Migration of the Syro-Malabar faithful to Melbourne began in the late 1960s. The pioneers, though very few in number kept in touch with one another and were very passionate about preserving their faith and cultural identity. As a result of their consistent efforts the first Syro-Malabar Qurbana was celebrated at St. Paschal’s Chapel, Box Hill by Fr. Jacob Kavungal, SVD in the mid-eighties. The nineties witnessed an influx of families belonging to the Syro Malabar rite to various regions of Melbourne. The families of Thomas John, Paul Kaithavelil, Thomas Mathew, Jose Pius, and Joy Abraham played an important role in the socio-spiritual growth of the Syro-Malabar Community in its early years.
A one-day Prayer service led by a visiting team from Potta Vincentian retreat centre in October 1998 brought together the Malayalee Catholics of the region and a decision was made at the gathering to celebrate Malayalam Qurbana at a regular interval. The Malayalee Catholic Society of Victoria was formed in the year 2000 under the leadership of Fr. Francis Adapoor O’Carm who was then in Melbourne for his higher studies. One of the main focuses of the society was to bring Syro Malabar faithful together for a monthly Holy Qurbana at Box Hill. The first committee of the Society put forth a request to the ecclesiastical authorities in order to appoint a permanent chaplain for the Community
In December 2001, the Archbishop of Melbourne and the Syro-Malabar Bishops synod appointed Fr. John Aravankara as part-time chaplain to the Syro-Malabar Catholic Community. The appointment and the arrival of Fr. John, was a major step towards the growth of the Community. The appointment of Fr. John paved the way towards the formation of a Syro-Malabar ecclesial structure and other related committees of the laity.
Mar Gregory Karotemprel CMI, then Chairman of ‘Commission for Evangelisation and Pastoral Care of Migrants’, in consultation with the Melbourne Archbishop Denis J Hart envisaged an ecclesial structure for the Syro-Malabar Community in Melbourne. On 15 August 2004, an ad hoc committee was elected to help the implementation of the structure. On the 7th of November 2004, Fr. John formally inaugurated a Syro Malabar community council with laity representatives nominated to it from all parts of Melbourne. The Syro-Malabar Community of Melbourne grew in fraternity under this structure and more Qurbana centers were established with an increased frequency of Holy Eucharist being celebrated.
Fr John, after serving the Melbourne Archdiocese as well as the Syro-Malabar Community for eleven years returned to Kerala in December 2012.
Fr. Vincent Madathiparambil CMI arrived in Melbourne as the Assistant Vicar of Oak Park Parish In February 2008. On September 27, 2008 Fr. Vincent took charge as the part-time Chaplain of Syro-Malabar Catholics residing in the South East Melbourne and changed his residence to St Francis Xavier’s Parish, Frankston. Gradually twelve different mass centers got established and with the support of Syro-Malabar Priests serving in the Parishes of the Archdiocese of Melbourne, Malayalam Holy Qurbana started to be celebrated on a more regular basis across these centers. Fr. Joseph Vallikattu MST, Fr. Johny Kariathil MST, Fr. James OCD, Fr. Stephen Kandarappilly and many other Syro-Malabar Priests played an important role in the establishment of a vibrant Syro Malabar Church in Melbourne.
In 2009 Bishop Mar Sebastian Vadakel Chairman of the Syro-Malabar Commission for Evangelisation and Pastoral care for migrants made an official visit to Australia to study the situation of the Syro-Malabar migrants in Australia. On his return to India, Bishop Mar Sebastian in consultation with the Archbishop of Melbourne, His Grace Most Rev. Dennis Hart, initiated a process to appoint a full time Chaplain for Syro-Malabar faithful living in Melbourne.
