A Humble Beginning and Providential Growth
The story of how St. Alphonsa Syro-Malabar Catholic Cathedral in Mississauga became a reality is a story of triumph and determination. This historical journey is marked by motivated people who believed in some- thing that was worth committing themselves and so worked hard and persevered in achieving common goals. Let’s walk the memory lane and trace the important milestones from its humble beginnings and recognize the invisible hand of God guiding all throughout this ongoing journey.
Malayalee’s began migrating to Canada in late 1960s. Initially, their numbers were low and beginnings quite modest. By the 70’s their numbers began to grow. They realized they needed to group together to form a community that would support both, their social and spiritual needs. At the number of Catholic families grew, they began to seek ways to practice and develop their religious convictions. Soon, they began to congregate in various places for prayer and worship based on their Catholic beliefs.
The Archdiocese of Toronto recognized that the number of Catholic families in and around Toronto had grown. It became obvious that the Malayalee Catholic community urgently needed and aspired to have a formal place of worship and leadership from within the community. So, on February 18, 1977, they appointed Rev. Fr. Thomas Thottunkal as the first Chaplain of Malayalee Catholics in Toronto.
On November 22, 1982 a Catholic Mission was formed at St Augustine’s Seminary, Toronto.On November 28, 1982, His Eminence Cardinal Carter officially recognized St. Thomas the Apostle Mission for Malayalee Catholics. Rev. Fr. Joseph Kannath was appointed as the Pastor and the first Holy Mass was offered at St. Timothy Catholic School, Toronto.
On November 22, 1982, a Catholic Mission was formed at St Augustine’s Seminary, Toronto.
On November 28, 1982, His Eminence Cardinal Carter officially recognized St. Thomas the Apostle Mission for Malayalee Catholics. Rev. Fr. Joseph Kannath was appointed as the Pastor and the first Holy Mass was offered at St. Timothy Catholic School, Toronto.
From December 1983, the Precious Blood Church in Scarborough was assigned as the place of worship where the community gathered for regular Sunday services at 4:30pm, all parish related activities and community events.
The Holy Cross Church in East York, Toronto became the next mission church for the community. This is where the Carmelites of Mary Immaculate (CMI) priests were the church administrators. Rev. Fr Varghese Pudussery CMI was appointed Pastor.
In 2006, Sunday services were moved back to Precious Blood Church. The following priests: Rev. Fr. Joseph Kannath (1983 - 1985), Rev. Fr. Anthony Kozhu- vanal (1985 -1986) and Rev. Fr. Thomas Kalarathil, (1986-1988) then Monsignor in the Archdiocese of Toronto, served as Pastors.
The CMI priests played a significant role in the growth and formation of the community until the end of 2009: Rev. Fr. John Pynadath (1988 -1989), Rev. Fr. Cletus Plackal (1989 -1990), Rev. Fr. Joseph Kuntharayil (1990- 1996), Rev. Fr. Varghese Puthussery
(1996-2000), Rev. Fr. Augustine Mampilly (2000 -2001), Rev. Fr. Paul Moonjely (2001 -2004), Rev Fr. Jose Thaiparampil (2004 -2009) and Rev. Fr. Isaac Tharayil (2009).
The Malayalee Catholic community started growing in exceedingly large numbers, thanks to the ever-increasing spike in the rates of migrants. Members started settling in different parts of the Greater Toronto area. Considering the wide span of geographical areas where members resided and spread out, the Archdiocese granted temporary permission to conduct Mass in Mississauga area which became a central hub for all residents in the western region to gather, pray and build their community bonding.
In July 2007, the first Mass was celebrated at St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church and continued Saturday evenings on a monthly basis.
Rev. Fr. Jose Thaiparampil CMI obtained permission from the Archdiocese to have regular Sun- day services in Mississauga. Permission was granted and he celebrated the first mass on October 26, 2007, at St. Veronica Elementary school and then continued to celebrate Sunday masses at St. Michael Goetz Secondary School in Mississauga.
In 2008, Fr. Jose Thaiparampil CMI started Sunday catechism classes. Over 300 students attend- ed catechism classes regularly on Sundays in the West Region.
Rev. Fr. Isaac Tharayil CMI established the concept of Family Units in 2009. He conducted elections for choosing family unit coordinators and organized monthly family unit meetings with a structured plan to incorporate prayer, socialization, and community building.
Towards the end of 2009, the Syro Malabar Diocese of Chicago took over the responsibilities of liturgical matters of the Mission. St. Thomas the Apostle Mission was renamed as St. Thomas Syro Malabar Mission.
On May 12, 2009, under the able leadership of Rev. Fr. Jose Thaiparampil and Rev. Fr. Thomas Kalarathil, a General Body Meeting of the parishioners was held at the parish hall of the Nativity of Our Lord Church in Etobicoke. The key point of discussion was to have a church of our own. One parishioner, Mr. Thomas Kannampuzha, offered to donate 6 acres of land in Mississauga for that purpose. Unfortunately, this proposal did not get the necessary permits and approvals from the government authorities.
