HISTORY OF THE EPARCHY OF HOSUR
Migration to Chennai started in the 1960s in search of a living. The number of people migrating kept increasing year by year. Though job and business were the primary reasons for migration, gradually life became entangled in multiple problems for those who migrated. They were frustrated as they did not have an option to pray open heartedly or to make confessions in their own language. One day, an elderly woman in the traditional Kerala Christian attire, met the Metropolitan of Madras-Mylapore and requested to grant her a Malayali priest, for making confessions. Archbishop Most Rev. Dr.R. Arulappa who was keen on the spiritual growth of believers, wrote to the Syro Malabar Bishop Conference (SMBC) immediately, to send a priest to take care of the of pastoral needs of the Syro Malabar community in Chennai.
Bishop Mar James Pazhayattil was given the charge of Pastoral Care of Syro Malabar faithful in Chennai, during the Syro Malabar Bishop Conference in June 1983. In the same year, he sent a Priest to Chennai, appointed as Chaplain. Thus, Rev. Fr. Jose Palatty commenced the activities of Chennai mission on 14th December, 1983, residing at Chinnamalai.
The lineage of faith of Syro Malabar church in Chennai is as old as 2000 years. The disciple of Jesus, St. Thomas, who confessed “my Lord and my God” (John 20:28), landed in Kodungalloor in AD 52 and founded the first community, after baptizing several people. After his evangelization ministry in Kerala and establishing seven and half churches there, he headed to the city of Madras in Tamil Nadu. The friction caused by his preaching and exhortation resulted in his martyrdom at St. Thomas mount (Parankimala) in 72 A D on July 3rd and was buried in Mylapore where his tomb still remains. It was the Persian church which nourished the faith of Mar Thoma nasranis from 4th century onwards.
The religious life of Mar Thoma nasranis became even more complex, with the arrival of Latin Missionaries in India, from Europe in 15th century. Later, the Syro Malabar hierarchy was re-established in 20th century (1923). However, the jurisdiction of the hierarchy was limited to Kerala and the Western Ghats. Only the districts of Kanyakumari and Coimbatore in Tamil Nadu and Shimoga in Karnataka were included in the “proper territory”.
Since Chennai was outside this jurisdiction, each and every migrant believer here had to give up their patrimony of faith, liturgical practices and culture. Though liturgical services of such churches became more and more relevant after the second ecumenical council of Vatican, the lack of their own priests to train them was a major setback for the migrant community. In 1978, Mar Antony Padiyara was appointed as the Apostolic Visitator from Rome, to study about the pastoral needs of Syro Malabar community residing outside Kerala. As a result of his reports, it was instructed by Rome to make necessary pastoral arrangements for the entire Syro Malabar community in their respective places of stay.
The invitation of Most Rev. Dr. R. Arulappa Metropolitan and the birth of Chennai Mission were the end results of this instruction from Rome. It is a historical coincidence that the Irinjalakuda diocese which received St. Thomas in India, has also taken the responsibility of his followers in Chennai, where his mortal remains are laid to rest.
Phase 1: Finding out Families and Forming Prayer Groups
Rev. Fr. Jose Palatty started Chennai mission on 14th December, 1983. It was a Herculean task for him to locate all Syro Malabar Christians spread across the city, by residing at Chinnamalai where the prayer cave of St. Thomas is situated. Still, the encouragement from Archbishop Arulappa strengthened the endeavors to overcome all hurdles and obstacles encountered. Chennai mission started to grow under his leadership, who demonstrated tremendous faith and relentless optimism. Holy mass was started on Sundays in various Parishes. Parishioners met on weekdays and formed prayer groups. The primary activities during the initial days consisted of Holy mass, confession, funeral services and prayer meetings. The Christmas celebration started in 1984 and practiced fervently every year throughout Chennai mission until the Diocese was erected.
Ayanavaram St. Thomas Pastoral Centre
As the mission became more and more active, the number of Priests also increased proportionally. It became essential to have own land and building, rather than operating from rented a house. In 1985 the land was purchased at Ayanavaram and the construction of the Centre was started on 27th July 1986, by founding the stone sanctified by Pope John Paul II when he visited Kerala in 1986. Fr. Jacob Puthussery, who took over from Fr. Jose Palatty, completed the construction.
On 18th December 1988, Cardinal Mar Antony Padiyara blessed the Pastoral Centre, in the presence of Archbishop Kasmir Gnanadickam, Mar James Pazhayattil and Bishop Mar Joseph Kundukulam. The same pastoral Centre in Ayanavaram now functions as the temporary headquarters for Hosur diocese.
Phase 2: Ministry of the Priests and ReligiousSeveral Religious Congregations came forward to augment the ministry and to provide spiritual awakening to the people, as it grew past the initial teething issues. In 1990, Franciscan Clarist Congregation (FCC) and Sisters from Congregation of the Holy Family (CHF) started their missionary work in Chennai, from rented houses. Post this, Congregation of the Mother of Carmel (CMC), Sisters of the Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament (SABS), Sisters of the Destitute (SD), and Vincentian Congregation (V C) followed suit, with their functions and missionary work to families, aligned to their special charism.
This was a big boost for the activities of Chennai mission. The schools, special schools, hostels, cancer hospice, old age homes and retreat centres started by these missionaries have all grown to become large organizations now, thus providing relief and shelter for everybody. The people of Chennai city witnessed a different face of service, in the fields of healthcare and education.
After Fr. Jacob Puthussery, Fr. Jose Kavungal, Fr.Joy Alapatt (Current Bishop of Chicago) and Fr. Thomas Menachery were leading the mission during this period.
