Center Profile

Mother of God Chaldean Church (2006)

Chaldean (Christianity)


The research was conducted by The University of Michigan-Dearborn Pluralism Project.


Chaldeans began immigrating to the metropolitan Detroit area from Chaldean villages in the northwest of Iraq as far back as 1910. The majority of the families came from the village of Telkaif, which means “Hill of Stones” in Aramaic. Others came from Baghdad, the capital, and urban areas of Iraq . Factory jobs in the automobile industry and the area's large Arabic speaking community were appealing to immigrants.
Without a priest of their own, many of the Chaldean rite Catholics in Detroit attended Roman Catholic churches and sent their children to Roman Catholic schools. For special occasions, such as weddings and funerals, they often attend St. Maron's Maronite Catholic Church, where the language and ritual were similar to their own. With the Chaldean Community growing rapidly in Detroit after the end of the World War II, Chaldeans requested that the Chaldean Patriarch, in conjunction with the Archdiocese of Detroit, sent them a priest of their own rite. In reply to the request, Reverend Toma Bidawid, born in the village of Ballo, Turkey, arrived in Detroit on February 24, 1947. He celebrated the first Chaldean Mass at the Maronite Church. In 1948, Father Bidawid bought a Protestant church building located at Euclid and Second Avenues in Detroit and named it Mother of God Church, where he served the parish until his transfer to Chicago in 1951. Following Father Bidawid's departure, Reverend Toma Reis, born in the village of Araden, Iraq, became the priest. When the building the congregation was using was condemned for freeway construction in 1952, the parish acquired and remodeled a former funeral home on Hamilton Avenue between Calvert and Glynn Court in 1953 in the city of Detroit. In 1963, under the leadership of Reverend George Garmo, property was purchased on Berg Road in Southfield, located in suburban Oakland County north of the city, to build a new church for the growing Chaldean population which by 1966 totaled approximately one thousand families. In 1972 ground was broken for the new Mother of God Chaldean Church, and was followed by the construction of the existing larger church, which was consecrated in 1980. In addition, a convent for Chaldean Sisters was opened in Southfield in 1976, and a senior citizen home was built in 1997. Today, there are approximately 80,000 Chaldeans in metropolitan Detroit in five parishes.

The Church's Growth

In 1982, Pope John Paul II established the Apostolic Exarchate for Chaldeans in the United States and appointed the Reverend Ibrahim Ibrahim as the first Apostolic Exarch on March 7, 1982. On August 3, 1985, the U.S. Apostolic Exarchate was raised to the status of Eparchy (diocese) and named the Chaldean Diocese of St. Thomas the Apostle, with its seat in metropolitan Detroit at Our Landy of Chaldeans Catholic Cathedral (Mother of God Parish) under the leadership of Bishop Ibrahim Ibrahim.


Language has become a major issue in the church. As younger members, who are born in the United States, speak English and are unable to understand the Chaldean, or "Old Aramaic" language used in the church's rituals, and more recent immigrants from Iraq are more likely to speak Arabic rather than modern Aramaic, all three languages have to be used. Each Sunday Mother of God holds an early mass in Arabic, another mass in English, and high mass in Aramaic. A Saturday afternoon mass is also said in Aramaic.

Date Center Founded

1,700 average Sunday attendance; over 100,000 Caldeans in the metropolitan Detroit area

Ethnic Composition
Most members come from Iraq, including the village of Telkaif, villages in the Northwest, as well as urban areas such as Baghdad.

Affiliation with Other Communities/Organizations
Apostolic Exarchate for Chaldeans