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St. Jude Syro-Malabar Church finds home in Chantilly

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Bishop Jacob Angadiath of the St. Thomas Syro-Malabar Diocese of Chicago consecrated a new church for  St. Jude Northern Virginia Syro-Malabar Catholic Mission Feb. 16, the same the mission became a parish. 

Bishop Emeritus Paul S. Loverde, Auxiliary Bishop Joy Alappatt, Father Thomas P. Ferguson, vicar general, as well as priests from Arlington and beyond joined the Mass and subsequent celebration.

A building in Chantilly is the first permanent home for St. Jude Syro-Malabar Catholic Church.  ZOEY MARAIST  |  CATHOLIC HERALD

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During brief remarks made during the Mass, Bishop Loverde recalled when the community asked his permission to form. Starting in 2006, the community would gather for a monthly Mass, which soon became a weekly Sunday Mass. St. Jude worshiped in several places, including a Lutheran church and most recently St. Andrew the Apostle Church in Clifton. Now, they have about 200 families. 

“How wonderful to have this community in our diocesan region,” said Bishop Loverde. “These many years you have sacrificed so that today we can rejoice.”

Father Justin Puthussery, who has led the congregation since 2015, said the community was looking for its own space when they found a building in an office park being used by a Korean community church. They closed on the building Dec. 18, but the Korean church didn’t move out until after the new year, said parishioner Preena Pulikotil. The parishioners had only five weeks to clean and decorate the building before the consecration.

On Saturday morning, signs indicating the site of the church’s new home were in place by the road and on top of the building. Flanking the building, the United States and the Vatican flags hung half-mast, waiting to be hoisted. Adorning the entrance were colorful, tasseled umbrellas — a type of decoration found in Kerala, India, where Syro-Malabar Catholics have worshiped for generations. As the three bishops pulled up to the church, Father Puthussery handed them flowers; Knights of Columbus stood at attention. 

Mass was celebrated in the church, but a live stream was projected into overflow rooms in other parts of the building. Bishop Angadiath anointed the altar and the four walls of the church. In his homily, Bishop Alappatt spoke about the importance of having a church, as seen in several Biblical passages. “In the psalm today we have heard, ‘Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere.’ This is one of the greatness expressions of humankind, to reach to God Almighty and find consolation in his presence,” he said. 

The region’s information technology boom has brought many Syro-Malabar Catholics to the area, said Father Puthussery, and the new church will expand both social and spiritual opportunities for the growing group. The only other nearby Syro-Malabar communities are in Richmond and Maryland.

In addition to Sunday Mass, St. Jude now can celebrate daily Mass, where before they were only able to celebrate daily Mass two days a week in the Corpus Christi Church office in South Riding. After the consecration, Father Puthussery wants to build a confessional.

Tomy Paul, the director of religious education, is glad they have several classrooms for catechesis of 180 children. “It’s just a joyful day, a dream come true,” said Paul.

Parishioners and guests ate Indian food and chatted following Mass. Pulikotil, who helped serve the food, said her grandfather was part of a mission church in Tamil Nadu, an Indian state neighboring Kerala. As with St. Jude, they began with just a few families and then grew. 

When Pulikotil moved to the Unite States in 2001, she joined her local church but missed the traditions and sense of community she felt in India. In many ways, St. Jude reminds her of her childhood spiritual home. “Here, I see the same energy,” she said. “I love it.”


© Arlington Catholic Herald 2019