HISTORY OF
ST.MARYS INDIAN ORTHODOX CATHEDRAL

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"Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it."

(1 Corinthians 12:27)

 

   The Holy Church (in Greek 'kyriakon') is the sanctuary where the Lord dwells. It is the one place we can turn to when we are faced with tribulations; the one place we can seek refuge. The Orthodox faith is the 'One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic faith. The Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church, also known as the Indian Orthodox Church, was founded by St. Thomas, one of the twelve apostles of Jesus Christ, in the first century (A.D. 52). The Church has today grown to over 3.5 million faithful.

   Beginning in the early 1970s, several Keralites migrated to Australia in search of better lives for themselves and their families. With the growing number of Orthodox families, the need was felt to establish a Church following Indian Orthodox tradition. The St. Mary's Indian Orthodox Church (SMIOC) was established on 30th August 1980 at East Coburg, Victoria.

   The SMIOC strives to maintain the faith amongst the Indian Orthodox faithful in the Victorian community. The Vicar is instrumental in providing spiritual food to the flock. The managing committee, led by the Vicar, overlooks the day-to-day activities of the parish. Sunday School plays an important role in the spiritual upbringing of children. The Church has a charity wing that provides help to local charities and to the needy of the Malankara church. The Youth Movement and Marthamariam Samajam provide apt avenues for the spiritual activities of the youth and women, respectively.

 

A WALK DOWN MEMORY LANE

1972  - First Holy Qurbana on the Australian Soil

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   The late 60s and 70s saw the first wave of Malayalees on the shores of Australia. For the Malankara Orthodox faithful in Melbourne, the arrival of Rev. Fr. K C Joseph, a student at the Cairnmillar Institute, in 1972 enabled them to witness the Holy Qurbana for two years at the St. Anslem Anglican church in Middle Park.

 

1980: Visit of H G Dr. Geevarghese Mar Osthathiose (late)

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   In May 1980, the faithful were again blessed to witness the Holy Qurbana conducted by the late H G Dr. Geevarghese Mar Osthathiose, who was in Melbourne to attend a meeting of the World Council of Churches. His Grace recognized the spiritual needs of the faithful, thus inspiring the members to form a parish.

1980: Arrival of the first Vicar: Fr. P K Skariah (late)

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   The establishment of the Madras diocese in 1979 and the desire by the late H. G. Zachariah Mar Dionysios to form a parish eventuated in the arrival of Fr. P K Skariah in Melbourne on the 27th of August 1980.

1980: First Holy Qurbana as a congregation

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   On 30th August 1980, Vicar – Fr. P K Skariah celebrated the first Holy Qurbana at the residence of Mr. E. S. John at Epping.

1980-1982: The first two years

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   The first 2 years saw Holy Qurbana being conducted at the abodes of the faithful, various churches, and at Fr. Skariah’s residence, etc., Initially, the congregation had only five families to cater to the responsibilities of the church activities, but they were dedicated and were entrenched in the Orthodox faith during these testing times.

The Founding Members

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1982 – 1994: The next 12 years

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   The next 12 years from December 1982, the Holy Qurbana was conducted at Fr. Skariah’s residence on Little George St, Fitzroy which was doubled up as a chapel. On special days like Good Friday, the service was held at the adjoining Anglican Church.

Visionary Fr. Skariah

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   Fr. Skariah, being a Visionary himself, ensured that the faith was passed to the younger generation at a time where options were limited. Achan introduced the English services to support the needs of the young so that they could observe and follow the faith comfortably and meaningfully. During these years, Fr. P K Skariah had also been instrumental in building strong relationships with other Oriental Orthodox churches including the Ethiopian & Coptic Orthodox churches. 

 

1994: Prayers answered and blessed with a home

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   24th Sep 1994 was a day of reckoning for the faithful. By the grace of God and Fr. Skariah’ s deep penance, the faithful gathered the courage to purchase the present place of worship in East Coburg through an auction. The first generation – ‘sons and daughters of Malankara Nasrani Christians’ tasted the sweet success of perseverance and laid the path for all future faithful migrants and generations to come.

 

1997: Departure of Fr. P A Skariah

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   After 17 years of unselfish and dedicated service to the parish, Rev Fr. P K Skariah bid farewell and returned to India in 1997.

1997: Rev. Fr. M K Kurien takes over the baton in 1997

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   1997 also saw the arrival of Rev. Fr. M K Kurien as the vicar of SMIOC. Fr. Kurien had the mammoth task to attain financial independence for the parish and was instrumental in purchasing the church building from the original Trust company through a series of donations and bank loans.

 

1998: Visit of the Supreme Head, Catholicose of the East -

H H Baselios Marthoma Mathews II (late)

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   On the 29th of October 1998, the parish was honoured and blessed by the visit of H H Baselios Marthoma Mathews II (late), the then Supreme head of the Indian Orthodox Church. 

 

2000: Church consecration by H G Dr. Yakoob Mar Irenios

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   On the 13th of February 2000, the church was officially consecrated by H G Yakoob Mar Irenios, the then assistant Metropolitan of Madras Diocese. The Coptic Orthodox Bishop of Melbourne, H G Suriel also graced this occasion and made it memorable for the faithful.

