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June 13, 2019, Adrian, Michigan – The Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena, in Iraq, have returned to their community on the Nineveh Plain after years of internal displacement in Northern Iraq – and are now ministering to people there. But, as they rebuild their lives they depend on prayers from the Dominican family.
That was the message that Sister Clara Nas, OP, Prioress of the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena, brought to Sisters in the Adrian Dominican Congregation during a recent presentation in Adrian.
Sister Clara was in Adrian during her first trip to the United States to visit Sister Raghad Saeed, OP, in Adrian for the summer during a break from her doctoral studies in nano- technology at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. Sister Raghad translated Sister Clara’s talk.
The Sisters – and thousands of other Christians and religious minorities – were forced out of their homes on the Nineveh Plain in 2014 when ISIS arrived. While living in northern Iraq, the Sisters ministered in the refugee community by establishing schools and clinics, and providing spiritual support and presence.
Sister Clara said she met with the General Council of her community many times to plan their return home, after it was liberated from ISIS. “It was difficult to make the decision because of the unstable condition in Nineveh,” she said. Ultimately, they decided to return to Qaraqosh and other cities in the area, where most of the Christians were returning.
“Through all things, we are women of faith and hope, so the Sisters continue to accompany our Christian people in this area, to serve the people spiritually and morally, to live close to them and live with them in solidarity,” Sister Clara said.
They found their homes, convents, and churches destroyed or severely damaged and are rebuilding their lives. “We needed to work, fix, and repair what ISIS destroyed and burned,” Sister Clara said. The rebuilding is taking place with the help of Christian humanitarian organizations and the Dominican family in the United States and Europe.
Because their convent was destroyed, the Sisters moved into a small house in the Kurdistan area and other small convents in the areas where they minister. Among other ministries, the Sisters opened a kindergarten in Erbil and a primary school in Ankara. They continue to minister in Baghdad – both in a hospital and in a school with an enrollment of 560 Christian and Muslim students.
To answer a question about what U.S. citizens should do in light of a possible war with Iran, Sister Clara asked that they write to government officials, encouraging them not to bomb Iran. Iraq would be in the middle of such a war. “We need a simple thing – to live in peace,” Sister Clara said. “Just leave us to live in peace and that is all that we need. We can help each other and we can build again, but we need a safe area – not a war zone.”
Sister Clara also asked the U.S. Dominican family and the people of the United States to pray for them. “Please continue to pray for us because we need that, and we are so grateful for your help, for your support, for your solidarity with us.”
As a tangible sign of their gratitude, Sister Clara presented the Adrian Dominican Sisters with an altar cloth, hand-sewn and embroidered by the Dominican Sisters from Iraq. The altar cloth was placed on the altar in St. Catherine Chapel for the Feast of Pentecost on Sunday, June 9, 2019.
Watch the entire video of Sister Clara’s presentation below.
March 1, 2019, Adrian, Michigan – Three U.S. Dominican women gave a report during a February 17 webinar on their experiences as members of a delegation to the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Iraq. Adrian Dominican Sisters Rose Ann Schlitt, OP, and Nancy Jurecki, OP, and Gloria Escalona, a member of the Dominican Laity, spoke of their November visit to the Sisters.
The Dominican Sisters from Iraq returned to their homes on the Plains of Nineveh after having been expelled in August 2014 by fighters of the Islamic State. The Sisters lived in internal displacement camps in Northern Iraq with thousands of other refugees. Members of the delegation provide background on these events and on the destruction and ruin of homes and churches that the Sisters discovered upon their return home.
The webinar was facilitated by Sister Patricia Farrell, OP, Executive Director of the Dominican Sisters Conference.
Watch the webinar and forward to the two-minute mark of the video, where the actual presentation begins. In the early part of the webinar, reference is made to the Most Reverend Mar Barnaba Yousif Habash, Bishop of the Syrian Catholic Church in the United States. However, the man pictured in the presentation is Bishop Yohanno Petros Moshe, Syrian Catholic Archbishop of Mosul, Kirkuk, and Kurdistan in Iraq.