The roses blossomed, the sun was shining, and the weather was perfect as I pulled into Mother of God Church, bright and early, on Saturday, June 14th. While I was there early as a volunteer, guests lined up outside the church as early as 6:00 a.m. to ensure they were part of the 310 guests who received General Public tickets inside the church. What does one do while waiting in line to witness the biggest event in the Chaldean community in more than 30 years? Take selfies with Patriarch Mar Louis Sako, of course.
Father Pierre Konja and Father Andrew Seba opened the doors just before 8:00 a.m. and the guests filed in. From there, dignitaries, clergy, parish councils, and friends and family trickled in and the pews which were once empty, quickly filled up. I was able to direct guests to their designated seats and with each guest I greeted, the reality of what was about to take place sunk in.
As the hours passed, anticipation grew. Finally, the procession started. Grace and excitement filled the Cathedral as clergy and lay people alike awaited the ordination of Fr. Frank Kalabat. The congregation intently watched as Mar Sako, Cardinal Allan Vigneron, and Mar Ibrahim laid hands over Fr. Frank who then laid his body on the sanctuary as the Bible, the Word of God, was placed on his back. He was vested and the crowd burst into excitement as he stood on the steps as Bishop Francis with a miter on his head, and crosier and cross in his hands.
Bishop Francis eloquently addressed the congregation, making it clear that the day was not about him, but about Jesus, constantly repeating that “Jesus is alive.” He continued to speak when suddenly tears filled my eyes and I felt my throat clench as Bishop Francis told the congregation he was wearing the belt of the recently martyred priest Bishop Faraj Raho’s. Reality sank in.
That was not the only time, however, that hit home. After mass was celebrated, Mar Ibrahim took Bishop Francis by the hand and walked him across the sanctuary to his new seat in the church- an epic moment, to say the least. I was reminded of the apostolic succession, the priestly brotherhood, and the solidarity within the Church.
It is no doubt that whether it was the young or old, guests at Mother of God or guests watching at churches across the Diocese, each person was filled with a sense of peace, confidence, pride, and astonishment. The Chaldean Eparchy of St. Thomas has gained a new apostle and the flock has gained a new shepherd.
Anita Kesto has been an active member and volunteer with ECRC for several years. She currently serves as a leader for the high school program Chaldeans Loving Christ (CLC).