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August 8, 2016, Detroit, Michigan – Many people might write off Detroit as a “lost cause” because of the well-known poverty and violence afflicting this town. However, Lura Mack and Kristine Cooper, director and executive assistant, respectively, of the Adrian Dominican Sisters’ Portfolio Advisory Board (PAB), spent a day visiting a variety of organizations that have made a difference for the individuals and communities in this troubled city.

For more than 40 years, the PAB has helped the Adrian Congregation to use its financial assets to further the values of the Gospel in the economic realm, through the wings of corporate responsibility and community investment. During a recent tour of Detroit hosted by IFF Detroit. The PAB has granted low-interest loans to IFF Detroit for its work, in turn, in lending to organizations that “create opportunities for low-income communities and people with disabilities.”

During the tour, Lura and Kris visited three organizations that have received low-interest loans from IFF Detroit:

  • The Detroit Hispanic Development Corporation (DHCD), begun in 1979 by Angela Reyes in response to the violence in her community, serves more than 5,000 low-income people. DHCD’s first initiative was the Gang Retirement and Continuing Education and Employment Program (GRACE),which helps gang members to turn their lives around and work in local Hispanic-owned manufacturing companies.  The organization also provides bilingual support, child care support, community organization, and advocacy to bring about a change in policies that affect the people in the local community. Through a loan from IFF, the organization was able to refinance its existing debts.

  • Central Detroit Christian Community Development Corporation (CDC), founded in 1994 by six local churches, provides people in the community with positive opportunities through education, employment, and economic development. The CDC purchased 11 businesses and now operates eight of them to create jobs and provide needed goods and services. A loan from IFF helped to cover renovation costs for a vacant church that now serves as CDC’s home.

  • Detroit’s Downtown Boxing Gym (DBG) Youth Program, founded in 2007 by Carlo Sweeney, helps urban boys and girls to develop good citizenship through a “demanding boxing program, strong academic support, and volunteer work.” Children in the program – ages seven to 18 – receive tutoring, mentoring, physical training, transportation, and a daily meal and, in turn are required to continue improving their academic performance. The loan from IFF allowed DBG to renovate a vacant building to provide services to more youth. 

“The trip reminded me of the ‘bus trips’ the Adrian Dominican Sisters used to provide when they first began doing this work as a way to educate the members about where their dollars were being invested in the community,” Lura said. “What a great experience and inspiration to see first-hand how the investment dollars are being used to benefit these organizations as they provide creative opportunities and hope to individuals.”


Lura Mack (third from left) and Kris Cooper (fourth from left) with staff members from the Detroit Hispanic Development Corporation.

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August 5, 2016, Adrian, Michigan – “There’s always hope, and there’s always support from different people. You’re never going to be left alone because you are loved by God and by others.”

That’s the message that Sister Nadiya Shamees, OP, a Dominican Sister from the Congregation of St. Catherine, of Iraq, hopes to bring to the people in the world during her month-long visit to the United States. Sister Nadiya spent a few days in Adrian, Michigan, visiting the Adrian Dominican Sisters: meeting with the Congregation’s General Council, speaking to the Sisters before daily Mass, and visiting with friends. Much of her month in the United States will involve study, as well as rest and time to visit with friends.

Sister Nadiya was among several Sisters from her community who lived with Adrian Dominican Sisters and studied in the United States. Sister Nadiya studied at Barry University in Miami Shores, Florida, to become a physician’s assistant. Her recent visit came a few days before the second anniversary on August 6 of the flight of the majority of the Sisters in her community because of the threat of ISIS. Those Sisters – along with tens of thousands of Christians and members of other religious minorities – still live in a refugee camp in northern Iraq.

Sister Nadiya, for her part, has spent the past year ministering in Baghdad at her community’s hospital, which specializes in labor and delivery of babies.

“A normal day is waking up and going to the hospital and working all day,” Sister Nadiya said. Typically, she serves at the hospital six days a week, 12 hours a day, barely going anywhere other than the hospital and the home she shares with six other Sisters in her community.

“It’s been a very tough year, especially for the last month or so” since the July 3, 2016, bombing in Baghdad that left more than 300 people dead, Sister Nadiya said during an interview in  Adrian. “The situation in Iraq is not very stable now. People are afraid to go out. They go out for a very short time, just to do the things they have to do. They actually are always afraid of being outside the house.”

Sister Nadiya spoke of worsening conditions in Iraq: children losing out on their education because they have to help their family, and people living in constant fear, with no jobs. In spite of heat that exceeds 100 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer, the people in Baghdad sometimes have no electricity, or only up to two hours per day.

Sister Nadiya said the bombing has also brought a great deal of grief to the people of Baghdad. The Dominican community in Baghdad knew many of the people who died in the bombing. The bombing was in the shopping area of the city where, at the time, many Muslims were shopping and celebrating during their holy season of Ramadan.

Because of the threats of bombing and kidnapping, many of the country’s most educated people – such as doctors – have left Iraq, she said. “There are no rules to protect them, no government to protect them and help them to do their job as a doctor.” Members of her own family have also left: some to Germany and others to Jordan, where they hope to emigrate to Australia.

Sister Nadiya said she understands people who flee Iraq to make a new life in another country. Understandably, she said, they want a good life and education for their children. For her part, however, she loves her ministry at the hospital. Her work with the babies gets her through the difficult days.

“As soon as I receive the babies [after they are delivered], I just give them a kiss, and I say, ‘Welcome to the world,’” Sister Nadiya said. “That’s really what keeps me going every day. Just seeing them makes you happy. Even though the world is not safe to live in, they are our future.”  

Sister Nadiya said the Sisters in her community live in hope that they will one day return to their home on the plain of Nineveh, though they don’t expect this to happen any day soon. In the mean time, the Sisters gathered for a retreat and for their General Chapter – while providing schools, medical clinics, and other services to the refugee community in Northern Iraq. 

In the face of so much suffering, Sister Nadiya hopes that people around the world will begin to look deeper into events occurring throughout the world and strive to bring about a humane, peaceful, livable situation for people in every country. She also asks for prayers from people throughout the world – and for visits to Iraq by the Sisters from her “second home” in Adrian.

As we approach the second anniversary of the Dominican Sisters’ flight from ISIS, please pray for the people of Iraq, perhaps by taking part in a special novena organized by the Dominican family. The novena concludes on Saturday, August 6, the anniversary of the Sisters’ flight and the Feast of the Transfiguration, with a special Mass at 10:30 a.m. in St. Catherine Chapel. All are invited.

For information on how you can make donations to help the Dominican Sisters in their ministry to the refugees, visit www.1000cranesforiraq.org.


Watch Sister Nadiya's interview:

Sister Nadiya Shamees (front, left) visits with the Adrian Dominican Sisters’ General Council: Sister Patricia Siemen, Prioress, seated, right, and, back row, from left, Sister Jodie Screes and members of the General Council, Sisters Patricia Harvat, Frances Nadolny, Elise García, and Mary Margaret Pachucki.



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