On January 10, 2010, Rev. Fr James Cherickal was appointed Pastor of St. Thomas Syro Malabar Mission. He immediately focused on strengthening the family units and formed a Building Committee that worked strategically to build the church. He also initiated elections of parish council members based on family units and established separate parish councils for East and West regions.
Rev. Fr. Kurian Puramadam served the community as the Associate Pastor from 2010-2011.
The Mission established two humanitarian Ministries - namely, the Tiberius Ministry and the Good Samaritan Ministry - to help the needy and the new immigrants in the community respectively.
From April to September 2012, the Syro Malabar Diocese of Chicago asked Rev. Fr. Anthony Thundathil and Rev. Fr. Vinod Madathiparampil to meet the pas- toral needs of the community.
Rev. Fr. Anthony Thundathil conducted ‘pothuyogam’ in the West Region on June 30, 2012, where a proposal to buy a Mission Center was approved.
Rev. Fr. Mathew Periapuram was the Pastor from October 2012 to May 2013. During his brief tenure, Fr. Mathew actively engaged in buying the Mission Centre.
The Parish Council successfully raised the necessary funds and in June 2013, purchased a house (1434 Torrington Drive, Mississauga) which became known as the Mission Centre. After a brief gap 5 months without any priest in charge, Rev. Fr. Jose Kalluvelil was appointed as the new Pastor on September 6, 2013. He made a firm commitment to mobilize the community and continue the building project.
Immediately after taking charge, Rev. Fr. Jose Kalluvelil convened the General Body Meeting. He re- kindled the community’s desire to continue with the building project, revamped Family Units, and conducted elections for the parish council and family unit’s coordinators. He established a formal parish administration system as per the bylaws of the Syro-Mala- bar Church. He also introduced a matrix management style based on ecclesiastical functional needs with clearly written roles and responsibilities. This structure, with an independent mission and interdependent roles, provided a great platform for the West Region to continue its growth trajectory.
Under the strong pastoral leadership of Fr. Jose Kalluvelil, the community purchased a building at 6630 Turner Valley Road, Mississauga to function as a place of our own and name it as St. Alphonsa Syro Malabar Catholic Church. This was the realization of a long-cherished dream, unceasing prayers, untiring efforts and community spirit.
This was one of the most important years in the history of Syro-Malabar Catholics in Canada. On August 6, 2015, His Holiness Pope Francis announced the formation of the Apostolic Exarchate for Syro-Malabar Catholics in Canada and Fr. Jose Kalluvelil as the first Exarch. Mar Jose Kalluvelil’s Episcopal Ordination was conducted on September 19, 2015.
Rev. Fr. Thomas Valummel served our community as the Associate Pastor and Pastor. His leadership in organizing the Episcopal Ordination ceremony was outstanding.
Rev. Fr. John Mylamvelil served as the Vicar for a three-month pe-riod from March to June 2016.
In June 2016 Rev. Fr. Sebastian Arikat joined as the Pastor. He took on the initiative of renovating the building to accommodate the growing number of people and classrooms for the catechism. Fr. Sebastian Arikat’s inspiring homilies and Bible study initiatives were remarkable. The number of parishioners and family continued to increase during his time as pastor. Mar Jose Kalluvelil elevated the church in Mississauga to a Cathedral.
Rev. Fr. Tenson Thanikkal (June 2016 – June 2017), Rev. Fr. Jacob Edakalathur (September 2017 – February 2018), and Rev. Fr. Daris Moolayil (February - August 2018) served as Assistant Pastors.
From August 2018, Rev. Fr. Saji Thomas CMI joined as Assistant Pastor. He was also appointed Director, Youth Apostolate, Epachy of Mississauga. He coordinated many initiatives, retreats and programs for youth. He led and organized Focus 2019, one of the biggest events, in which more than 500 international students and young adults from different cities and regions within the eparchy participated.
Rev. Fr. Sebastian Arikat retired from his pastoral service and Rev. Fr. Jacob Edakalathur became the Pastor of the St. Alphonsa Syro Malabar Catholic Cathedral, Mississauga that has 750 families registered. This is divided into 19 actively functioning family units.
The Exarchate was erected into the status of an Eparchy by Pope Francis on 22 December 2018. And the installation ceremony was conducted on 25 May 2019 at St. Alphonsa Cathedral.
The Syro Malabar Catholic community in Toronto west region has come a long way from its humble beginnings in 2007. The achievements and positive impacts are the result of the determination and hard work of all the Pastors, Associate Pastors, Parish Council members who served our parish over the years. Additionally, the success of the community could not have been accomplished without the dedication and hard work of various volunteer groups and the tireless services of many committed members of the parish community. We thank and salute them all. We ask God’s blessing on the continued work and minis- try in and through this community of Syro-Malabar Catholic faith.