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The Softer Side of Caring for Chaldean Elders
By Latifa Seeba :: Tuesday, August 18, 2009 :: 66665 Views :: Living & Lifestyle, Community & Culture

Who are the elders in your family? The obvious answer is that they are your parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, and eldest cousins -- basically, any relative who's getting up in years. But that doesn't really answer the question, does it? In a Chaldean family, there is a big difference between being elderly and being an elder.

Chaldean Elders are the people we respect and turn to for answers and perspective, thanks to their many years of life. Most of all, they are the people who raised you and your loved ones and helped you grow into the people you are. For several decades, they carried the burden of caring for your family and leading it to better times. Now it's your turn to dote on them. Ensuring the welfare of our elders should come as naturally to us as raising our children.

Unfortunately, too many people take their parents' and grandparents' ability to care for themselves for granted. Even so, you should make sure your loved ones are taken care of no matter where they live, and try to look after any seniors living alone in your neighborhood, too. Taking responsibility for the venerable elders in our society is an imperative we all should heed. It's the mark of a decent, caring Chaldean.

There are two parts to nurturing our Chaldean elders. The one we focus on most is caring for their material needs -- making sure they have safe homes, food to eat, and good doctors to tend to them. This is complicated and important stuff that requires serious effort -- so much so that we often neglect the other aspect of caring for elders: tending to their hearts and souls. Here are some suggestions for the softer side of Chaldean elder care.

Treat every older person in your life with utter respect. Despite the toll age can take on health, appearance, and manner, inside every individual is a vibrant, powerful personality. Remember to love and laugh with the elderly without condescension -- and without restraint!

A component of respect is being understanding and forgiving of their faults. Yes, they've told you the same story 183 times. Yes, their favorite pastime may seem to be gossip. Yes, they can be incessantly critical of you, your friends, technology, the weather, or the price of tomatoes. And yes, with love, patience, and cleverness, you can change the subject and bring out the best in them.

Alone or with your children, take your parents', grandparents', or elderly neighbors' oral history. Each person has a story, and older generations have faced challenges most of us have never had to consider.  Coming to America to immigration stories and hard-won successes, take the time to get to know the Chaldean elders in your life as they have, without a doubt, had a direct or indirect impact on your life.

Include them in your life whenever you can. You can visit, call and talk to them on the phone, take them to church, grocery shopping, out to lunch, or out on a picnic.  Yes, it may mean more work for you, but remember all the times they did extra work to accommodate you and your family when you were a child?

Acknowledge their fears and frailties and when you can, step in to assist. For example, be their spokesperson when they are concerned with something important to them.  Gently offer to help with gardening, cleaning, or driving them around town. 

No gift can measure to the time you will spend sharing your gratitude and appreciation to your Chaldean elder. 

St. Joseph, MI USA

St. Joseph Chaldean Catholic Church
2442 E. Big Beaver Rd.
Troy, MI 48083
Tel: (248) 528-3676
Fax: (248) 524-1957

Congregation Organizer:
Rev. Michael J. Bazzi

Church Constructing Pastor:
Rev. Sarhad Y. Jammo

Current Pastor:
Msgr. Zouhair Toma

Parochial Vicar:
Rev. Ayad Hanna

 Current Pastor: Msgr. Zouhair Toma

Msgr. Zouhair Toma (Kejbou) was born in Telkaif, Iraq in 1947.  He was ordained a priest in Baghdad, Iraq in 1968, and accepted his first assignment to serve the community of Baquba.  The Monsignor’s leadership skills and organizational talents along with his mastery of theology were immediately evident.  He later assisted Sts. Peter and Paul in Al-Salehia, and St. George in New Baghdad.

In August, 1978 Monsignor Toma was called to serve the growing community of persecuted Chaldeans finding refuge in Australia.   Being the fist Chaldean priest to arrive in Australia he quickly established a parish for the Chaldeans in Sydney to serve their social and spiritual needs.  The parish was named after St. Thomas the Apostle and built a rectory. 

In 1989, for his incredible work he was granted the title of Monsignor, Chaldean Patriarchal Vicar for Australia and New Zealand.  Continuing his passionate work to serve the Chaldean community the Monsignor moved the Parish Center to a more accessible location and built a large church campus featuring a modern community center, residence quarters, and administrative offices in 1995. 

In 2003, Monsignor Toma added a magnificent church to replace the previous one in order to serve the fast growing community and also opened two other centers.  The first was Our Lady Guardian of Plants in Melbourne, and the second was Mar Addai the Apostle in Auckland, New Zealand.  Mar Addai in New Zealand included two very large churches along with rectories and community centers.  Overseeing the Patriarchal Vicariate for 28 years, he managed to inspire six more priests to help minister to the fast growing Chaldean community. 

In August 2006, Monsignor chose to assist the St. Thomas the Apostle Diocese in the U.S. as more Catholic churches were being built in America and address the growing need.  On October 2006, Monsignor was incardinated and appointed Pastor of St. Joseph Parish in Troy.