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Chaldeans Find Refuge in East Tennessee
By Rita Abro :: Monday, September 27, 2010 :: 42804 Views :: Article Rating :: Community & Culture, Chaldean Churches

A group of religious refugees are finding a home in East Tennessee. Chaldean Catholics, native to Iraq, are fleeing their home country to avoid persecution.

Many Chaldeans are tortured, even murdered over their religious beliefs. There are an estimated 150,000 Chaldeans in the United States, including over 100 in East Tennessee. On Saturday, Bishop Ibrahim Ibrahim of the St. Thomas the Apostle Catholic Chaldean Diocese, which covers the Eastern US, said mass at Sacred Heart Cathedral in Knoxville to help teach local Catholics about the Chaldean's plight.

"Usually they believe that all Iraqis are Muslims, but no, we are Christians even from the beginning, before Islam was there, Christians were there," Bishop Ibrahim said.

Joining him are members of the newly formed organization "Iraqi Christians in Need".

"We're trying to raise awareness for what's going on in Iraq for these Christians, this is our launch of the organization," said ICIN board member Susan Dakak. "The fact that I can say there are Christians in Iraq is just unbelievable. It's such a foreign thing to people here and unless people have a constant reminder that there are Christians in Iraq, then people are not going to rise to help them."

Leaders of the Catholic Diocese of Knoxville hope to help them achieve their goal.

"We're hopeful here to establish a mission for the Chaldean community, that's the Iraqi Christians, so that community, especially those recently arrived immigrants, might gather together in worship and prayer to pray for peace and greater understanding in the world so that all people might be able to practice their faith and their freedom in security," said. Fr. David Boettner, Rector of Sacred Heart Cathedral.

Ibrahim hopes educating the public will provided much needed help for the religious refugees.

"Any immigrant without any resources needs the help of others," he said.

Members of ICIN said more Chaldean Catholics are expected to arrive in Knoxville soon.

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comment @ Wednesday, December 1, 2010 6:38 PM
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St. Thomas, MI USA

St. Thomas Chaldean Catholic Church
6900 Maple Rd.
West Bloomfield, MI 48322
Tel: (248) 788-2460
Fax: (248) 788-2153

Founding Pastor:
Rev. Hanna Cheikho

Current Pastor:
Rev. Frank Kalabat

Parochial Vicar:
Rev. Jirjis Abrahim

Rev. Emmanuel Rayes, Retired  


Rev. Frank Kalabat
 

Rev. Frank Kalabat was born in 1970 in San Diego, California and entered St. Francis Seminary of San Diego, California.  The admission to the Catholic seminary made him the first born U.S. Chaldean to enter an American seminary.  In 1992, Fr. Kalabat continued his studies at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit, Michigan.  In July 1995, shortly after graduation he was ordained as priest by His Excellency Bishop Ibrahim N. Ibrahim.  

Fr. Frank chose Mother of God Parish in Southfield, MI. as his first assignment serving the Chaldean community as an associate pastor for half a decade.  In 2001, Fr. Kalabat was elected to serve as Pastor of St. Tomas Parish in West Bloomfield, Michigan where he remains today.   

Rev. Jirjis Abrahim

Rev. Jirjis Abrahim was born in Telkaif, Iraq in 1942. Upon graduation Fr. Abrahim was admitted to St. Peter Chaldean Seminary in Baghdad, Iraq.  After a decade of studies and numerous degrees, Fr. Abrhim was ordained a priest in 1967.  He chose to continue ministering in Baghdad, Iraq.  There he was appointed the headmaster of the catechism at Mother of Sorrows Cathedral.  Fr. Abrahim also assisted St. Therese Church in Baghdad until 1978.  Afterward he was asked to assist St. Joseph Church in Baghdad and was appointed Parochial Vicar from 1978-1992. 

In 1992, Fr. Abrahim was called upon to assist the growing Chaldean population in Michigan.  Upon his arrival he was assigned to St. Joseph Church in Tory, Michigan.  Two years later Fr. Abrahim was asked to become the pastor of a Parish community in Windsor, Canada  where he remained the parish pastor until 2001.

Continuing demographic changes in Michigan required Fr. Abrahim to return to St. Joseph Parish in Tory as a Parochial Vicar, where he remained until 2006.  In 2006 he was elected to St. Thomas Parish as Parochial Vicar in West Bloomfield, MI. where he currently serves the Chaldean community.

 

Rev. Emmanuel Rayes

Rev. Emmanuel Rays was born in Araden, Iraq in 1930.  He studied at St. John Dominican Seminary and was ordained to the priesthood in 1954.  The Chaldean catholic ambassador ministered in northern Iraq from 1954-1963, in Syria and Lebanon from 1963-1980, and in the United Stated from 1980 to the present day.
 
Form 1980-1983, he was appointed associate pastor at Mother of God Parish in Southfield, Michigan.  From 1983-1989 he served as pastor at Sacred Heart Parish in Detroit, Michigan.  During the early 1990’s he ministered to the Chaldean community in Farmington Hills and was at St. Joseph Parish in Tory where he was Parochial Vicar until 2000.

Although Fr. Rayes retired in 2001, he remains active in serving the community.  He is the author of many articles in Arabic and is the editor-in-chief of the Al Mishal and Al-Tariq magazine.  He has translated and continues to translate many books from French and English into Arabic.