By: Sajeev Sankarathil Secretary, EFICP – 2015
It has been a true blessing and honor to have served as the secretary of Ecumenical Fellowship of Indian Churches in Philadelphia for the year of 2015-2016. I thank God for giving me the courage and strength to take this position and to be a part of this great group. This year, we were able to show strength and unity by conducting several new and successful events that incorporated our dynamic youth, talented children, and powerful women. We hosted the first EFICP Volleyball tournament, Bible Kaloltsavam, day of prayer, retreat for our youth, talent competition, college fair with many reputed universities, Christmas celebrations, and World Day of Prayer. We were also able to participate in the Papal Visit. It was our main goal and effort to promote the needs of our youth and children which we were successfully able to do as a strong group of leaders.
The General Body meeting of the EFICP conducted on Sunday, March 8th, 2015, elected the following office bearers for the year. The former chairman, Rev. Shaji M. Eapen, presided over the election and installed the following members to office:
Chairman: Rev. Fr. Johnykutty George Puleessery
Co Chairman: Rev. Fr. Siby Varghese
Religious Activities Coordinator: Rev. Fr. Geevarghese John
Secretary: Mr. Sajeev Sankarathil
Joint Treasurer: Mrs. Bindhu Joshua
Treasurer: Mr. M.A. Mathew
PRO Souvenir: Dr. Kurian Mathai
Charity Fund Raising Coordinator: Mr. Geemon George
Women’s Forum Convener: Mrs. Beena Thomas
Women’s Forum Co-convener: Mrs. Kunjamma Abraham
Youth Activity Coordinator: Mr. Sumod Jacob
Program Coordinator: Mr. Biji Joseph
Choir coordinator: Mr. Thomas Abraham
Auditors: Mr. Benny Kottarathil and Mr. Samkutty Kunjachan
Precession Coordinator: Mr. Daniel P. Thomas
Currently we have 21 Churches and the congregation consists of approximately 10,000 members which makes it one of the largest and most popular fellowships among Indian immigrants in the USA.
General Body and Executive Committee Meetings
A total of six general body and a total of seven executive meetings were held during the term. I gratefully place on record the gratitude of EFICP to the vicars and parish members of those churches who graciously hosted these meetings. They are the following:
1. St. Thomas Indian Orthodox Church
2. St. Thomas Syro Malabar Catholic Church
3. Ascension Mar Thoma Church
4. St. Peter Syriac Orthodox Church
5. St. Gregorios Orthodox Church
6. Christos Mar Thoma Church
Activities and Events
The Ecumenical Fellowship of Indian Churches in Philadelphia organized various new events aimed at integrating young kids and youth into the fellowship, in addition to the regular activities that were previously conducted.
The major highlight of this year’s activities was the successful accomplishments of the volleyball tournament which took place on August 8th, 2015, at the Jewish Community Center- Northeast. There was enthusiastic participation and discipline of teams. We congratulate St. George Orthodox Church who won the Rolling Volleyball Trophy, sponsored by EFICP Executive 2015. We also congratulate St. Thomas Syro Malabar Catholic church for placing as runner up, and all other churches and teams that participated. I would like to thank the EFICP executive committee and especially, Mr. Sumod Jacob for his dynamic leadership for the success of this tournament.
As per the decision of the general body, ecumenical parish visit days were conducted in the 4 Sundays in the month of August. The visiting representatives were well satisfied by the reception from the members of the churches. We express our extreme gratitude to the vicars of all the churches for allowing the representatives to talk about the importance of the Ecumenical Fellowship in their churches.
Under the strong guidance of Religious Activity Chairperson, Rev. Fr. Geevarghese John, 4 meetings were held at different churches. Clergy from different churches along with their families met together once every two months for bible study, prayers, and discussion. These meetings help the clergy to get to know each other and understand different denominations and strengthen the fellowship.
On Sunday, September 13th, 2015, EFICP held the Annual Gospel Convention at St. George Malankara Orthodox Church. Rev. Fr. Varghese Varghese, priest of the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church was the keynote speaker of the event. The event was made remarkable by the beautiful choir performance and the large number of attendees. EFICP sends our sincere thanks to the members of the hosting church, St. George Malankara Orthodox Church, for allowing us the use of their facility and for the success of the event.
