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The Softer Side of Caring for Chaldean Elders
By Latifa Seeba :: Tuesday, August 18, 2009 :: 85246 Views :: Article Rating :: 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. 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.