On February 3, 2011, Fr. Peter Kavumpuram MST was appointed the first full-time Chaplain of the Syro Malabar community in Melbourne. His arrival and full time involvement in the pastoral care of the Catholics belonging to the Syro Malabar rite gave a new direction to the members of the community. On the 25th of May 2011, a residence for the Chaplain was purchased at 201 Lady Nelson Way, Taylors Lakes and it was blessed by Mar Bosco Puthur during his visit to Melbourne. Fr. Peter looked after the entire Syro Malabar Community in Melbourne and new mass centers were established in the North, West and South East suburbs.
In July 2012, with the aim of providing weekly services to the Community, the congregation was divided into three regions. This gave an impetus to the growth of the south-east community. Number of the Qurbana centers were cut down in order to have a more centralised way of functioning. Dandenong was chosen to be the center of the south east region for organising Sunday Holy Qurbana and catechism for children.
Announcement of the Eparchy
On 11th January 2014, His Holiness Pope Francis announced the establishment of the Eparchy of St Thomas the Apostle of Melbourne of the Syro-Malabar in Australia and appointed Bishop Bosco Puthur as its first Eparch. Property purchased at Mickleham is chosen as the Eparchy’s headquarters. Mar Bosco appointed Fr. Francis Kolencherry the first Protosyncellus (Vicar General) of the Eparchy. The installation of Mar Bosco and inauguration of the Eparchy was on 25th March 2014 at St. Patrick’s Cathedral by Major Archbishop Mar George Alencherry.
In October 2014 Fr Abraham Kunnatholy CMI took charge as the chaplain of the south-east community. In December 2015 the community was raised to the status of a Parish by Bishop Bosco Puthur and Fr. Abraham Kunnatholy was appointed the first vicar of the parish. On 30 May 2016, the property on 525-530 Dandenong-Frankston Road, Dandenong South was purchased with the intention to build a church and other required amenities for the functioning of the parish. The project is currently in progress and will be completed by the end of 2019. Fr. Abraham Kunnatholy provided leadership to the Southeast Parish community for almost three and half years and in April 2018, he moved to Sydney as the parish priest of Paramatta Syro Malabar parish.
Vicar of Parish
Rev Dr Frederick Eluvathingal (Fr Fredy) the incumbent Vicar of St Thomas Syro-Malabar Parish, Melbourne Southeast, belongs to the Archdiocese of Thrissur. He was ordained in 1982 by Archbishop Joseph Kundukulam. He holds a Master’s Degree in Theology (MTh) from the Pontifical Institute of Philosophy and Theology, Pune, Licentiate in Sacred Scripture (LSS) from Rome and Doctorate in Sacred Scripture (DSS) from Jerusalem.
During the last 35 years of his priestly ministry, he has served as Vicar of various parishes, professor of theology in Seminaries and director of various associations and commissions in the Archdiocese of Thrissur. As the secretary to the Bible Commission of the Kerala Catholic Bishops’ Council (KCBC), he had been involved in the revision of Malayalam Bible and the publication of a Malayalam Bible Encyclopedia. As professor as well as student of the Bible Fr. Fredy is proficient in many ancient and modern languages, Indian as well as European. He considers it to be a rare privilege to have done his doctorate in Scripture in Jerusalem itself.
Fr. Fredy Eluvathingal arrived in Australia in May 2013 as Chaplain of Adelaide Syro-Malabar community. In April 2018 he took charge as vicar of St. Thomas Syro Malabar Parish South-East Melbourne.
St. Thomas South East region has regular Sunday and weekly Holy Qurbana at Dandenong, Box Hill/Forest Hill, Frankston, Clayton and Narrewarren to spiritually nourish the community members. More than 500 children regularly attend Catechism classes at Dandenong and Forest Hill centres. There are more than 750registered families in the South Eastern region. There are 24 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 First Friday of the month at St. Francis Xavier College Chapel, 75 Ridgemont Dr, Berwick from 6.30pm.
Parish Thirunal is celebrated in November at Dandenong.
Vicar: Fr.Fredy Eluvathingal
PH: 0418 630 088
Asst Vicar: Fr Joyis Kolamkuzhiyil CMI
Holy Qurbana Times
Diocesan Pastoral Council Members: