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HomeEparchy of the United States and CanadaBishop Philipos Mar Stephanos Celebrates with South Florida Parishioners in a Festive...

Bishop Philipos Mar Stephanos Celebrates with South Florida Parishioners in a Festive Gathering

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HOLLYWOOD, January 14, 2024: In a heartwarming display of faith and fellowship, Bishop Philipos Mar Stephanos Thottathil graced the St. Mary’s Syro-Malankara Catholic congregation in South Florida with his presence, fostering a day of celebration that highlighted the vibrancy of our community and the rich mosaic of our shared heritage.

The event, which took place at Nativity Church, was initially a routine visit but blossomed into a grand festival that attracted our brothers and sisters from Kerala, the bastion of our faith in South India. Together, Catholics and the Eastern Orthodox faithful participated in a communal worship in the chapel and a cultural festival in the parish hall, reiterating the unity of our church.

“Our faith is a harmonious blend of diverse cultural expressions, and yet we stand united in Christ,” Bishop Philipos, the esteemed primate of our Eparchy of Queen of Peace, remarked. His words echoed through the congregation, reminding us of our dual heritage as Indians in culture and Christians in faith.

Despite the short notice to the 27 families in Florida, the event drew a crowd of about 150 people, a testament to the close-knit nature of our Syro-Malankara families here and abroad. This familial spirit transcended geographical boundaries as attendees arrived from regions as distant as Orlando and New York, bringing together a larger family under the auspices of our cherished Bishop.

The celebration was marked by a Qurbono, where Bishop Philipos donned the traditional head veil adorned with the stars representing Jesus and His apostles, a unique aspect of our Syro-Malankara liturgical tradition. This was followed by a cultural fiesta that showcased the talents of our youth in song, dance, and the ancient martial art of Kalaripayattu, illustrating the dynamism of our living faith.

Archbishop Thomas Wenski lights a nilavilakku, a traditional Indian lamp, during a festival Jan. 14, 2024, with St. Mary’s Syro-Malankara Church. The festival was held at Nativity Church in Hollywood. At left is Bishop Philipos Mar Stephanos Thottathil, head of Syro-Malankara Catholics in the U.S. and Canada.

Archbishop Thomas Wenski of the Archdiocese of Miami participated in the festival, lighting the nilavilakku alongside our clergy, symbolizing the light of Christ that guides us all. His gesture was a poignant reminder of the universality of our Catholic faith, encompassing various rites and traditions.

The event not only celebrated our spiritual and cultural roots but also served as an ecumenical bridge, occurring just before the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. It was a moment of solidarity, illustrating how our small yet spirited community contributes to the tapestry of the universal Church.

The festival concluded with a feast that included traditional Kerala cuisine, further reinforcing our connections to the homeland. The laughter and camaraderie that filled the parish hall were emblematic of the joy that our faith brings to our lives.

As we move forward, the success of this gathering has inspired us to make it an annual tradition, allowing us to come together to celebrate our faith, culture, and community. It is our sincere hope that such events continue to strengthen the bonds of our Syro-Malankara family here in South Florida and across the diaspora.

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