Co-chairman Rev. Fr. Siby Varghese and Secretary, Mr. Sajeev Sankarathil attended the once in a life time auspicious occasion of the Papal Visit to Philadelphia, the City of Brotherly Love. The main focus of the event was human rights, religious freedom, and the importance of family.
Ecumenical Women’s Conference
The Ecumenical Women’s Conference was held on Saturday, October 17th, 2015, at the St. Mary’s Cathedral, 1424 Orthodox Street, Philadelphia, PA 19124. Rev. Esther Rajashakar was the keynote speaker. The theme of the event was “Can you really forgive?” The talk, slide show presentation, and workshop had a very powerful impact on all those who were present. My gratitude goes to Mr. Thomas Abraham and the choir for making the event colorful. EFICP thanks Very Rev. C.J. Johnson Cor Episcopa, Mrs. Beena Thomas, Mrs. Suja Babu, Roy Varghese and the members of St. Mary’s Orthodox Cathedral for hosting this event.
Under the strong leadership of program coordinator, Biji Josesph, EFICP, for the first time, introduced and conducted a Bible Kaloltsavam on Sunday October 25th, 2015 for our children up to the age of 17. The highlights of this event include the timely coordination of multiple categories, enthusiastic participation of the young children, distribution of cash awards on the same day, and great appreciation from the judging panels. I would like to place on record, EFICP’s gratitude to Mr. Biji Joseph, Mr. Jose Thomas, and the Parish council members of St. Thomas Syro Malabar Catholic Church for their whole hearted support for this event.
Ecumenical Youth Retreat Day
Ecumenical Youth Retreat Day was held on Friday, November 13, 2015, at Christos Mar Thoma Church, 999 Gantry Rd, Philadelphia, PA 19115. Rev. Roy Thomas of Delaware Mar Thoma Church gave a very insightful message on the theme “Dealing with Fear.” EFICP is sincerely thankful to Rev. Varghese, Rev. Fr. Gheevarghese, John K. Thomas, and youth members of the hosting church, for their whole hearted support.
College Day is another pilot program EFICP introduced this year for helping our college bound youth. It was held on November 15, 2015 at St. Thomas Indian Orthodox Church, 1009 Unruh Ave, Philadelphia, PA 19111. There was participation from eight different colleges and universities that were very encouraging and informative to high school students and their parents. EFICP would like to appreciate the leadership of Ms. Betsy Thommen for coordinating this event. I would to offer a special thank you Rev. Fr. M.K. Kuriakose for hosting this pilot event at his church.
The grand Christmas celebration of the Ecumenical Fellowship was held on December 12th, 2015, at George Washington High School in Northeast Philadelphia. This is the main event of the Fellowship of all age groups in which all 21 churches come together to celebrate the joyous birth of Jesus. The program began with the solemn procession with a nativity scene by St. Thomas Syro Malabar Church. The procession was coordinated by Mr. Daniel P Thomas and assisted by Raju Gheevarghese, Mrs. Annie Mathew and Mrs. Bindhu Joshua. Rev. Fr. Gheevarghese John, Religious coordinator, led the worship session of the public meeting. His Excellency Mar Jacob Angadiyathu delivered the Christmas message. EFICP presented a plaque to Rev. Fr. M.K. Kuriakose and to Rev. Fr. Mathai Cor-Episcopa in honor of their 40th year of priesthood and for their dedicated service to the Ecumenical Fellowship. Leading up to the Christmas celebrations, a charity raffle was organized, and the raffle drawing was conducted at during the celebration and winners were announced. Also, at this event, the EFICP Souvenir was released. The highlights of the event included precise agenda, timely and well-coordinated programs that were received with great appreciation from the public. Ms Rekha Philip served as MC of the public meeting and the vote of thanks was given by Secretary Mr. Sajeev Sankarathil. The public meeting was followed by the Christmas show in which 16 churches participated. A special appreciation is in order to Mr. Biji Joseph for coordinating the program and the youth from individual churches who introduced their performances.
This is the main source of revenue for EFICP. Dr. Kurian Mathai, Public Relations Chairperson for EFICP, and the executive committee worked extremely hard to publish the souvenir. We place a special thanks to Editor Mr. Sibichan Chemplayil for his time and dedication.
