Published October 12, 2006
Catholics who belong to a rite extending back to the missionary time of the apostle St. Thomas are building their first church in North Georgia in Loganville.
The community, Blessed Alphonsa Catholic Mission of Georgia, is part of the St. Thomas Syro-Malabar Catholic Diocese of Chicago. They are building on six acres of land on Rosebud Road under the direction of Father Kurian Thomas Karickal, a Missionary of St. Francis de Sales.
According to Father Kurian, the Catholic Church in south India flourishes even today because of the mission and martyrdom there of St. Thomas, one of the 12 apostles. St. Thomas traveled from Syria-Palestine to south India where he founded seven churches between 52 and 72 AD. He established the Christian church there at the same time as Sts. Peter and Paul founded the church in Rome through their preaching and martyrdom. St. Thomas was martyred in 72 AD.
Because of his great missionary zeal, Syro-Malabar Catholics are called “St. Thomas Christians” and are blessed with a rich Eastern heritage and deep spirituality, Father Kurian said. Recently the news agency Zenit reported that south India is in first place in regard to the number of vocations to the priesthood and religious life. One parish alone in Kerala has produced more than 200 priests who are now working in different parts of the world.
As the years passed by, the Syrian Catholics faced many challenges in the practice of their faith and in preserving their rich heritage. In 1896 Pope Leo XIII erected the Syro-Malabar hierarchy, creating three dioceses in Kerala. After the erection of the Syro-Malabar hierarchy, the growth of the Catholic Church in Kerala has been phenomenal. It now has 25 dioceses, 24 in India and one in Chicago.
The Syro-Malabar Diocese of Chicago was erected by Pope John Paul II in 2001. Now there are more than 100,000 Indian Catholics following this rite in the United States and Canada, and the number is increasing because of the immigration of professionals. The diocese has established eight parishes in different parts of the country, and there are close to 30 missions where people have registered their names and priests of the diocese have been appointed to minister to their needs.
The mission in Atlanta is called Kerala Catholic Mission of Georgia and is named after a Poor Clare nun, Blessed Alphonsa, who lived in Kerala in the 20th century and was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1986.
This fast-growing mission was founded with a few families by Father Joseph Mullakkara, MSFS, several years ago. Prior to that, a handful of people belonging to this rite came together under the spiritual leadership of Father Mullakkara to have Mass once a month in their own rite and language.
In 2003 six acres of land with a small house in Loganville were acquired by the mission.
Now it has 250 families, and Father Kurian has been appointed as director by the Syro-Malabar Bishop of Chicago Jacob Angadiath.
On May 21 the groundbreaking ceremony was conducted on this property for the new church facility. Father James A. Henault, MS, pastor of St. Oliver Plunkett Church in Snellville, was the chief guest.
A missionary priest of the order of St. Francis de Sales, Father Kurian was ordained in 1992 and served in the retreat center in Kerala for 11 years before coming to Atlanta. He has served in the Archdiocese of Atlanta from 2002 to 2005 and is now serving full-time with the Syro-Malabar community and part-time helping at St. Oliver Plunkett Church and as needed in the archdiocese.
For more information visit www.kcmgeorgia.org or call (404) 704-6612.