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.

Members of the Adrian Dominican Sisters General Council with Sisters Huda Shito, OP, Prioress of the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena of Iraq

June 26, 2023, Adrian, Michigan – After fleeing the terrorist group ISIS in 2014, leaving their convents in the Nineveh Plain, spending years in internal displacement, and returning to their homes to begin recovery, the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena of Iraq still face an uncertain future.

That was the message that Sister Huda Shito, OP, Prioress of that Congregation, brought to Adrian Dominican Sisters during a special presentation last month. She visited Adrian shortly after the graduation of one of her Sisters, Raghad Saqat, OP, who recently completed her doctorate in physics at Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. Sister Raghad will teach physics at the University of Mosul in Iraq.

Sister Huda spoke of the Sisters’ exile and of the difficulty of returning home after the liberation of the cities in the Nineveh Plain. “We found all the damage that affected our villages, most of our convents, houses, and churches,” she said. After rebuilding their damaged properties, the Sisters continued their mission to the people of the area. 

Sister Huda Shito, OP, left, Prioress of the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena of Iraq, gives an update on the situation for the Sisters in Iraq, while Sister Raghad Saqat, OP, PhD, listens

“The first challenge we faced was the situation of the country, which is still unsettled,” Sister Huda said. “There is no clear vision. We go to sleep and we do not know what is going to happen tomorrow.” Still, she said, the Sisters strive to give hope to the people and to persuade the Christians to remain in Iraq. 

Although her report on the current situation in Iraq was often painful, the arrival of Sisters Huda and Raghad in Adrian was also in many ways a joyful reunion. The Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena of Iraq – even in the midst of the U.S. invasion of Iraq – developed a close relationship with Sisters in many U.S. Dominican congregations, including the Adrian Dominican Sisters. Several of the younger Sisters from Iraq were sponsored by U.S. Dominican congregations for higher education in the United States.

Sister Elise D. García, OP, Prioress of the Adrian Dominican Sisters, spoke to this close connection during her introduction of Sister Huda. “Like all the Dominican Sisters we have been privileged and honored to call our own during their amazing studies here in the United States, we have cherished the five years we have had with Raghad,” she said. She thanked Sister Huda and the members of her congregation for the trust they placed in the Adrian Dominican Sisters for allowing them to sponsor and host their Sisters during their studies. 

The close bond was even more evident at the conclusion of the presentation, when Adrian Dominican Sisters Suzanne Schreiber, OP, and Carleen Maly, OP, performed a light-hearted song they had written in tribute to Sister Raghad. 

Watch the entire presentation in the video below. 



Search News Articles

Recent Posts

Read More »