 by His excellencies, Mar Jacob Angadiath and Mar Joy Alappatt. On the same day this Mission was elevated to the status of a Parish and Fr. Roy Moolechalil was appointed as the first Vicar of the Parish.