What's Happening


Sister Donna Markham, OP, PhD

July 12, 2024, Mosul, Iraq – Sister Donna Markham, OP, traveled a great deal in the early summer, but she counts as most important her visit to the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena in Iraq – a community that over the years has had close ties with many of the congregations of Dominican Sisters in the United States.

Sister Donna first met the Sisters from Iraq during her years as Prioress of the Adrian Dominican Sisters from 2004 to 2010. The Congregation sponsored several the younger Sisters to earn advanced degrees in the United States, allowing them to spend some time away from the war in their home country.

“The trip to Iraq was important for the Sisters and for me to see one another,” Sister Donna said. “I have been there several times before for meetings and presentations.” She had planned in October 2023 to accompany Sister Raghad Saeed, OP, back home after she earned her doctorate in physics at the Catholic University of America but, at that time, the trip would have been dangerous.

Sister Donna visited the Sisters in May to offer support as they continue to struggle. In 2014, they had fled their convents on the Nineveh Plain with the incursion of the terrorist group ISIS and had spent years internally displaced. During that time, they ministered to others displaced by ISIS. They established schools and clinics and provided spiritual support and presence. Even after returning home after the Nineveh Plain was secured, they faced the challenges of rebuilding their churches, convents, and places of ministry.

Sister Donna found joy during her recent visit to Iraq as she learned about the Sisters’ ministries and how they continued service to the people. Sister Aman Miriam Mansoor, OP, is principal of a school in Baghdad, while Sister Ban Saeed, OP, conducts Montessori classes. Sister Nadiya Shamees, OP, ministers in a Baghdad hospital as a nurse practitioner. Sister Raghad teaches physics at the University of Mosul. 

Muslim and Christian children attending the school where Sister Aman Miriam ministers learn how to relate with one another as friends, Sister Donna added. “That seems to be a very important part of her ministry, so the children can grow up and not experience each other as enemies. The Sisters are highly regarded as top educators in the country, so parents of all religions are eager to send their children to the Sisters’ schools.”

While Sister Donna appreciated reconnecting with the Sisters, she also learned of the current hardships they face. “Clearly life there remains difficult because the Sisters really have little opportunity to leave the country. Many embassies have been closed to them,” Sister Donna said. 

In addition, the Sisters are seeing many Christian residents leaving Iraq. “Many of their homes were severely damaged by explosives that had been used by ISIS,” Sister Donna explained. “You see homes still burned out. Many Christians don’t see life as safe for their families. The Christian churches in Iraq remain very much in persecution.”

Sister Donna continued: “The Sisters’ resilience, focus on ministry, and efforts to help their people in ministry are remarkable. They pledge to minister there as long as long as there are Christians to minister to. But it’s a rough situation.”

Adding to the sadness of the flight of Christians from Iraq is the fact that many of the Sisters’ family members have left Iraq, Sister Donna said. Consequently, the Sisters remain separated from their own families who have relocated to other countries such as Australia, France, Jordan, Lebanon, and Italy.

Because of these challenges, Sister Donna said, it’s more important than ever for Dominican Sisters from the United States to visit them, if possible. “They were so grateful to have me come,” she said. “Any Dominican Sisters who might feel comfortable enough to visit them provide enormous support in this very tenuous time in Iraq.

“They said to tell the Sisters not to be afraid,” she said. “I certainly did not feel unduly afraid being there. The Sisters are very careful with where I go - they make sure that they’re safe and I’m safe.”

Still, Sister Donna acknowledged that traveling to Iraq can be a challenge. “It’s a very difficult trip and very long,” she said. “You have to be calm. I don’t think there’s imminent danger but, obviously, it can be rather disconcerting to go through so many military checkpoints.”

For those who might find a visit to Iraq particularly challenging, Sister Donna suggested other ways to show support for the Iraqi Dominican Sisters. “They always appreciate prayers,” she said. But they also appreciate connection with the U.S. sisters – if not through visits, then through email or Zoom calls. 

“It’s so important that we stay connected to them,” Sister Donna said. “They don’t need money or things. Their lives are simple and they seem to be doing OK financially. Connecting with the Sisters in any way you can is the greatest gift and support you can give them,” she added.

Participants in the 22nd Annual College Preaching in Action Conference

By Sister Katherine Frazier, OP
Executive Director, Dominican Youth Movement USA

June 12, 2024, Rockville Center, New York – The 22nd Annual College Preaching in Action Conference took place May 21-26, 2024, at Molloy University in Rockville Center, New York. Throughout the conference, the joy of the participants could be felt, whether in the excitement of meeting other students from around the United States or the recognition that everyone had a common love for the Dominican traditions at their colleges and universities. 

