Book penned by ‘Sun’ columnist about Chaldeans to be released at concert
Nationally acclaimed Catholic composer and vocalist Michael John Poirier will perform in a Feb. 8 concert at Ss. Simon and Jude Cathedral to benefit the Chaldean Catholic Church in Arizona.
More than 500 Chaldean Rite Catholic families live in the Diocese of Phoenix, many of them having fled the violence, persecution and oppression that plague their homeland of Iraq and the surrounding region. Since the 2003 invasion of Iraq, more than half the Christians have left or been killed.
Msgr. Felix Shabi, corbishop of the Arizona Chaldean Vicariate, said Poirier’s 2011 concert raised about $5,000 for the church that cares for many refugees and immigrants.
“We used the money for our catechism school and for the refugee committee that helps the newly arrived,” Msgr. Shabi said. More than 100 children attend the Saturday morning catechism classes held at Our Lady of the Valley Church where the Chaldeans rent space.
“We used the funds for textbooks and nutritious snacks for the children and for the sports activities and parties we have for them,” Msgr. Shabi said. “Our refugee committee visits new families and brings them a copy of the Catechism, tea tables and vacuum cleaners.”
Poirier, reached by phone, has spent the last eight months traveling the country with his wife and three children, performing in concert in numerous states. He said he’s looking forward to his arrival in the Valley for the benefit concert, especially to hearing the Chaldean choir that will also perform that evening, as they did in 2011.
The choir, selected from the three Chaldean centers in Arizona, will perform four hymns in Aramaic. Some of the songs were composed more than 1,000 years ago and are cherished and well known to the Chaldeans who say they want to share their heritage with their Western Rite Catholic brothers and sisters.
“I’m excited this year because I know how wonderful it was to hear their voices before,” Poirier said. “It’s one thing to hear it on a CD but it’s another thing to hear it straight from the hearts of the people who are praying the songs.”
Prior to the concert, there will be a 6 p.m. Chaldean Rite Mass in English. Participating in the Chaldean Mass last year, Poirier said, gave him “a bigger view of how beautiful the Catholic Church is.”
“I was so struck by the poetry in the liturgy and the beauty of the words translated into English,” Poirier said. “The beauty of the sacred comes into focus for me when I hear them.”
“The concert is a sign of brotherhood and friendship and unity among Christians, especially among Catholic Christians, both Eastern and Western Rite, in the Diocese of Phoenix,” Msgr. Shabi said. “Michael Poirier is the knight of unity through his songs and prayers for Christian unity and brotherhood. He’s like St. Francis of Assisi.”
Lena Batros, who directs the 14-member choir at the Gilbert center, said she sang at Holy Family Church in Baghdad for eight years until she came to America in 2002.
“We want American people to hear the language of Jesus,” Batros said.
A book written by this reporter that tells of the struggles of the Chaldean people will be released at the concert.
Concert for Chaldean Catholics
When: Feb. 8
Where: Ss. Simon and Jude Cathedral, 6351 N. 27th Ave., Phoenix
6 p.m.: Chaldean Rite Mass in English
7 p.m.: Concert to benefit Chaldeans
Tickets: www.catholic-events.org or call