Delhi is everybody’s land; there are no sons of the soil. All the same, it is a tough land, due to its varieties of cultures, economic disparities, diversity of people, and extremes of climates. Nevertheless, it attracted the Mughals and the different dynasties, the British Empire, the refugees from Pakistan and Bangladesh, the South Indians, the North Easterners, the Biharies, the Punjabis, etc. Nevertheless, Delhi rewards the hardworking and relegates the laggards.
The Knanaya community also migrated to Delhi as one among the millions in search of ways to settle in life. They came out of the comforts of their parents’ house with the noble intentions to seek a better life for themselves and to family left behind. Their settlement in Delhi is an ongoing process in search of jobs, houses, relations, friends, and benefactors. Some migrate further, and some continue to stay on looking at the silver lines ahead, bracing the challenges.
Social and Community Life
The Knanaya community in Delhi tried to come together to give expression to their hereditary instinct of social and community living. An organized form of social life started with the registered Delhi Canaanite Society in 1975. It is heartening to note that the members of the community included the Knanaya Catholics as well as the Knanaya Jacobite. Probably this was the pioneer form of organized community not only among the diaspora Knanaya elsewhere in the world but also among the different Christian denominations in Delhi. At a later stage the Knanaya Jacobite community established their own churches and the Society had only with Knanaya Catholics. The undying spirit of the community started consolidated and as a result, all the various social groups within the community came together and formed the present Delhi Knanaya Catholic Mission (DKCM).
Growth of Delhi Knanaya Catholic Mission
DKCM made its origins in the middle of 2000s and formed as a Trust in 2015. With the view to wade away the issue of membership it is inscribed in the bylaws of the Trust that eligibility is based on the norms of the Archdiocese of Kottayam and the decisions of the Board of Trustees. DKCM comprises of 28 Koodarayogams, along with the units of DCS, KCC, KCYL, Women’s forum, etc. It is estimated that there are over 450 – 500 families and approximately 500 youth from Kerala. In all DKCM has about 1,000 elders and over 1,500 youth. There is a close community life in Delhi with monthly assembly of the Koodarayogams in addition to its zonal meetings, separate youth wing activities, women’s gatherings, annual common programs of Sangamam, Cultural Day, etc. In addition to the thrust given to family programs great emphasis is also given to the all-round development and growth of the youth, both Delhi born and migrated from Kerala.
Establishment of Infrastructure
It was always the ambition of the Knanaya community to have its own infrastructure in Delhi for sustained growth. In the 1990s with the support of the Diocese of Kottayam and the initiatives of the community, Delhi Development Authority allotted land at Vasant Kunj. Sisters of St. Joseph’s Congregation constructed building providing space for DKCM’s smaller activities in addition to the in-house crèche facilities provided by Sisters for the specially abled children. Further, Archdiocese of Kottayam also invested in two small apartments and a plot of land along with a small residential unit. These facilities are used for the stay of Knanaya priests and for the local Koodarayogam and youth activities.
Presence of Religious Sisters
DKCM is greatly benefitted by the support provided by the Sisters of St. Joseph’s Congregation. They have two units in Delhi, which cater to the needs of the Knanaya community in all the activities. They participate whole heartedly for conducting the various programs, in addition to the special care they provide for the women, youth, and children’s programs.
Increased presence of the religious group is an urgent need to meet the challenges facing the Knanaya community in Delhi. It is therefore an important requirement that more religious groups move to Delhi to take up various activities with the motto ‘first with the Community and for the Community’.
Coordination by Priests
The backbone of the life of Knanaya community in Delhi has always been the coordination, support, guidance, and spiritual care provided by the priests in Delhi. In the 70s and 80s the community always had the support of Rev. Fr. Joseph Kudilil, a priest of the Delhi Archdiocese. Starting from the 90’s Kottayam Diocese sent priests to Delhi for the community The priests continued to provide the much-required fulltime care and coordination. For the priests it is a tough task coordinating the 28 Koodarayogams, along with youth activities, which require traveling distances like 40 kilometers to different localities spread out within over 1,600 square kilometers of Delhi. It is only priests with unwavering missionary zeal, who can overcome the challenges of a vibrant people, work and social pressure, extremes of climates, long distances, etc. and yet maintain the magic smile and enthusiasm.
Knanaya Chaplaincy and Establishment of Knanaya Churches
The Knanaya community of Delhi safeguarded its unity and Christian faith for over 50 years without Knanaya churches, purely depending on the magnanimity of the local ecclesiastical system. In the absence of an independent pastoral and spiritual care of the Knanaya faithful they always had the blessings of the Delhi Archdiocese and later of Syro-Malabar Diocese of Faridabad. The efforts for obtaining independent pastoral and spiritual care of the Knanaya community started since 1975, when it was formed as a registered society. This process was intensified with the establishment of the diocese of Faridabad in 2012.
The establishment of the institution of the Knanaya Chaplaincy effective 22 March 2020 provides the long-awaited opportunity to install Knanaya Churches in different parts of Delhi. It has established four Knanaya Church units based on geographical requirements. They are currently functioning from temporary infrastructures.
The concept of Knanaya Chaplaincy was evolved ensuring the focal points of catholic faith, endogamy in membership, and independence within the overall existing ecclesiastical arrangements, restrictions, and circumstances outside proper territory of Syro-Malabar Church in India. The Knanaya Chaplaincy is specifically meant for the spiritual and pastoral care of the members of DKCM. The endogamy issue is further protected by the restrictive conditions of membership of DKCM. Knanaya Chaplaincy will function as a quasi-parish as defined in Canon Law. Knanaya Chaplaincy is therefore an ecclesiastical arrangement or system for spiritual care of the Knanaya faithful to be administered through the churches that are established under the arrangement. Faridabad diocese has provided the Chaplain the authorities of a Forane Vicar.
Archdiocese of Kottayam in the Chaplaincy’s Spirituality and Administration
The Guidelines of the Chaplaincy generously recognizes the sentiments and emotional attachment of the Knanaya community towards the Archdiocese of Kottayam in their spirituality. Further, the Chaplaincy system provides extensive administrative authority to the Archdiocese of Kottayam in the management of the churches, ownership and legal rights on the investments and properties and financial independence. The investments, legal entity, and management of the Knanaya churches will be under and as per the directions of the Archdiocese of Kottayam.