A Taste for Coneys and Holiness

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Chaldean alumnus cites Detroit background as “great influence” on vocation as priest and seminary rector.

It was a day of thanksgiving and surely of holy pride for Fr. Andrew Younan, College Class of 2001.

On April 10, Bishop Sarhad Yawsip Jammo laid hands upon Fr. Ankido Sipo and Fr. Simon Esshaki, ordaining the men to the priesthood for the Chaldean Eparchy of St. Peter the Apostle. Father Younan, rector of the eparchy’s Seminary of Mar Abba the Great since the seminary’s founding in 2008, was responsible for the education and formation of the two priests. Even more reason for Father Younan and the eparchy to celebrate: Fathers Sipo and Essahki are the “first fruits” of the young seminary—the first graduates to become priests.

The Eparchy of St. Peter the Apostle was established by Pope John Paul II in 2002. Its jurisdiction spans nineteen western states with its cathedral located in El Cajon, California, near San Diego.

Father Younan has deep roots in the state of Michigan and a deep appreciation of his time at Sacred Heart. “Yes, I’m very much a Michigan boy, and I don’t think that will ever leave me,” says Father, who grew up in Troy and went to Sterling Heights High School (1997). “Though I’ve gained an appreciation for the avocado in my eight years in California, my taste is still very much coney-dog-oriented.”

After earning his BA in Philosophy from Sacred Heart and completing one year of graduate school here, he moved to Berkley, California. There he acquired two master’s degrees, in theology and philosophy, at the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology. After his ordination in 2004 for the Chaldean Eparchy of St. Thomas the Apostle, Father returned to Michigan and served as a priest at St. Joseph Chaldean Catholic Church in Troy. In 2008, he headed west again to take up the duties seminary rector.

Father Younan credits Sacred Heart’s consistent emphasis on the “four pillars of priestly formation”—the intellectual, spiritual, pastoral, and human dimensions—as “one of the great influences” he drew upon when developing the formation program at Mar Abba the Great. These foundational pillars are articulated in The Program of Priestly Formation, the document by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops that guides the development of candidates for the priesthood in the U.S.

Another guide on Father Younan’s journey as priest and rector is Detroit’s own Archbishop Allen Vigneron. “I don’t think any moment of my life as rector has been without his influence,” Father says, calling the archbishop “one of my models for the priesthood.” When Father returns to Michigan, often he contacts the archbishop just to keep in touch. “In fact, I think the last time I was home we ended up getting some coneys together,” he says. “I pray that my seminarians might see some of his wisdom, his kindness, and his affability in me.”

There is much wisdom, and many other virtues, his seminarians certainly see in Father Younan. He is an expert translator of Aramaic into English, and is the translator and editor of the Emmanuel prayer book, which contains translations of Chaldean liturgical and devotional prayers. He is author of Perpetual Jubilee, a popular meditation on the Chaldean liturgical year. He is a scholar, serving as professor of philosophy and biblical languages at John Paul the Great University in Esconido, California. He has received the mandatum from the Bishop of San Diego, which, according the university’s website, is an “ecclesial recognition of Fr. Andy’s posture and commitment to teach always in communion with the Church.”

Since the early 1990s, the Chaldean Eparchy of St. Thomas the Apostle, whose episcopal seat is in Southfield, Michigan, has been sending its seminarians to Sacred Heart for formation and education. This past academic year, Bishop Francis Kalabat entrusted eleven of his precious seminarians to the Sacred Heart’s care. For this the seminary is honored, as it is honored to call Fr. Andrew Younan a Sacred Heart alumnus.

 

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