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Dominicans Remember Anniversary of War in Iraq and Displaced Sisters

March 19, 2016, Adrian, Michigan – As March 19, the anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, approaches, Dominican Sisters, Associates, and Friars in the United States are reminding the world of the suffering of the people of Iraq, including members of the Dominican family now displaced in Northern Iraq.  

The Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena, Iraq – along with tens of thousands of Iraq Christians, Yazidis, and other religious minorities – have been living in exile in the Kurdish region of Iraq since August 6, 2014, when they were forced to hurriedly evacuate the villages of the Nineveh Plain to escape the persecution of ISIS. Facing the same displacement as their fellow refugees, the Sisters have sought to offer comfort and hope, providing schooling to young children, opening two healthcare clinics, and offering pastoral care.   

Dominicans throughout the United States are marking the 13th anniversary of the US invasion by drawing attention to the continuing struggles of the people of Iraq. Adrian Dominican Sisters and Associates are posting photos on Facebook and other social media holding signs that proclaim, “I have family in Iraq” and “We have not forgotten.” See more photos on the Adrian Dominican Sisters’ Facebook page.

Dominican artists have been creating artwork to support the ministerial efforts of the Adrian Dominican Sisters on behalf of the exiled and displaced people of Iraq. Initiated by Sister Barbara Cervenka, OP, the project involves painting 1,000 cranes and donating the work as a benefit (see www.1000cranesforiraq.org). The net proceeds of their work is used to help support the relief efforts of the Iraqi Dominican Sisters.

An ancient Japanese tradition of folding 1,000 cranes to have a wish fulfilled was popularized by a Japanese girl, exposed at the age of two to the radiation of the nuclear bomb in Hiroshima. Although she died of leukemia at the age of 12 before she could finish folding 1,000 paper cranes, her classmates completed the project for her. 

The Dominican Sisters of Adrian have a special relationship with the Dominican Sisters of Iraq, as several young Iraqi Sisters lived, ministered, and studied with the Michigan-based community from 2005 to May 2015, when the last Iraqi Sister completed her training as a physician’s assistant and returned to Iraq to serve her people.

Adrian Dominican Sisters to Mark One-Year Anniversary of Iraqi Sisters’ Flight from ISIS with Solemn Procession and Prayer

Dominican Artists Launch “1000 Cranes for Iraq” Website in Support

August 3, 2015, Adrian, Michigan – As an act of solidarity with the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena of Iraq and the people of northern Iraq, the Dominican Sisters of Adrian, Michigan are holding a solemn Procession and Prayer on the afternoon of August 6. The event marks the one-year anniversary of the Iraqis’ flight from persecution by ISIS.

The observance, which is open to the public, will start at 3:30 p.m. (EDT) on Thursday, August 6, 2015, in front of Madden Hall on the Motherhouse Campus in Adrian, Michigan.

A new website (www.1000cranesforiraq.org) featuring cranes painted by Dominican artists was launched to raise funds in support of the refugee relief efforts of the Iraqi Sisters. The project centers on the legend made popular by a Japanese girl exposed to radiation from the Hiroshima atomic bomb who died of leukemia at age 12 before she could fulfill her wish of folding 1,000 cranes in prayer for health and world peace. Her classmates finished the project. (August 6 marks the 70th anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing.)

At 3:30 p.m. EDT, the bell in the tower of Holy Rosary Chapel will toll, marking the time (10:30 p.m. in Iraq) one year ago, when the Sisters were hurriedly evacuating their convents in Qaraqosh and the neighboring villages in the Nineveh Plain, with little more than their habits, beginning a long and harrowing escape. It took them nearly 10 hours to reach the safety of the Kurdish capital of Erbil – ordinarily a 50-minute drive – as they inched along roads jammed with tens of thousands of Christians, Yazidis and other religious minorities fleeing from their centuries-old home on the heels of a terrorist attack by ISIS.

The sounding of the bell will be followed by a moment of silence to remember and pray for the Iraqi people and world peace. Sister Attracta Kelly, OP, Prioress of the Adrian Congregation, will then read a recent letter from Sister Maria Hanna, OP, Prioress of the Iraqi Congregation, describing their current situation. Sister Kelly will invite participants to walk in silent procession to St. Catherine Chapel, recalling the horror of the flight to safety that the Dominican Sisters and their people endured at this time last year. All will join in a common prayer, created by the U.S. Dominican Iraq Coordinating Committee for use this day by Dominican congregations and provinces throughout the United States.

At the end of the prayer, participants will be invited to sign post cards to Secretary of State John Kerry, urging him to work with the Administration and Congress to increase funding for humanitarian assistance for internally displaced Iraqi citizens and for Iraqi refugees in neighboring countries. The cards note that “The United States bears a profound responsibility to assist the Iraqi people in this time of continuing crisis.”

The Dominican Sisters of Adrian have a special relationship with the Dominican Sisters of Iraq, as several young Iraqi Sisters lived, ministered, and studied with the Michigan-based community from 2005 to May 2015, when the last Iraqi Sister completed her training as a physician’s assistant and returned to serve her people. An older Iraqi Sister who suffered a stroke while visiting family in Detroit is buried in the Congregation’s cemetery.

The 1,000 cranes project was conceived by Sister Barbara Cervenka, OP, an Adrian Dominican artist. She has painted nearly 160 6”x6” paintings to date and estimates it will take about three years to paint 1,000. Other Dominican artists are joining her in donating their art to the project, including Sisters Mary James (Fran) Hickey, OP, Suzanne Schreiber, OP, and Janet Wright, OP. The website and logo was developed by Tommy Herrmann, a former student of Sister Cervenka.

Dominican Sisters and Friars in the United States have longstanding ties with Dominicans in Iraq. Three delegations of U.S. Dominicans visited Iraq in successive summers from 1999 to 2001 as a witness of solidarity with the Iraqi Dominicans and people of Iraq, as they suffered the effects of severe economic sanctions. In late 2002, in the light of the Bush Administration’s threat of war against Iraq, Dominicans everywhere began to wear buttons with the phrase, “I have family in Iraq,” as a sign of their concern for and solidarity with the people of Iraq.


Photos from Sister Durstyne Farnan, one of three Dominican Sisters who visited the displaced Iraqi Sisters in January of this year in Erbil, Kurdistan.



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