Growing Christian community in Toronto now has own place to worship

2011-06-01-chaldean1.jpgBy Luc Rinaldi
Cardinal Emmanuel III Delly, the patriarch of the global Chaldean Catholic Church, celebrates a consecration Mass at the Good Shepherd Chaldean Church in Toronto. Photo by Luc Rinaldi / The Catholic Register
TORONTO (CCN)–On May 28, more than 10 years of progress came to fruition for the Toronto Chaldean community, as the Good Shepherd Chaldean Church was officially consecrated.

The Saturday evening consecration — meaning that the parish is now officially allowed to conduct spiritual activities including holy Mass — marked the end of a long process for the largest congregation of Chaldeans in Canada. It was followed by a Sunday Mass celebrated by Cardinal Emmanuel III Delly, the patriarch of the global Chaldean Catholic Church, which is an Eastern Church in full communion with the Roman Catholic Church.

“This was a very significant event for us,” Deacon Wamid Shamoon said. “Since building this church in 2001, we were all waiting for this moment.”

Led by Archbishop Hanna Zora, the growing Toronto Chaldean community rented out churches and parish halls to celebrate Mass before the construction of their church in 2001.

Masses were held in the parish hall, however, until 2009, when the church was partially consecrated, meaning that Mass could be celebrated in the parish but that an official consecration was still required.

At the consecration Mass, the patriarch and archbishop extended their thanks to the members of Toronto’s Chaldean community, as well as to a number of guests from around the world. In attendance were Chaldean bishops, archbishops and clergy from New Zealand, Australia, Lebanon, Michigan, California, Hamilton and London. The Iraqi ambassador to Canada and the bishop of the Assyrian Church of the East in Toronto were also in attendance.

“Thank you for sharing with us this joy… this holy opportunity,” said Archbishop Zora.

Good Shepherd Chaldean Church will continue offering daily Mass, along with Bible studies and Chaldean school for children from junior kindergarten to Grade 10. Established in 1993 by Archbishop Zora and partnered with the Toronto Catholic District School Board, the school’s six Saturday classes accommodate about 250 students, educating them in the Chaldean language and traditions.

Those traditions trace back to St. Thomas the Apostle. The early Chaldean Church existed in Mesopotamia (modern-day Middle East), and has spread throughout the globe since. Today, there are about 1.5 million Chaldeans worldwide.

Since 2000, the Chaldeans have faced religious persecution in Iraq — a fact that the patriarch urged each of the Chaldeans at the consecration Mass to remember. Pray for them always, he said.