St.Thomas the Apostle parish South East Melbourne was part of all Melbourne St. Thomas Syro-Malabar Community until July 2012, when the Pothuyogam decided to divide the all Melbourne Community into 3 regions, with the aim of providing weekly services to the Community. The Melbourne South East parish is known under the name of our father in faith – Mar Thoma Sleeha (St. Thomas the Apostle) and also our patron saint. Majority of the Melbourne Syro-Malabar migrants, who are mainly health professionals, settled in this region, which is also evident from the number of Qurbana centres currently in existence.
Migration of Syro-Malabar faithful to Melbourne began in the late sixties. Even though they were few in number, they kept in touch with each other along with other Kerala Christians during the seventies and eighties. The first Syro-Malabar Qurbana was celebrated at the St. Paschals Chapel, Box Hill in the mid-eighties by Fr. Jacob Kavungal, a SVD Priest from Changanassery who is a seminary professor in Melbourne. The seventies, eighties and early nineties saw a few more families migrating to Melbourne, but the flow slowly started its momentum by the late nineties.
A one-day Prayer service arranged by the visiting Vincentian Potta team in October 1998 gave momentum and enthused Malayalee Catholics to gather for celebrating Qurbana in Malayalam. Fr. Francis Adapoor O’Carm arrived in Melbourne in 1999 for his higher studies, and under his leadership, the Malayalee Catholic Society of Victoria was formed in year 2000 to organize monthly Holy Qurbana at Box Hill. The first committee of the Society decided to make a request for a permanent chaplain for the Community. And with the approval of the Melbourne Archbishop and the Syro-Malabar Bishops synod, Fr. John Oravankara was appointed as part-time chaplain to Syro-Malabar Catholics.
The appointment of Fr. John as chaplain to the Syro-Malabar Catholics of Melbourne paved the way towards a Syro-Malabar ecclesial structure and formation of parish committees. Mar Gregory Karotemprel CMI, who was the then Chairman of the Commission for Evangelisation and Pastoral Care of Migrants in consultation with the Melbourne Archbishop Denis J Hart, an ecclesial structure for the Syro-Malabar Community in Melbourne was envisaged. On the 15th of August 2004 an adhoc committee was elected to help the implementation of the structure. Fr. John inaugurated the Parish structure on the 7th of November 2004 with the newly formed Parish council.
The growth of the Syro-Malabar Community under Parish structure was greatly evident in the years that followed especially in the increase in the number of Qurbana centres, frequency of Qurbana and the number of faithful attending. Melbourne saw a steady migration of Syro-Malabar faithful from all parts of the world in the beginning of the new millennium and it was intensified during the past 14 years mainly due to the large number of Nurses’ & skilled Professionals migrating to Australia.
In 2008 February Fr. Vincent Madathiparambil CMI arrived to Melbourne and was later appointed part-time Chaplain to Syro-Malabar Catholics on 27 September, 2008 with residence at the St Francis Xavier’s Parish in Frankston. Gradually Holy Qurbana was commenced at different centres occasionally with the help of Syro-Malabar Priests serving in the Latin Parishes of the Archdiocese of Melbourne. The Syro-Malabar faithful in Melbourne are very much indebted to the services of the Syro-Malabar Priests in the past, who assisted with Sunday Qurbanas, often travelling great distances for the service.
During the years many Bishops visited our Community including, Mar Paul Chittilappilly, Mar Mathew Moolakkatt, Mar Thomas Chakiath, Bishop Christopher Prowse (the then bishop of Sale), Mar George Valiyamattom and Bishop Mar Sebastian Vadakel, Chairman of the Syro-Malabar Commission for Evangelisation and Pastoral care of Migrants.
In 2008 the parish council requested the Melbourne Archbishop to appoint a full time chaplain for the Syro-Malabar faithful. Bishop Mar Sebastian Vadakel, initiated the process in consultation with the Archbishop of Melbourne His Grace Most Rev. Denis Hart to appoint a Chaplain for the increasing number of Syro-Malabar faithful migrating to Melbourne. After a long visa process, Fr. Peter Kavumpuram, a member of the Missionary Society of St Thomas arrived in Melbourne on February 3, 2011. The South East community flourished under the strong leadership of Fr. Peter with more regular Sunday Qurbanas and Qurbana centres, organised Catechism etc. In early 2014, a 5-acres land was purchased to build a Church at the suburb called Bangholme.
