Iraqi sisters study in Australia to help their people

iraqi21.jpgMany concerns weigh on the minds of two Sisters from a tiny, endangered religious order in Iraq currently studying at Brisbane’s Australian Catholic University (ACU), reports the Catholic Leader.

For Daughters of Jesus’ Sacred Heart Sisters Samar Mikha and Azhar Koka, these concerns include the health and education of Catholics in their war-torn country, particularly those of the Chaldean community.

The Sisters are also planning to share knowledge gained from their ACU studies in English and educational administration when they return to Kurdistan, in Iraq’s north, in mid-2013.

There, in conjunction with the Chaldean Archbishop Bashar Warda of Erbil, they intend to help set up a Catholic university.

Their study opportunity followed a visit to Iraq in 2009 by Brisbane priest Fr Gerry Hefferan, who was seeking ways to support the rapidly dwindling Catholic community there.

However, when Sr Koka recently spoke with The Catholic Leader, her primary concern was to spread the message that her order was celebrating the jubilee of the centenary of its foundation.

“Our order celebrates the jubilee as a moment of meditation and prayer for the path of God’s salvation for blessing our land and people,” she said.

“The establishment of our order reaches back to 1908 in a village called Araden, in the north of Iraq, where four girls gathered around Fr Ablahad Rayes helping him in serving the sick, teaching mothers in raising children and organising family matters as well as the catechism.

“The spirit of the young nunnery was characterised from the beginning with a biblical simplicity and meekness. “They were following Christ’s saying: ‘Learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart’ (Matthew 11:29) and taking this as a slogan for their lives.

“Fr Rayes founded the convent, taking the name of the Nunnery of the Sacred Heart of Jesus on August 15, 1911, hoping to spread the worship of the Sacred Heart to be known and loved everywhere.”