The path towards the establishment of a Catholic Church for the people of Indian origin in South Florida, began with the initiatives taken by Rev. Fr. James Parappally in 1984. He organized the Catholics of Indian origin in South Florida, providing them leadership and ecclesiastical service, and incorporated the Indian Catholic Association of Florida in 1986. The Indian Catholic Association with 60 families was registered as a Mission in the Archdiocese of Miami for Catholics of Indian origin belonging to the three rites – Syro Malabar, Latin and Malankara, and Rev. Fr. James Parappally was appointed the Mission Director.
Rev. Fr. Parappally celebrated Holy Masses with the community periodically and catered to their spiritual needs. Availability of Church facilities for the celebration of Holy Mass in Malayalam was a constraining factor, and Fr. James Parappally managed this by alternating between the Nativity Church in Hollywood and St. Clements Church in Fort Laduerdale. Other Indian priests also helped the community frequently.
The need for a permanent place of worship and the leadership of Fr. James Parappally urged the community to look for establishing a church of our own which was to be dedicated to Our Lady of Health, Velankanni. A Building committee was formed. Both the Building Committee and the Indian Catholic Association worked together towards fund raising, and the notion of per family building fund contribution was floated and agreed upon.
The initial proposal was to acquire a five acre land in West Miramar belonging to the Archdiocese of Miami and construct a church in the shape of a ship, symbolizing Mother Mary of Velankanni saving the shipwrecked navigators. We are navigators to, and sojourners in, a foreign land, and Mother Mary is our help. The estimate for this land acquisition and construction lingered around 8 million dollars. Very soon, we realized that this large sum is beyond our means and we purchased a two acre land on Griffin Road near I-75 with the intention of building a church there. However, the nearby church group opposed the construction of our church and we sold that land at a significant profit.
By year 2000, Rev. Fr. Joseph Maroor, pastor of Maxmilian Kolbe church in Pembroke Pines, allowed the ICAF community to use his Church for liturgical services in Malayalam. This regular gathering on Sundays, provided further impetus to community based religious activities, and the first catechism classes for children were held in the Social Hall of Maxmillian Kolbe Church within two years. Annual retreat for the community too commenced at this time.
The search for our own church building gained more momentum. Under the leadership of Fr. James Parappally, the Building Committee and the Indian Catholic Association purchased the Baptist Church in Coral Springs in July 2002 and named it Valankanni Matha Church or Our Lady of Health Church. With the recommendation of Fr. George Puthusseril the Archdiocese of Miami was kind enough to provide us the necessary mortgage finances at the lowest interest rate.
Since the Mission was established for the three rites, conversion to a Syro Malabar parish was much discussed. Three months later, in October 2002, the General Body meeting of the Indian Catholic Association voted for conversion to Syro Malabar Church and Vicar General Fr. George Madathiparamabil presented a report to Archbishop of Miami on the demographic breakup of the three rites in the ICAF Mission and the need to elevate the Mission to a Syro Malabar parish.
Shortly then, the Chicago Syro Malabar diocese sponsored three SABS Nuns to this parish and thus our’s is the first Syro Malabar parish in the United States to establish an SABS convent which contributes immensely to our liturgy and faith formation.
A year later, On December 6, 2003 our Mission was elevated as an independent Syro Malabar Parish and Reverend Father John Melepuram was appointed as its first Vicar with 97 registered families. The final blessing of our church took place on May 30, 2004 in the presence of Miami Archbishop His Grace John Favalora and Chicago Syro Malabar Bishop Mar Jacob Angadiath. With the presence of permanent Parish Priest, we focused on faith formation, CCD classes for children, and welcoming of new catholic families who migrated to South Florida. A vibrant, full-fledged parish was thus established to support generations to come.
Our parish took quantum leaps since inception in 2003. We convened the Syro Malabar Convention for USA and Canada in 2007. The second Vicar, Rev. Fr. Zacharias Thottuvelil initiated plans for the building of our Social Hall. Rev. Fr. Kuriakose Kumbakeel, our third Vicar, undertook extensive renovations. Rev. Fr. Thomas Kadukappilly, our fourth Vicar completed the Social Hall project and focused on youth ministry. On February 2019, Rev. Fr. John Thomas Thachara(Johnsty Achan) took charge as our fifth Vicar. He was very much focused on the spiritual development of our parish, especially youth and the kids. Johnsty achan get transferred and Rev.Fr.George Elambasserril took charge as our sixth Vicar on September 15, 2023.
Gratitude is memory of the heart. We gratefully remember the bishops and priests, the Indian Catholic Association, the Building Committee, and the many individuals who cherished and nourished with their valuable time and financial support to our church project. May they be reciprocated by the good Lord.
Our faith forms our value system, our value system makes our choices, and the sum of our choices make our life. The faith lighted by St. Thomas in our motherland Kerala, passed down through our forefathers down the ages, instilled in our hearts as we grew up and migrated, took the shape of our church, “Our Lady of Heath Catholic Forane Church, Coral Springs” over the years. This church transcends beyond the brick and mortar physical structure it is made of, symbolizing the faith journey of a migrant community, invigorated by our rich liturgy, nourishing the faith formation of our community and generations to come.
201 N. UNIVERSITY DRIVE
CORAL SPRINGS, FL 33071