November 2, 2018, Adrian, Michigan – Sisters Rose Ann Schlitt, OP, and Nancy Jurecki, OP, are members of a delegation from the U.S. Dominican family that will visit the Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena of Iraq in mid-November. Gloria Escalona, a member of a 2001 delegation and of the Dominican Laity of the St. Albert the Great Province, will round out the delegation.
The delegation was organized by the Iraq Coordinating Committee of the North American Dominican Justice Promoters, in partnership with the Dominican Sisters Conference, and is scheduled to leave on November 14.
The visit takes place more than four years since the Sisters, along with Christians and other religious minorities, fled from the Nineveh Plain on August 6 with the arrival of ISIS. Members of the Iraqi congregation returned to their hometown about a year ago to face much destruction and the challenges of rebuilding their homes and churches. A visit to Iraq that had been planned about a year ago was postponed because of the instability in Iraqi Kurdistan at the time.
“My hopes center upon our Sisters who have undergone immense trials and humiliations as they were violently uprooted from their homes, towns, and ministries by ISIS,” Sister Rose Ann said. “They lived as internal refugees in the Kurdistan region of the north for four years. Now, some have been able to return and literally try to pick up the pieces of their lives, convents, and ministries. They currently struggle at many different levels in their daily lives.”
Sister Rose Ann hopes to be Sister to them during their visit. “Although I am unable to fully understand the depth of their suffering and loss, I will try to be fully and lovingly present to them and to express our solidarity with them in their present and future challenges,” she said. Not knowing the Arabic language, Sister Rose Ann hopes to be able to communicate “through words and gestures, with the help of translation from some of the Iraqi Sisters” who are fluent in English. She is also conscious of the “mix of emotions our presence will surely stir in some, given our country’s role in the current upheaval they are experiencing.”
Sister Nancy, Chief Mission Officer for Providence Health and Services, share Sister Rose Ann’s concerns about the involvement of the U.S. in the war in Iraq. She volunteered to be part of the original delegation because of her deep, personal connections to the people of Iraq. During Desert Storm, she was influenced by a parishioner’s faithful intercessions during daily Mass for the people of Iraq “whose lives and/or quality of life was being taken from them due to the war,” by her nephew’s service during the second war, and by her personal relationship with a Sister from the congregation of St. Catherine of Iraq, with whom she lived.
Sister Nancy also struggles with her inability to understand fully the depths of the suffering of the Iraqi people, but she hopes to listen to their stories and be present to them. “Now, as much as ever, I desire to hear the stories and share the pain of remnant Christian families who are replanting their lives in the land where the Bible began,” she said. “In a sense, I will be fulfilling a desire and bearing witness to a unity that guns cannot destroy.”
Feature photo: Sisters Nancy Jurecki, OP, left, and Rose Ann Schlitt, right.
By Sister Rose Ann Schlitt, OP
July 13, 2017, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic – “I’m learning the art of listening: to the person I accompany, to God in the person, and to myself!”
“I was deeply moved as I engaged in spiritual companioning and experienced sacred ground.”
“It was such a liberating experience, full of joy and surprises!”
These are a few of comments by 12 cloistered nuns from six monasteries and traditions as they completed four weeks of Introduction to Spiritual Companioning. The course was sponsored by the nine-member spirituality team of the Conference of Religious of the Dominican Republic (CONDOR) and coordinated by Sister Carol Ann Gross, OP, and Dr. Angela Lopez, a lay psychologist.
Visitandines, Franciscan Capuchins, Clarissas, and Discalced Carmelites from across the country gathered in the Carmelite Monastery of St. Teresa of Jesus in Santo Domingo for the month-long course. They came to take instruction and to learn the tools and skills they needed to accompany others in their attentive and personal responses to God.
During the first week, they received an overview of Spiritual Companioning, listening skills, and personality types, and shared their own history of spirituality. The team demonstrated modes of accompaniment, after which the nuns practiced with each other. The week also included follow-up and supervision of the new companions by the coordinating team.
The second week dealt with the area of psychology and personal growth, and a retreat workshop on a review of personal history. Applications of the Exercises of St. Ignatius followed, with models of discernment and specific practices of accompaniment. Special cases such as group accompaniment and areas of affectivity, sexuality, and forgiveness were covered in the fourth week. Throughout the month the nuns delighted in presenting their own monastic traditions and in learning about the traditions of the others.
After the formal course, the team offered follow-up and supervision of the nuns in their settings, as well as group supervision. The group gathered again in May for a personal directed retreat and follow-up in the practice of accompaniment.
“Beginning the course with the contemplatives, we of the team were a little nervous,” Sister Carol said. “We know these women are dedicated to prayer and silence and to God in a very special vocation. But within two days we started to relax and give to them what we had learned from our experience and study while they received us with exemplary openness. We laughed and cried together and we all learned about the presence of God in our lives: contemplatives, laity, priests, and sisters in active congregations. The course has been a gift of grace and growth for all!”
The course, a unique ministry in the Dominican Republic, already has a long history. Sister Ana Feliz, OP, with the support of Sister Nancy Jurecki, OP, launched the program in 2002 as a course in Spiritual Companioning, sponsored by the CONDOR. Sister Carol and Sister Eneida Santiago, OP, were participants.
Others contributed in specific areas of input. Sister Arlene Kosmatka, OP, accompanied the groups with her expertise during the summer courses for several years. This Adrian Dominican-launched ministry in spirituality found fertile ground in the Dominican Republic – and the mission continues!
Top: Students prepare for class. Bottom: The 12 participants represent six monasteries and six traditions.