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Mart Mariam Chaldean Catholic Church Grotto Unveiled
By Rita Abro :: Monday, August 26, 2013 :: 25109 Views :: Article Rating :: Chaldean Churches

In 2011, Mart Mariam Chaldean Catholic Church was re-located to 2700 Willow Road in Northbrook, on the corner of Pfingsten and Willow Roads. The sprawling 10 acre landscape has supported the resplendent parish adding an activity hall, small school, and rectory to a picturesque and easily accessible campus.
 
In September 2012, Fr. Fawaz Kako,C.Ss.R. and myself, along with fellow parishioner Salem Estefan, discussed building a proper grotto (maghara) for the existing Mother Mary statue residing at the front entrance of the church. I welcomed the responsibility and pursuit of such a significant shrine as a gift from the Hikmat Yacu family to our church and all of its faithful parishioners.
 
Additionally, the grotto would honor and celebrate the first Chaldean Bishop in the United States, his Excellency, Mar Ibrahim, as well as recognize Fr. Fawaz for his devotion and passionate dedication to the community. This extraordinary grotto was a long lasting aspiration of mine to commemorate my parents, Aziz and Warina Yacu, devoted and faithful all their lives to the Chaldean Church and its people. It is in remembrance of them that this project was conceived and will stand as an exceptional landmark for our church and the community.
 
Building this unique monument proved to be quite difficult and tedious. After identifying a grotto image and developing an engineering sketch, an extensive search was conducted for a qualified builder. As very few grottos exist in the Chicago area, the search was prolonged until a proficient and capable builder was selected to execute the unique design. Along with the builder, a local architect was chosen to assist in the laborious task of designing and engineering the project. With the help of our blessed Mother Mary, after many months of collaboration and obtaining proper permits it was finally time to begin construction.
 
Unfortunately for our project, Mother Nature had other ideas. The rain and thunderstorms in early June 2013 halted our construction for 12 days until at last, sunshine and clear skies allowed a solid concrete foundation to be laid in mid-June. Shortly thereafter, a beautiful structure began to take shape with the formation of the stone walls and magnificent dome framework.
 
From the very conception, this monument was destined to be spectacular and unprecedented. I was honored and delighted when Mart Mariam selected the main entrance of its grounds as the setting for this meaningful Shrine. The position of the grotto will allow unobstructed views to its brilliance and purity all the way from Willow Road around Pfingsten corner. Both Northbrook and Glenview townships bordering Willow Road will have breathtaking views and a beautiful panorama of this one of a kind grotto.

The project is near completion, with a grand opening scheduled for Thursday, August 15.

The grand unveiling date was chosen for its significance as the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. This annual celebration commemorates the death of Mary and her bodily assumption into Heaven. The Chaldean Catholics rejoice this day with a Grand Holy Mass followed by a special dinner for all who attend services.

A very important event in the church, this great feast is typically attended by over 1,000 people and will likely exceed that number this year, with the addition of the grotto dedication. This year will be of even greater magnitude, as our Bishop, his Excellency Mar Ibrahim from the Detroit dioceses, has agreed to bless us with his presence for the grotto ribbon cutting ceremony and prayers, as well as officiate mass the evening of the Feast.
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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.