November 2, 2018, Adrian, Michigan – Sisters Rose Ann Schlitt, OP, and Nancy Jurecki, OP, are members of a delegation from the U.S. Dominican family that will visit the Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena of Iraq in mid-November. Gloria Escalona, a member of a 2001 delegation and of the Dominican Laity of the St. Albert the Great Province, will round out the delegation.
The delegation was organized by the Iraq Coordinating Committee of the North American Dominican Justice Promoters, in partnership with the Dominican Sisters Conference, and is scheduled to leave on November 14.
The visit takes place more than four years since the Sisters, along with Christians and other religious minorities, fled from the Nineveh Plain on August 6 with the arrival of ISIS. Members of the Iraqi congregation returned to their hometown about a year ago to face much destruction and the challenges of rebuilding their homes and churches. A visit to Iraq that had been planned about a year ago was postponed because of the instability in Iraqi Kurdistan at the time.
“My hopes center upon our Sisters who have undergone immense trials and humiliations as they were violently uprooted from their homes, towns, and ministries by ISIS,” Sister Rose Ann said. “They lived as internal refugees in the Kurdistan region of the north for four years. Now, some have been able to return and literally try to pick up the pieces of their lives, convents, and ministries. They currently struggle at many different levels in their daily lives.”
Sister Rose Ann hopes to be Sister to them during their visit. “Although I am unable to fully understand the depth of their suffering and loss, I will try to be fully and lovingly present to them and to express our solidarity with them in their present and future challenges,” she said. Not knowing the Arabic language, Sister Rose Ann hopes to be able to communicate “through words and gestures, with the help of translation from some of the Iraqi Sisters” who are fluent in English. She is also conscious of the “mix of emotions our presence will surely stir in some, given our country’s role in the current upheaval they are experiencing.”
Sister Nancy, Chief Mission Officer for Providence Health and Services, share Sister Rose Ann’s concerns about the involvement of the U.S. in the war in Iraq. She volunteered to be part of the original delegation because of her deep, personal connections to the people of Iraq. During Desert Storm, she was influenced by a parishioner’s faithful intercessions during daily Mass for the people of Iraq “whose lives and/or quality of life was being taken from them due to the war,” by her nephew’s service during the second war, and by her personal relationship with a Sister from the congregation of St. Catherine of Iraq, with whom she lived.
Sister Nancy also struggles with her inability to understand fully the depths of the suffering of the Iraqi people, but she hopes to listen to their stories and be present to them. “Now, as much as ever, I desire to hear the stories and share the pain of remnant Christian families who are replanting their lives in the land where the Bible began,” she said. “In a sense, I will be fulfilling a desire and bearing witness to a unity that guns cannot destroy.”
Feature photo: Sisters Nancy Jurecki, OP, left, and Rose Ann Schlitt, right.
March 19, 2016, Adrian, Michigan – As March 19, the anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, approaches, Dominican Sisters, Associates, and Friars in the United States are reminding the world of the suffering of the people of Iraq, including members of the Dominican family now displaced in Northern Iraq.
The Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena, Iraq – along with tens of thousands of Iraq Christians, Yazidis, and other religious minorities – have been living in exile in the Kurdish region of Iraq since August 6, 2014, when they were forced to hurriedly evacuate the villages of the Nineveh Plain to escape the persecution of ISIS. Facing the same displacement as their fellow refugees, the Sisters have sought to offer comfort and hope, providing schooling to young children, opening two healthcare clinics, and offering pastoral care.
Dominicans throughout the United States are marking the 13th anniversary of the US invasion by drawing attention to the continuing struggles of the people of Iraq. Adrian Dominican Sisters and Associates are posting photos on Facebook and other social media holding signs that proclaim, “I have family in Iraq” and “We have not forgotten.” See more photos on the Adrian Dominican Sisters’ Facebook page.
Dominican artists have been creating artwork to support the ministerial efforts of the Adrian Dominican Sisters on behalf of the exiled and displaced people of Iraq. Initiated by Sister Barbara Cervenka, OP, the project involves painting 1,000 cranes and donating the work as a benefit (see www.1000cranesforiraq.org). The net proceeds of their work is used to help support the relief efforts of the Iraqi Dominican Sisters.
An ancient Japanese tradition of folding 1,000 cranes to have a wish fulfilled was popularized by a Japanese girl, exposed at the age of two to the radiation of the nuclear bomb in Hiroshima. Although she died of leukemia at the age of 12 before she could finish folding 1,000 paper cranes, her classmates completed the project for her.
The Dominican Sisters of Adrian have a special relationship with the Dominican Sisters of Iraq, as several young Iraqi Sisters lived, ministered, and studied with the Michigan-based community from 2005 to May 2015, when the last Iraqi Sister completed her training as a physician’s assistant and returned to Iraq to serve her people.