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Bonded by faith and culture

Ann Maria Sabu  |  21 August 2018

Youth at Alphonsa ParishOne of our young writers, Ann Maria Sabu, is a member of the Syro-Malabar St Alphonsa Cathedral Parish in Melbourne’s north. She writes about her experiences of Church, and speaks to some of her fellow parishioners about what the Church means to them.

The state of Kerala in India is a narrow strip of land overlooking the southern tip of the subcontinent, with tropical forests and eternities of backwaters. There is a vibrancy to the natural environment, with birds singing to wake up the people of the land and coconut trees providing shade to the many fishermen’s skiffs.

The arrival of St Thomas in 52 AD transformed the lives of many people in Kerala. Modern day Syro-Malabar Christians (or ‘St Thomas Christians’) believe that St Thomas baptised their forefathers and paved the way for their strong communal faith. Syro-Malabar Christianity is a fusion of Catholicism and the traditions and cultures followed by the native people of India. The small number of people baptised by St Thomas has grown to include around 4.6 million around the globe, making it the second largest Eastern Catholic Church.

The migration of Syro-Malabar Christians to Australia began in the late 1960s. In order to maintain and uphold the faith of the Syro-Malabar Christians migrating to Australia, an eparchy was established in 2014 with Bishop Mar Bosco Puthur as the eparch. At present there are 44 parishes or missions in Australia, with the largest to be found in Melbourne, Perth, Adelaide and Canberra.

The Masses are offered in the native language – Malayalam – and the community is bonded through its cultural identity. The Syro-Malabar parishes in Australia welcome migrants and offer support for individuals or families settling into their new country. The parishes also raise funds to support people in need, and do outreach to the poor and the needy.

The Syro-Malabar Parish of St Alphonsa in Melbourne’s north is my local church. Each Sunday, the youth get together for Mass in their native language, along with catechism classes from the parish priest, Rev Fr Mathew Kochupurackal. The youth group is involved in fundraising through bake sales and other activities.

Young people in the parish that I spoke to told me that their faith brings them closer and gives them a sense of belonging. They believe that having a church and a community they can identify with helps them to experience a better spiritual life and to keep building their faith. Personally, the church and the youth were a great source of support when I migrated to Australia.

Rev Fr Mathew Kochupurackal says that being the parish priest of a multicultural church in Australia is challenging. A lot of effort is required to establish the roots of our faith in a new country. Yet he is proud of the dedicated and committed support of a great majority of Syro-Malabar Christians.

Rev Fr Mathew Kochupurackal says the strength of the youth group gives him great hope for the future of the Syro-Malabar Church in Australia.

‘I wish and pray that they continue to uphold our faith. I dream of a Syro-Malabar Church which rises to be a major contributor to the evangelisation of Australia, especially our kids becoming part of the governmental and non-governmental agencies of this country in the future’, he says.

Image: Youth at Alphonsa Parish.


Topic tags: religiousandculturaldiversity, healthycommunitylife, the catholictradition

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