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Dominican Sisters International
U.S. prioresses visit Iraqi Dominican sisters

By Anne Lythgoe, OP (Catherine de’ Ricci)

In a prelude to the solidarity of the Assembly of the Dominican Sisters International, about 13 Prioresses from US Dominican congregations visited the Dominican Sisters of Iraq at their new foundation in Florence, Italy. At the invitation of Sr. Marie Hanna, OP, the sisters visited the new foundation which was made possible to a large extent by the moral, spiritual and financial support of US Dominicans and other donors. The house serves as a center of hospitality and study in Florence.

The prioresses arrived a few days before the DSI Assembly to see the house and learn about the present condition of Iraqi Dominicans in their homeland. They enjoyed the warm and generous hospitality of the sisters there and spent a day in Siena, just a few hours away. Mary O’Driscoll, OP (Cabra) served as the guide of a tour of holy places in Siena and Margaret Ormond, OP (Peace) arranged the transportation and logistics of the visit.

The group enjoyed a festive Iraqi dinner back in Florence and heard a report on the conditions of the Motherhouse in Mosul. There are about 104 sisters presently in Iraq, but only a handful remain at the motherhouse, which is protected by two or three armed guards every day. The motherhouse has been bombed numerous times and sisters live inthe villages surrounding Mosul. The community has not been able to gather together for over six years, because of the dangers there and the lack of a secure place.

Kidnapping and violence are still common occurrences, and the Christian community continues to be driven from the country. They told of a busload of university students who were killed and hurt in a bombing recently. The Dominican sisters who struggle to remain in their homeland give witness to their faith every day.

The affection felt between the U.S. and Iraqi Dominicans was warmly expressed by Donna Markham, OP (Adrian) who presented a gift to the community, along with gifts from Sharon Simon, OP (Racine) and Mary Ellen O’Grady, OP (Sinsinawa) on behalf of the DLC. The Iraq sisters presented each visitor with an icon of St. Catherine of Siena, signed with a note of appreciation.

As a special celebration, the visiting Dominicans joined the Iraqi community in dedicating their newly renovated chapel in the house. We processed into the chapel and shared the Word and praised God for all good gifts, most especially for friendship, for the capacity to reach beyond boundaries and share a deep abiding affection with each other as sisters.

The U.S. prioresses left Florence with a promise of continued prayers and hopes for peace in the future. The visit was a visible sign of the solidarity that Dominican women feel for each other across language and the ravages of war. The visit was clearly a recognition that a life lived by the Gospel message of Jesus calls us to declare that if we are to love one another, there can be no enemies.

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