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Two Dominicans: One Iraqi, One American

Profession Ceremony Gives Witness
to Peace and Reconciliation

Final Vows
Diana Momeka, OP and Heather Stiverson, OP
Litany of the Saints
prostration during the Litany of the Saints
Diana Signs documents
Sr. Diana signs profession documents
Heather signs documents
Sr. Heather signs profession documents
Sr. Donna Markham and Sr. Marie Hanna
Sr. Donna Markham, OP and Sr. Maria Hanna, OP

ADRIAN, MI—July 7, 2008-- “For love is as strong as death… Deep waters cannot quench love nor floods sweep it away.” With these words two Dominican women, one American, the other Iraqi, professed perpetual vows and received a ring symbolizing life long commitment to poverty, chastity and obedience.

Is it possible that two countries can be at war with each other, yet their people can be at peace?

At the Adrian Motherhouse, June 22, Heather Stiverson, OP, a member of the Dominican Sisters of Adrian and Diana Momeka, OP,  a member of the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Sienna, Iraq, made perpetual profession of vows in Holy Rosary Chapel before an overflowing and appreciative gathering of family, sisters, supporters, and friends.

Last year, the two  spent time together in New Orleans  helping in efforts to assist victims of Hurricane Katrina. At the time, they wondered about their future and perhaps making vows together. On Sunday, they did.

“As Dominicans, the Order has historically worked to transcend boundaries and unrest,” stated Sister Donna Markham, OP, prioress of the Adrian Dominicans. “As we celebrate this ancient and sacred rite, Americans and Iraqis are united in peace and reconciliation. We pray together that this solidarity may witness to a future where all are one in the love of God.”

“This is a sign of hope and reconciliation. We are transcending the actions of our countries through our solidarity while sharing common life as Dominicans. We feel we are with family,” commented Sister Maria Hanna, OP, prioress of the Dominicans of St. Catherine of Sienna.

Eight other members of Diana’s community, including former prioress, Sr. Marie Theresa Hanna, OP, witnessed the event, along with family members who live in nearby Detroit.  Several Iraqi Dominicans are working with the Adrian Dominicans in the Detroit area and taking classes. Others are working with the Dominican Sisters of Springfield, IL.

Prayers in Aramaic and English asked God to bless and assist Heather and Diana in their commitment. The litany of the saints, a traditional incantation, was sung while the two women lay in prostration calling on Dominic, Jane of Asa, Mary Magdalene, Catherine of Siena, Bartolomeo deLasCasas and Montesinos. O pray for us. Sah lee lee-ash lee nah.

"As a body is one though it has many parts, all the parts of the body, though many, are one body, so also Christ." Thus the second reading (proclaimed in Aramaic) named what everyone present knew: all are one, we are part of the same family, the same human community. War, violence and destruction cannot overcome love.

Preacher Dusty Farnan, OP (Adrian) recalled the journey of each sister that led to this moment and the intersection of their lives with the call of Jesus to live a Gospel life, calling this day, one of “radical amazement.”

Sr. Diana said, “I thank all of the sisters who remain in Iraq, living under suffering conditions and facing the unknown, in order to provide for us this opportunity, so that we, as one, may return to help our people heal and to rebuild the wounds of both our country and church."

Sr. Donna Markham, OP, received  Heather’s vows and Sr. Maria Hanna, OP,  received Diana’s vows.   Sr. Anne Guinan, OP and Sr. Mary Sue Kennedy, OP stood as witnesses for Sr. Heather. Sister Jodie Screes, OP, (Adrian) and Sr Marie Theresa Hanna, OP (Mosul) were witnesses for Sr. Diana.

Rev. Jim Barnett, OP (St. Albert)  presided at the Eucharist. He has been a long time supporter of the Iraqi Dominican friars and sisters, having visited Iraq before the war. He also was a participant in the 30-day Fast for Peace of September,  2002, which brought many Dominicans together in their efforts against the eventual war with Iraq.

Sr. Heather currently teaches theology at Regina Dominican High School Wilmette, IL. Sr. Diana Momemka, OP works with the Adrian Dominicans and is taking classes.

The Iraqi Dominicans came to the United States  at the invitation and welcome of the Dominicans of Springfield, IL in April 2002, a full year before war with Iraq broke out. 

According to Sr. Mary Jean Traeger, OP, former prioress of the Springfield Dominicans, the Iraqi Dominicans were thinking about sending some of their younger sisters to missions outside of Iraq. A chance conversation with Sr. Marie Theresa Hanna, OP, led to an invitation to have two sisters come to Springfield.  “Of course, the war changed everything,” said Sr. Mary Jean. “Now we find that our deepening relationship is a way for us to reach out to the rest of the world. We see this as a way to say,  that in spite of war and conflict, we can be sisters and brothers to each other.”

Anne Lythgoe, OP

photo credits:
Ray Casey
Adrian Dominican Sisters
Communications Office

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