The conference brought together 35 students from 10 colleges and universities in Connecticut, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Louisiana, and Ohio. The participating institutions were Aquinas College, Albertus Magnus College, Caldwell University, Dominican University New York, Mount Saint Mary’s College, Molloy University, Ohio Dominican University, Siena Heights University, St. Thomas Aquinas College, and Xavier University Louisiana. 

Throughout the five very full days of the conference, students and their mentors learned about the Dominican Charism from an array of presenters. Students and their mentors learned hands-on about the Four Pillars of Dominican Life – prayer, community, study, and preaching – and about Dominican tradition by creating a collage and participating in a scavenger hunt around Molloy University’s campus. The presentation on “Preaching in the Dominican Tradition” was led by Sisters Kathleen Tuite, OP, and Annie Killian, OP, on the first day of the conference. 

The focus Thursday was on “Preaching the Signs of the Times.” Sister Margaret Galiard, OP, presented a keynote, “On the Road to Peace: Encountering the Many Faces of Violence!” The participants learned about several issues affecting the world today, from immigration and care for Earth to the need for water conservation.

On Friday, participants served in the local community. They spent time with Sisters at the motherhouse of the Dominican Sisters of Amityville, learned about ecology at the Center for Environmental Research and Coastal Oceans Monitoring (CERCOM), sorted through donations at the food pantry of St. Rose of Lima Roman Catholic Church, helped out at the soup kitchen Soup to Nuts, and did yard and maintenance work at Maria Regina Catholic Church. 

Later that night, 10 students went on a midnight run to Manhattan, where they provided food and clothing to people without shelter. The students said the experience deeply touched them, and they were eager to provide respect and dignity for the people living on the margins in their own communities. 

After the action of the previous day, Saturday provided an opportunity for participants to learn about Preaching through the Arts. Sister Barbara Schwarz, OP, delivered a keynote address incorporating Visio Divina. Students then took part in several workshops, ranging from Chinese Calligraphy to Drop Painting. They left the sessions with a greater appreciation for deep artistic tradition amongst Dominicans and how they could create beauty in the world. 

During the closing liturgy on Sunday, participants were commissioned and sent forth. Students contributed to the vibrancy of the liturgy by leading music, both by singing and playing instruments; taking part in liturgical movement; serving as lectors; and leading petitions in their own languages. 

Each school group shared their action plan for their return to school. These plans included forming relationships with the founding Dominican congregations, increasing Dominican visibility on campus, and looking into new ways that campus ministry could engage with students. 

Throughout the week, participants also gathered for regular times of prayer and fun. The students led prayer throughout the week, bringing music and scripture that spoke to them to share with the larger community. Several students also reflected on why the scriptures they used were so important to them. 

Joining together as a community helped to create an environment where participants felt comfortable and able to form relationships with one another. This culminated in the “Let Us Entertain You” talent show. Some of the acts included students who came together from different colleges and who only knew each other through the conference. 
One student summed up the conference by saying, “There is support and love here, and, most importantly, the Dominican traditions that can (and will) change you in some way (along with the people you meet!).” 

We are so grateful for many people who provided their time and talent, whether our presenters, the staff at Molloy University and Dining Services, the mentors, and the students who made this conference such a joyful experience. We are also grateful for the presenters who generously gave their time and expertise so that the participants could learn more deeply about the Dominican Order and the passions that so many of us bring to responding to the signs of our times. So many of the students shared the amazing work that they were doing at their home institutions and their desire to share the experience of being on fire with the Dominican Charism in the next academic year. 

I know that I walked away with so much hope for the future and the Dominican Charism after witnessing the ways that these young people took the lessons of the conference to heart. They are already planning how they will put into practice over the coming year their experiences during the conference, and how they can share the messages they heard at the conference with their campus communities. As one student said, “Definitely attend if given the chance. It was an amazing experience, meeting new people, learning so much. A blessed week of joy!” 

While this conference is finished, we know that the work of the conference will continue into the future! Whether in the implementation of the action plans or the personal transformations that took place, the participants in the conference are bringing back so much to the participating colleges and universities. We are also already looking ahead to hosting the next conference at St. Thomas Aquinas College in Sparkill, New York! We hope to see you there!



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