The Chaldean Catholic diocese of the eastern United States welcomes a new leader this weekend — just its second in more than 30 years.
The Rev. Frank Kalabat is scheduled today to become bishop for the Chaldean Eparchy of St. Thomas the Apostle. The Southfield-based Eastern Catholic diocese is separate from the Archdiocese of Detroit but has allegiance to the pope in the Vatican.
Kalabat, pastor of St. Thomas Catholic Chaldean Church in West Bloomfield Township, succeeds the eparchy’s first bishop, Ibrahim N. Ibrahim, 76, who was appointed by Pope John Paul II in 1982.
Kalabat had been pastor of St. Thomas since 2001 and previously was an associate pastor at Mother of God in Southfield, according to the conference of bishops.
Born in Kuwait in 1970, he moved to the U.S. in 1989; started seminary studies at the St. Francis de Sales Center in San Diego; pursued theological studies at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit; and was ordained in 1995, diocese and conference officials said.
His bishop appointment by Pope Francis was announced last month.
A prayer service was planned Friday night at Mother of God Chaldean Catholic Church in Southfield.
The ordination ceremony is scheduled for 11 a.m. today at the church, 25585 Berg. Archbishop Allen Vigneron was expected to be a principal co-consecrator at the ordination, the Archdiocese of Detroit said.
“The new bishop will provide leadership for the Chaldean Catholic community in the eastern United States,” said the Rev. Ron Roberson, associate director of the Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
“He will also have strong links to the Chaldean Catholic Patriarchate based in Iraq ... Many Chaldeans have been (emigrating) to the United States in recent years because of the troubles in that part of the world.”
The eparchy covered the entire U.S. until 2002, when it was split into eastern and western halves, officials said.
Today, the Michigan-based eparchy is the largest, with an estimated 150,000 Catholics —many in Metro Detroit, according to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. The other is centered in California.
Metro Detroit has the highest concentration of Chaldeans in the U.S., diocese officials said.
During his tenure, Ibrahim spoke out against the war in Iraq and was summoned to Rome to participate in a special synod on the Middle East at the Vatican, according to Detroit News archives.
“I am honored to have served our community for more than three decades,” Ibrahim said in a statement. “I have faith that Fr. Frank will continue to move our diocese forward as a true servant leader of Christ.”
Eastern Catholic churches have origins in Eastern Europe, Asia and Africa; maintain distinctive liturgical, legal and organizational systems; are identified by the national or ethnic character of their region; and are considered equal to the Latin tradition within the Catholic church, according to the conference of bishops.