After eleven years of service to Melbourne Archdiocese and Syro-Malabar Community, Fr. John returned to Kerala in December 2012.
Year 2012 was a specially blessed year with the pastoral visit of the Major Archbishop His Beatitude Mar George Cardinal Alencherry. The entire Community cheerfully welcomed him to Melbourne on 2nd December 2012. His Beatitude celebrated solemn Qurbana at St. Patricks Cathedral and gave his pastoral message to the Community during Homily and Reception afterwards. Sixty children from the Community received First Holy Communion and Confirmation from His Beatitude during the Qurbana.
In January 2014, His Holiness Pope Francis announced the establishment of a new Eparchy for the Syro-Malabar Catholics in Australia and the appointment of its first Bishop as Mar Bosco Puthur. The Eparchy is officially called; Eparchy of St Thomas the Apostle of Melbourne of the Syro-Malabar.
Reception was given to Bishop Bosco Puthur at St John’s College, Dandenong on 30th March 2014. Meeting with children and Parish council members was also organised. Reception was given to Bishop Mar Bosco Puthur at Wantirna on 25th May 2014.
In 2013, South East Parish committee requested for a full time priest for the region, and in September 2014, Fr. Abraham Kunnatholy CMI arrived in Melbourne for the South East region. Fr. Peter was appointed as Brisbane Chaplain and Fr. Francis Kolencherry took charge as Melbourne Chaplain in July 2014 until the arrival of Fr. Abraham.
St. Thomas South East region has regular Sunday and weekly Holy Qurbana at Dandenong, Box Hill/Forest Hill, Frankston, and Clayton to spiritually nourish the community members. More than 400 children regularly attend Catechism classes at Dandenong and Forest Hill centres. There are more than 600 registered families in the South Eastern region. There are 16 Family Units function in this region which organise Ward prayers and various other activities for the Community.
Night Vigil Service:
Rosary, Novena, Adoration, Confession and Holy Qurbana are conducted every 3rd Friday of the month at Holy Family Church, Doveton from 7.30pm to 11.30pm.
Parish Thirunal is celebrated in July during the Dukrana Feast (martydom of St. Thomas the Apostle) at Dandenong.
Since the arrival of Fr. Abraham, the South East region is endeavouring to grow into a fully fledged parish, with its own land, Church and Qurbana centres, Syro-Malabar English Qurbanas etc. The recent visits by Fr. Abraham for house blessing have been well received by the faithful, which displays their enthusiasm to grow in the original and ancient faith but not losing the spiritual traditions and patrimony of Mar Thoma Margam received by our forefathers through generations.
Vicar: Fr.Abraham Kunnatholil CMI
St John’s Regional College
5- 11 Caroline St. Dandenong , Vic 3175
Sunday: Holy Mass & Catechism: 9.30am
Holy Mass: 11.00 for Children
St Marks Anglican Church
303 Canterbury Rd
Forest Hill VIC 3131
Every Sundays : Catechism: 4.00-5.00pm,
Holy Qurbana: 5.00pm
Holy Mass : 6.30 pm
English Syro-Malabar Qurbana: 5.30 pm
Holy Family Church,
100 Power Road Doveton.
Second Saturday: 13 Hours Adoration
Third Friday: Night vigil: 7.30 pm
St.Francis Xavier Church
60 Davey St
Frankston, VIC 3199
Thursday: Holy Mass @ 6.15 pm
St Peter’s Church
258 Clayton Rd
Clayton, VIC 3168
Third Sunday: Holy Mass: 4.30pm
Monday: Holy Mass @ 7.00pm
Our Lady of Help Church
496 Princed Hwy, Narre Warren
Third Sunday: Holy Mass: 4.00 pm
Diocesan Pastoral Council Members:
Xavier Joseph Kollamparambil
Augustin Anthony Paramby