HISTORY OF ST THOMAS SYRO MALABAR CATHOLIC CHURCH, BRISTOL
With the governments recruitment drive in health care around the year 2000 there was an influx of people from many parts of the world especially from India. A few families with Christian background from Kerala, South India set up a prayer group and had regular prayer meetings every week. Later we had the privilege of celebrating Holy Qurbana in Syro-Malabar rite at St. Nicholas of Tolentino Church.
At the outset of the formation of St Thomas Catholic Community (as it was then called) in Bristol, the first Syro Malabar Qurbana in Bristol was celebrated by Fr Joseph Narikuzhi in September 2001. Various priests celebrated the monthly Qurbana along with visiting Bishops. In Oct 2002 a working committee was set up to look at the matters of interest to the community. Fr Sunny Paul (parish priest of Holy Ghost Church, Yeovil) kindly agreed to take responsibility to conduct monthly Qurbana in January 2003. Later, Fr George Valliamthadathil, MSFS was appointed as the Director of the Syro Malabar Mission of Clifton Diocese in October 2004 for 2 years. Fr George Valliamthadathil was based at St Nicholas of Tolentino Church, Easton where monthly Qurbana was offered.
The appointment of Rev. Fr George Valliamthadathil was an important milestone in the history of STSMCC. STSMCC is grateful to Bishop Declan Lang, Clifton diocese, for appointing him. Fr. George’s appointment gave a sense of identity to the community. With his verve and enthusiasm he was able to reach out to the members of Syro-malabar rite living in different areas under Clifton diocese. One of the important event that happened during his period was the celebration of St Thomas day (Dukrana) on 2nd and 3rd July, 2005. Since then St Thomas day is celebrated on the first sunday of July every year. Regular annual summer camp for children was conducted since August every year. He served the community until he was transferred in October 2006.
In October 2006, the community moved base to St Joseph’s Church, Fishponds and pastoral services were carried out through visiting priests- Fr Anil Paul SVD, Fr John Kudiyirippil MST, Fr Thomas Parayadyil MST ( Syro-Malabar London Co-ordinator) and Fr Jiji Alakkalam SVD, Fr George Cheeramkuzhi and many other Syro-Malabar priests in UK.
From Sept, 2009 the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church, Bristol is privileged to have Fr Joy Vayalil CST, who is taking charge as the Resident Priest of St. Joseph’s Church, Fishponds where STSMCC is based. Fr Joy is a young and enthusiastic priest who will be a valuable spiritual guide and resource to STSMCC.
At present, STSMCC comprises of 178 Syro-Malabar families in & around Bristol which is a solid congregation of 652 members- 352 adult members and over 300 young children and youth.