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Internationally Famous Singer Invited to Encore Chaldean Concert Performance
By Sam Yousif :: Tuesday, September 23, 2008 :: 135838 Views :: Article Rating :: Sports, Art, and Entertainment, ECRC, Chaldean Churches

Michigan, USA – “The man is an inspiration to the whole world.  The Pope climbed down the stage to kiss him,” says Gabby Kajy.  “I didn’t know much about him until I saw him at the ECRC festival at St. Thomas.  I bought all his CD’s which he signed with his feet.  He was incredible and I have been a fan ever since.” 

Kajy is talking about the famous Tony Melendez.  It was on September 15, 1987, he played his guitar for Pope John Paul II in Los Angeles. Born without arms, he performed a touching song entitled Never Be The Same. When the Pope approached him from the stage to kiss him in appreciation, it seemed to reflect the sentiments of the entire country.

Never Be the Same was an appropriate song Melendez sang for the Holy Father, for those few moments changed Tony Melendez' life and brought his unrestrained abilities as a guitarist into national attention. It seems to be a fitting place for a man who has spent his life putting personal confidence above his handicap.   The international marvel has been featured on Life On A Rock, The 700 Club, Good Morning America, The Today Show, CBS This Morning, NBC Nightly News with Tom Brokaw, Home Life Television, and Entertainment Tonight to name just a few of his countless television appearances. 

Melendez is being called back to an encore presentation for the ECRC festival to be held at St. Joseph Chaldean Church campus in Troy this Friday, September 26.   The concert is open to the public and tickets are being subsidized to the bargain of only $10 for a two-day concert pass. 

A "thalidomide baby," Melendez was born without arms because his mother was prescribed thalidomide a drug used to help calm morning sickness during her pregnancy. He was brought to the Los Angeles area from Nicaragua to be fitted with artificial arms. He wore them until he was ten, when he disposed of them. "I didn't feel comfortable," he explains, "I could use my feet so much more."

Chaldeans Loving Christ high school groups relate to Melendez.  It was also in high school that Melendez became deeply involved in the Catholic Church. "I went when I was a kid because my parents took me. I drifted away as I got a little older. When I was in high school, my brother kept saying 'come on, you've gotta go. It's great!' So I went again and made a lot of friends, and wound up changing my life in the process.

During this time, he considered becoming a priest but couldn't, because priests were required to have an index finger and thumb. The news disappointed him but he persevered in his church activities, using his talents as a guitarist and composer for masses and church related events. Demand for him increased to the point where he was directing and singing in music groups at up to five masses on a given Sunday. It caught people's attention, including someone with the group organizing activities for the monumental visit of Pope John Paul II in 1987.

Excitement became nervousness and then jubilation when the Pope responded to Tony's playing, with a kiss. He notes now that he wasn't sure how to react. "I was told not to move or the security might take me out, so I was very surprised when the Pope leaped off the four-foot stage to greet me."

A highly talented composer and musician, Tony recorded his first album in 1989, a collection of contemporary Christian songs entitled, Never Be the Same, which resulted in nominations for Best New Artist of the Year from Cashbox Magazine and the Gospel Music Association. His debut Spanish LP, El Muro Se Cayo And The Walls Came Tumblin' Down, was released to critical acclaim by Latin radio stations across the country. Ways of the Wise, Tony's second Christian album, includes the musical talents of Gary Chapman and Phil Keaggy. The fall of 1990 CCM (Contemporary Christian Music) Magazine Top Pop List charted Ways of the Wise, Tony's first single released from the album, at #3.

Tony's latest album Hands In Heaven (Toe Jam Music), which he co-produced, is a musical look into the heart and soul. Selections such as "Lowly Servant," is a prayer for help and guidance in the struggles of life. "Everybody Sing," is an uplifting Calypso praise and worship song. "Love Is the Answer," is a remake of the 1970's England Dan & John Ford Coley hit. "I Wish I Could Hold You; " Tony's touching dedication to his wife Lynn and kids. The title song, "Hands In Heaven," is a beautiful tribute to those friends and relatives who have passed on and are now praying for us before the throne of God in Heaven - all reflect the perceptive and deeply-rooted insights into the life and faith of Tony Melendez.

Since then Tony has traveled across the United States and forty foreign countries.  He also performed at The World Series, where he sang the National Anthem for the fifth game of the 1989 series. Tony has had the opportunity to give four additional performances for the Pope, twice in the Vatican and another in the Pope's homeland of Poland, and in Denver Colorado for World Youth Day 1993. Along with television and major personal appearances, newspapers and magazines articles have appear on him through out the world. Now an author his best-selling autobiography, A Gift of Hope, was published in 1989 by Harper & Row.

He has been the recipient of numerous awards and honors, including special commendations from President Reagan, The State of California, Variety Clubs of America, Very Special Arts, The City of Los Angeles, and countless other civic and charitable organizations. He has also received the first annual Inspirational Hero Award from the NFL Alumni Association at Super Bowl XXIII in Miami.

ECRC and St. Joseph Chaldean Church event organizers are expecting thousands of guests to take part in the two-day concert featuring Melendez as well as Nabiha Yazbek, an international Lebanese Arabic singer. 

Tickets to the concert can be purchased at any Chaldean church in southeast Michigan or e-mail info@chaldean.org for direct contact information. 

 

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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.