EFICP Charity Fundraiser
Through our generosity and support we were able to help those less fortunate. Mr. Geemon George and the executive committee did an excellent job and exceeded the expectation of the general body. This year we collected over $13,000. Mr. Jose Pullukattu from St. John Neumann Kananya Catholic Mission won the first price, 2 Air tickets to India, sponsored by Riya Travels, and Mr. Mathew P. Mammen from Philadelphia Mar Thoma Church won the second price Ipad sponsored by Dr. Zachariah Joseph. My gratitude goes to Ascension Mar Thoma Church for selling the most raffle tickets followed by St. Thomas Syro Malabar Catholic Church. The fund was allocated to help Christians in Syria.
On April 19th, 2016, EFICCP Coordinator Rev. Fr. M.K. Kuriakose, Secretary Mr. Sajeev Sankarathil, Treasurer Mr. M.A. Mathew, and charity coordinator Mr. Geemon George headed by Chairman Rev.Fr. Johnykutty George Puleessery paid visit to Bishop Divanysios Mor Koawak, Bishop of Syrian Orthodox Church of Antioch in USA and representative of Patriarch His Holiness Moran Mar Ignatius Ephraim II and handed over our ecumenical charity check for $11,000 to help people suffering from religious persecution and war in Syria.
World Day of Prayer
The grand finale of this year’s ecumenical event was World Day of Prayer which was held on March 5th, 2015, at St. Thomas Indian Orthodox Church, 1009 Unruh Ave, Philadelphia, PA 19111. There was a colorful and talented performance by Nupura Dance Academy, led by Mrs. Aji Panicker and a beautiful choir that emphasized the Cuba nation. The keynote speaker Mrs. Preena Mathew Kochamma gave a wonderful presentation on the theme of this event, “Receive Children, Receive Me.” The meeting consisted of a public meeting, worship session, beautiful skit, and songs from by the choir lead by Thomas Abraham. The program was well organized, and deserves much appreciation and our gratitude is shown to Mrs. Beena Thomas, Mrs. Kunjamma Abraham, Mrs. Bindhu Joshua, Mrs..Nirmala Abraham, Mrs. Laila Alex, Mrs. Suma Chacko, and Mrs. Lissy Thomas for their hard work and dedication. And a special thanks to Jovlin George for arranging a youth choir which made the event very melodious.
The Ecumenical choir is an integral part of our fellowship and has played in a core role at every event with their melodious music and colorful presentation. Mr. Thomas Abraham, choir coordinator, deserves special appreciation for his hard work and commitment for making each and every one of our events blessed with the voices of the choir. Thank you to the choir for their dedication to the Ecumenical fellowship.
It has been an honor and privilege serving as the Secretary of EFICP for year 2015-2016. I am grateful for the cooperation and support that I received from each member of this dedicated group. The unity that this organization brings between its many churches is the key to our fellowship, and it plays an important role in future generations growing in union. This year we were able to engage and interest our younger youth to take initiative and leadership in our fellowship and that is one of our greatest accomplishments. I would like to personally thank the Chairman, Rev. Fr. Johnykutty George Puleessery and co-chairman, Rev. Fr. Siby Varghese, Religious Chairperson Fr. Gheevarghese John, Rev. Fr. M.K. Kuriakose and all clergy for their unending dedication and guidance. EFICP expresses its appreciation to treasurer Mr. M.A. Mathew, Choir coordinator Mr. Thomas Abraham, Program coordinator Mr. Biji Joseph, Youth Activity coordinator, Mr. Sumod Jacob, Charity Fundraising Coordinator Mr. Geemon George, Dr. Kurian Mathai PRO,Women’s forum convener, Mrs. Beena Thomas, and co-convener, Mrs. Kunjamma Abraham, Joint Secretary, Mrs. Bindhu Joshua, and Auditors, Mr. Benny Kottarathil and Mr. Samkutty Kunjachan. Most of all I would like to thank the Lord for giving us the strength, courage, and leadership ability to take part in such a great fellowship for this past year. I pray that God watch over EFICP, its leaders, and all its members. May God bless us all.
Sajeev Sankarathil Secretary, EFICP
Rev. Fr. Johnykutty George Puleessery Chairman, EFICP
Proposed by: Daniel P. Thomas
Seconded by: Raju Gheevarghese