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May 5, 2020, Washington, D.C. – Sister Raghad Saeed, OP, a Dominican Sister of St. Catherine of Siena of Iraq, experienced challenges even before beginning a doctorate program in Nanotechnology at Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. Her dream of doing doctoral work in physics was suspended in 2014 when her community was forced to flee their convents with the arrival of ISIS. In the Spring 2020 issue of Catholic U, Sister Raghad tells the story of the community’s flight from Mosul, their return, and the opportunity to revive her dreams and earn her doctorate, thanks in part to the intervention of Adrian Dominican Sister Donna Markham, OP, then a member of the Board of Trustees of Catholic University of America. 

Feature photo: Sister Raghad Saeed, OP, with Prioress Patricia Siemen, OP, left, and Sister Mary Margaret Pachucki, OP, Vicaress, right, during her visit to the Adrian Dominican Motherhouse

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May 4, 2020, Adrian, Michigan – Disciples of Jesus today can learn much from the experience and wisdom of a medieval Dominican mystic and saint whose focus was on love of God and love of neighbor.

Sister Patricia Benson, OP, a member of the Adrian Dominican Sisters’ Spirituality Committee, gave a presentation to Sisters and Associate via live stream, “The Challenge of St. Catherine of Siena Today” on St. Catherine’s Feast Day, April 29, 2020. 

Sister Patricia began her presentation by noting that St. Catherine lived through the Black Death plague, which historians believe killed about a third of the population of Europe. St. Catherine “was supported by her faith,” Sister Patricia said. “Our living God will support us, too, as we live day by day, and I hope that this short presentation will support us as we each take our own next steps in response to God’s invitation."

“What is unique is [St. Catherine’s] focus on one’s motivation for loving,” Sister Patricia said. “The very same act can be motivated in different ways. The challenge to us is to accept God’s invitation to purify our motivation of self-centeredness and to really love more unconditionally, as Jesus did.”

Sister Patricia also noted St. Catherine’s focus on self-knowledge, which helps us to determine our motivation and provides the humility to see ourselves as we are in relation to God and others.

Motivation is the key factor in the various spiritual stages that people of faith tend to go through, Sister Patricia said. These stages range from the Mercenary Stage – motivated by “fear of damnation” and by a greater desire to please others rather than God – through the last two stages. 

The Filial Stage is “marked by peace and a deep realization that we are the dearest daughter or son of God,” as well as the desire to do God’s work, Sister Patricia explained. The final stage, Union with God, is one of perfect love, in which “the soul is on fire or ablaze with love,” Sister Patricia said. “One is fused with the blood of Christ and runs to the table of the cross. One is willing to suffer for love of the other.” 

The teaching of St. Catherine “truly challenges us to grow in self-knowledge and to develop love,” Sister Patricia said. “As God sustained her to accomplish great things, so does that same love support each of us as we endeavor to carry out the mission of Jesus in Church and society in these difficult days.”



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