Phase 3: From Centre to UnitsAyanavaram Pastoral Centre was the only place and centre for the mission till 1995. Eucharistic services were conducted either from Convent Churches, and Tamil churches or from houses in other places. Most of these units grew to a self-reliant level when the mission completed 12 years. The thoughts became stronger to have our own churches in units. Pastoral Council, Central Committee and Executive Committee were formed at the Centre, and Executive Committee in Units, as per the common bye law prepared and approved for the Mission.
Efforts were put in place to acquire land for churches, and to construct buildings in the lands donated by Religious Congregations. Churches were consecrated in Keelkattalai and Mugappair in the grand jubilee year of 2000. A monastery was consecrated in Poonamallee as well. New churches were built in Perambur and Athipet in 2001. Later, own churches became reality in places like I A F Avadi, Ernavoor, Ottery.
Holy mass was conducted in Retreat Centre at Ambattur. Pondicherry Archdiocese spared one of its churches for the Syro Malabar faithful. Christian Medical College at Vellore provided arrangements for Holy Mass in the College auditorium on Sundays. Fr. Jose Panthallookkaran and Fr.Jobby Pozholiparambil were at the helm during this period.
Phase 4: Times of AccreditationMission grew continuously, overcoming several difficult situations and problems, almost reaching self-governing level. However, this was formally recognized only by November 2005. Our churches were elevated to the status of public worship Centres. The Chaplains were promoted as Rectors by Madras–Mylapore Archbishop. Thus, seven churches were given this status as common worship Centres in Ayanavaram, Ottery, Perambur, Ernavoor, Mugappair, Athipet and I A F Avadi, with each church having independent prerogatives for their own Parish. With that, more and more priests joined the mission to assist with the pastoral services. The functional territory of the mission expanded from the boundary of Chennai and Chingleput dioceses, to five Latin dioceses, by extending up to the boundaries of Pondicherry, Vellore and Dharmapuri.
Silver Jubilee Celebration2008 was the Silver Jubilee year for the Mission. Efforts were made unceasingly, to elevate the mission to a diocese, at least in the jubilee year. Resultantly, Bishop Mar Gratian Mundadan was appointed as the Apostolic Visitator by Rome, to study about the Pastoral issues faced by migrants. He submitted a report to Rome after completing the necessary studies. Along with this, requests were sent continually from Mission as well, for the new diocese. New Centres were established at Thiruvottiyur, Pozhichellur, Gowrivakkam (now Noothenchery), St. Thomas mount, Kodambakkam, Valsaravakkam and Pattabhiram. It was a big jubilee gift for Syro Malabar church, when Madras–Mylapore Archdiocese recognized ten personal parishes in the Archdiocese for Syro Malabar faithful, during closing ceremonies of the Jubilee. The Priests were recognized as Parish priests, from the designation of Chaplaincy. Fr. Varghese Pereppadan was the spearhead for this initiative.
From this point onwards, the mission was led by Co-ordinators. Fr. Jose Maliekal was appointed as the first Co-ordinator, followed by Msgr. Jose Palatty who was the Vicar general of Irinjalakuda diocese, and was followed Msgr. Jose Irimpan.
Dream Coming TrueContinuous prayers and efforts of many people are being answered when the Mission turns 34 years old, or 12397 days. Hosur diocese is the result of relentless perseverance and determination of hundreds of priests, religious and laity together. It is the unfulfilled last wish of Bishop Mar James Pazhayattil, who took over the mission and nourished it for 27 long years.
In 2017 October 10 Pope Francis through His papal Bula erected the Eparchy of Hosur, new diocese in Tamil Nadu. The new diocese is formed geographically from Hosur to Chennai up to Pondicherry. Hosur diocese covers the 5 Latin dioceses: Madras-Mylapore and Pondicherry Archdioceses, and Chingleput, Vellore, Dharmapuri Dioceses. This includes 13 civil districts: Dharmapuri, Krishnagiri, Thirupathur, Thiruvannamalai, Vellore, Ranipet, Kancheepuram, Thiruvallur, Chennai, Chingleput, Villupuram, Kallakurichi, Cuddalore, and Union Territory of Pondicherry-Karackal. Pope Francis appointed Mar Sebastian Pozholiparambil as the first bishop of Hosur Eparchy. Pope erected St. Antony's Church, Noothenchery as the Cathedral Church of the Eparchy. In 2017 November 22 Mar George Cardinal Alenchery, Major Arch Bishop of Syro-Malabar Church, consecrated Mar Sebastian Pozholiparambil as Bishop and inaugurated the Eparchy of Hosur in the presence of 35 bishops, hundreds of priests, sisters, and all the faithful in Hosur diocese. The episcopal ordination and inauguration ceremony took place in St. Antony's Cathedral Church, Noothenchery.
The diocese is also a fulfillment of dream for Mar Thoma Christians, who migrated to the land soaked with the blood of St. Thomas. There is still a long way to go. Bishop house, a better Pastoral Centre, Minor seminary and Cemetery are the immediate requirements. Still many places are devoid of the presence of priests for pastoral services. Guduvanchery, Maraimalai Nagar, Chingleput, Madhurantakam, Villupuram, Vellore, Thiruvannamalai, Arkonam, Thiruvallur, Krishnagiri … the list goes on.
The Diocese and its Shepherd have embarked on a historical mission to handover the light of faith lit by St. Thomas to the Syro Malabar community of Hosur, Chennai comprising 34,000 devout people, enriching them in his lineage of faith, and thereby spreading light throughout the land.