Sacred Heart Major Seminary grads Fr. Abasso, Fr. Atisha started new parish assignments for Chaldean eparchy on Aug. 1

SOUTHFIELD — The joy of the two newest priests in Metro Detroit is surpassed only by the love of their Chaldean community.  

Fr. Rodney Abasso, 28, and Fr. Perrin Atisha, 26, were ordained July 6 at Mother of God Chaldean Cathedral in Southfield. Both attended Sacred Heart Major Seminary and began their parish assignments Aug. 1. 

Chaldean priests in Metro Detroit receive their formation through Sacred Heart, with additional formation through the Chaldean Catholic Eparchy of St. Thomas the Apostle. The eparchy, based in southeast Michigan, is one of two Eastern-rite dioceses serving Chaldean Catholics in the United States.

Fr. Abasso began his new assignment at St. Thomas Chaldean Parish in West Bloomfield, while Fr. Atisha will serve at St. George Chaldean Parish in Shelby Township.

Fr. Abasso’s path to the priesthood

Growing up in Deford in Michigan’s Thumb region, Fr. Abasso helped with the family business before attending college at Oakland University in Rochester. 

Having drifted from the practice of his faith, Fr. Abasso felt a call during his freshman year to return to the Church. He took a Bible study at his home parish of St. George and went to confession for the first time in years.

Fr. Rodney Abasso blesses a man following his ordination to the priesthood at Mother of God Chaldean Cathedral on July 6. (Adrian Kizy | Twelve89)

“It was an awesome experience to feel that incredible mercy and love of God,” Fr. Abasso told Detroit Catholic. “It cemented my faith and gave me a solid foundation to go deeper.” 

Then, during his sophomore year, he heard a talk on the spirituality of the Chaldean Mass. During the talk, he pictured himself in the role of the priest. Fr. Abasso started to consider the vocation as he continued to attend Mass and Bible study. As he neared the end of his time at Oakland University with a bachelor’s degree in psychology and began preparing for the LSAT to go to law school, he didn’t feel happy about his future.

“I felt like there was a piece missing,” Fr. Abasso said. “I went to adoration one day and told God, ‘Whatever you want me to do, I’ll do it.’ And He said He wanted me to be a priest. I thought He was joking.”

“I felt like there was a piece missing,” Fr. Abasso said. “I went to adoration one day and told God, ‘Whatever you want me to do, I’ll do it.’ And He said He wanted me to be a priest. I thought He was joking.”

Fr. Abasso spent time discerning with the Order of St. Augustine, but he knew he’d have to leave the Chaldean community in order to join the Augustinians. He also felt a call to missionary work, which led to a conversation with his associate pastor at St. George that affected his path. 

“Fr. Pierre (Konja) told me there are young men and women in America who have been baptized but don’t know Jesus, so America is now mission territory,” Fr. Abasso said. “That’s when I realized I didn’t have to go far to do this work, and I could stay with the Chaldeans.”

In 2013, a year after he graduated from college, Fr. Abasso entered Sacred Heart Major Seminary. 

Fr. Atisha’s journey

When Fr. Atisha was 6 years old and serving as an altar boy, he told his mother he wanted “to do what the priest does.” 

As a high school freshman at St. Mary’s Preparatory in Orchard Lake who didn’t know many other students, he found himself struggling to acclimate. One day, he went into the school’s chapel and came upon a room with the door open and the light on. It was an adoration chapel. From that day on, Fr. Atisha stopped by every school day at lunch to spend a few minutes with Jesus.

Fr. Perrin Atisha poses for a photo with Chaldean priests and bishops July 6 outside Mother of God Chaldean Cathedral in Southfield. (Adrian Kizy | Twelve89)

“Most of my friends went to another high school, and I was really unhappy at first, but when I found that room, I felt at peace there,” Fr. Atisha said. “That’s where the Lord really spoke to me and slowly called me to be a priest.”  

In the end, Fr. Atisha cites St. Mary’s Prep as the place that helped form his vocation and bring about solid friendships. His mother, however, was his greatest influence in discovering his call to religious life. Growing up, she would bring him to adoration regularly.

“She taught me what prayer is,” he said. “She taught me what it is to be close to the Lord.”

After high school, Fr. Atisha decided he wanted some time to be independent and experience college before entering seminary. He attended Wayne State University and became involved with the Newman Center, getting to know priests with Companions of the Cross and having regular conversations with Fr. Francis Kalabat, who is now bishop of the Chaldean Eparchy of St. Thomas the Apostle. 

“The most emotional part for me was the procession, seeing everyone who had been praying for me all this time and knowing how much they have supported me,” Fr. Atisha said. “The Chaldean community is so close that I knew everyone there. I was literally hyperventilating to the point that one lady on the aisle told me to breathe.”

Fr. Atisha wanted to enter seminary after one year at Wayne State, but then-Fr. Kalabat advised him to wait a year. Disappointed, but open to the Holy Spirit’s guidance, Fr. Atisha took full advantage of the following year to prepare himself for seminary.

“I feel like I matured spiritually that year and got to know Jesus well,” Fr. Atisha said. In 2012, Fr. Atisha began his formation at Sacred Heart.

When ordination day came on July 6, the church was packed with family and friends.

“The most emotional part for me was the procession, seeing everyone who had been praying for me all this time and knowing how much they have supported me,” Fr. Atisha said. “The Chaldean community is so close that I knew everyone there. I was literally hyperventilating to the point that one lady on the aisle told me to breathe.” 

Fr. Atisha serves as associate pastor at St. George Chaldean Church in Shelby Township. 

The Chaldean community

The Chaldean Church is in full communion with the pope, but is not part of the Roman rite. The faith and teachings of the churches are the same, while the liturgy and local customs are different. Both new priests expressed a deep pride and love of their Chaldean community. 

Bishop Francis Y. Kalabat kisses the forehead of Fr. Rodney Abasso during the ordination Mass on July 6. (Jonathan Francis | St. Thomas Chaldean Eparchy) 

“The ministry for a Catholic priest is the same, no matter what rite you are. We’re all broken people — it’s the same work,” Fr. Atisha said. “To be Chaldean is to be Catholic. Faith, to us, is cultural.”

Fr. Abasso believes one challenge the community faces is being able to retain Chaldean individuality in America.

On the Chaldean eparchy website, Fr. Abasso stated, “America is considered a melting pot, which is beautiful because all these different cultures exist, but that can mean the loss of culture, and so it falls to our generation to help preserve this cultural identity for future generations.”

Fr. Atisha looks forward to his time serving the people at his large parish, which celebrates more than 200 weddings each year.  

“Parishes are very much like families to Chaldeans,” Fr. Atisha said. “I’m just excited to be present, to serve God’s people and to be a loving shepherd to them.”


Advertisement