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The Syro-Malabar church in Australia: questions and reflections

James O'Brien  |  22 October 2018

houseboat at keralaRead Bonded by faith and culture in the 2018 Spring edition of Australian Catholics and take part in the various reflections and activities.

Questions

What is most striking about the way Ann Maria Sabu introduces the state of Kerala?

How does the legacy of St Thomas inspire Syro-Malabar Christians even today?

How do Syro-Malabar Christians see themselves in the Australian church of today?

Why is offering welcome and outreach to migrants important to Syro-Malabar Christians?

What are young people at St Alphonsa receiving from their involvement in the parish?

 

Activities

  • The author’s description of the Indian state of Kerala provokes both the senses and the imagination, with birds singing by coconut trees and fishermen’s skiffs making their way on ‘eternities of backwaters’. Write a brief homage to your own home state within Australia, describing in particular how the landscape and the people are in relationship.
  • Syro-Malabar Christians see their church as directly descended from those baptised by St Thomas. Read the famous Gospel passage of St Thomas encountering the risen Jesus (John 20:26-31). Spend three minutes savouring the phrase ‘My Lord and my God!’ in meditation. Repeat each of the words within your heart, aligning them to the rhythm of your breath. Continue savouring the words like a mantra, a prayer of the heart.
  • Aware of their own history of migration, the Syro-Malabar community provide outreach to new migrants. Create a half-page print advertisement for a Syro-Malabar parish newsletter, encouraging parishioners to get involved in this ministry.
  • Young people who belong to the St Alphonsa parish feel supported in their lives and encouraged in their faith. Discuss as a class why you feel this may be. Brainstorm words and phrases to describe what would make your local church the sort of community you would like to belong to.

 

 

For younger students

  • Read the Gospel passage of the apostle Thomas meeting the risen Jesus (John 20:26-31). Project a copy of Caravaggio’s painting ‘The Incredulity of St Thomas’ (pictured above) onto the whiteboard and consider the painting for three full minutes. Encourage students to become aware of what they notice before discussing as a class. Now the teacher annotates the painting in light of what students say they notice. Conclude with the question ‘how does this painting help us understand the Gospel passage?
  • The Syro-Malabar church of Australia forms communities where many parishioners share an experience of migration. Interview a person you know who left behind their birthplace to move to Australia. Ask them the following. Where have you found a community to belong to? How has belonging to this community positively impacted your life? Report back to the class what you discovered.

 

Images:

Kerala Houseboat – Depositphotos

Caravaggio [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons – The Incredulity of Saint Thomas.

 

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