 

2001: Arrival of Rev. Fr. M D Varghese & Construction of Parish hall

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   August 2001 saw the arrival of Fr. M D Varghese as the vicar to the parish. Under Fr. M D Varghese’s leadership, a two-storey building was constructed in 2004 at the east of the church to use as a parish hall and a parsonage. Consecration of the building was performed by H G Yakoob Mar Dr. Irenios on the 24th of April 2004. 

 

2004: Early church severely damaged by Fire

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   13th June 2004 was a black day in the history of this infant church when it was vandalized and set ablaze by arsonists. The fire had destroyed precious icons, paintings, and the holy altar. Strengthened by their faith, the church was reconstructed and restored to its crowning glory. The following year also saw some internal & external modifications to accommodate more worshippers due to the surge in the number of migrants.

 

2005: Arrival of Very Rev. Joseph Thaliaparambil Cor-Episcopa

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   June 2005 saw the arrival of Very Rev. Joseph Thaliaparambil Cor-Episcopa as the vicar of SMIOC. Fr. Joseph Thaliaparambil lead the parish with fairness, determination, and courage. He had played a pivotal role in the establishment of the Saint Thomas Ecumenical Fellowship in Melbourne (STEFM) initiative and was its founding President.

 

2008: Arrival of Rev. Fr. K. Y Chacko & Beginning of the Chapel

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   In 2008, Rev. Fr. K Y Chacko was appointed as the vicar of SMIOC and continued until 2011. With the increase in the migrant population in Melbourne, the church was growing day by day. During this period, a large proportion of the members from the south-eastern suburbs of Melbourne were required to commute over an hour to attend the Holy Qurbana. A need for a place of worship in the south-eastern region was identified to support these families. With this in mind, regular services commenced from January 2010 in Dandenong to support the spiritual needs of the families in the south-eastern region of Melbourne.

 

2010: Establishment of the Chapel – SGIOC &

Arrival of the first assistant vicar - Rev. Fr. James Philip

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   Chapel congregation With the consent of the then Metropolitan of Madras diocese - H G Dr. Yakob Mar Irenios, a chapel was formally established and named after Saint Gregorios. H G also appointed an assistant vicar – Rev. Fr. James Philip to SMIOC to cater to the spiritual needs of this region.

 

2011: Elevation of SMIOC to Cathedral status

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   On 26th May 2010, H. H. Baselios Marthoma Didymos I elevated the status of SMIOC as a Cathedral and was later declared the same by the Diocesan Metropolitan H G Yuhanon Mar Diascoros on 20th March 2011.

2011: Arrival of Rev. Fr. Shinu K Thomas & purchase of Clayton property

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   July 2011 saw the arrival of Rev. Fr. Shinu K Thomas as the vicar of SMIOC and he continued until 2016.  Under Fr. Shinu’s leadership, a property was purchased in Clayton in December 2012 with the vision to construct a chapel for the St. Gregorios chapel. 

 

2013: Arrival of Rev. Fr. Ferdinand Pathrose

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   Rev. Fr. Ferdinand Pathrose was also appointed as the assistant vicar in 2013, and he continued until 2016. 

2013: Reconsecration of SMIOC by H G Dr. Yuhanon Mar Diascoros in 2013

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   In 2013, renovations were completed at the Cathedral building and it was re-consecrated by H G Dr. Yuhanon Mar Diascoros on 5th October 2013. 

 

2015: Consecration of Saint Gregorios Chapel

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   A huge milestone was achieved on the 21st of Nov 2015 when the parishioners witnessed the consecration of Saint Gregorios Chapel by H. H. Baselios Marthoma Paulose II. The event was attended by spiritual Leaders and political representatives from the local and state governments. 

 

2016: Arrival of Rev. Fr Pradeep Ponnachan & Rev.Fr. Saju Unnunni

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   In 2016, Rev. Fr Pradeep Ponnachan & Rev.Fr. Saju Unnunni has been appointed as the Vicar and Assistant vicar to SMIOC respectively and they continued their service until 2019.

 

2019: Elevation of Saint Gregorios Indian Orthodox Chapel

as an independent Church

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   With the blessings of H. G. Yuhanon Mar DIascoros, Rev. Fr Pradeep Ponnachan & Rev.Fr. Saju Unnunni were able to orchestrate the elevation of Saint Gregorios Chapel as an independent Church, which was later executed in July 2019 under the leadership of the incoming vicar Rev Fr. C A Isac.

2019: Arrival of Rev Fr. Sam Baby

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   Rev Fr. Sam Baby had been appointed as assistant vicar of SMIOC in July 2019 and later transitioned as the Vicar of SGIOC from August 2019. 

 

2022: Apostolic Visit of the Supreme Head, Catholicose of the East

H.H. Basleios Marthoma Mathews III

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   On 17th September 2022, H.H. Moran Mar Baselios Marthoma Mathews III visited the Cathedral and celebrated Holy Qurbana on 18th September 2022. The Cathedral prepared a commemorative stamp through Australia Post to mark Bava Thirumeni's first visit to Australia. MP Mr Peter Khalil gifted the Stamp to Bava Thirumeni and honoured his visit to Australia.