Mother Olga Yaqob

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Mother Olga Yaqob is known as "The Mother Theresa of Baghdad" and Boston University's "Blue Lightning."[1] She is the foundress and mother servant of the Daughters of Mary of Nazareth. Mother Olga WQOM 2011.jpg

Contents

Chronology

1966 Born in Kirkuk, Iraq,[2] as a member of the Holy Apostolic Catholic Assyrian Church of the East, which dates back to the Nestorian controversies from the fifth century AD, and is independent both from Rome and from the Orthodox Churches. Fourth of seven children; lived in Kirkuk from birth to the end of high school.[3]
1980
  • Beginning of the Iran-Iraq War in September.[4]
  • Olga felt the call to become a Roman Catholic nun at age 14.[5] "Jesus’ question to the sons of Zebedee, James and John, 'Can you drink the cup that I am going to drink?' pierced my heart at the age of fourteen and called me to declare my personal answer to His question. Going to daily Mass and reflecting on how Jesus accepted His Cup of suffering led me to understand that our human suffering united with His Cross is redemptive, and that has shown me the way to meet my suffering redemptively."[6]
  • Attracted to the idea of consecration: sacred spaces (sanctuary, "Holy of Holies"), sacred things (Tabernacle, vigil light, linens for the altar), and people "set aside for the Lord" (priests and religious).[7]
  • Saw her Catholic neighbors praying the Rosary and attending Mass daily during the month of May. She became hungry for daily Mass; receiving the Eucharist only on Sundays was not satisfying to her. Her Catholic neighbors gave her her first Rosary. When she visited the Catholic Church, she saw the vigil light and sisters--both "set apart" (consecrated) for God's service.[8]
  • Olga and her family were separated;[9] many died of starvation and thirst.
  • Her youngest brother said, "There is no need to go to school, we all will die."[10]
???? Attended Baghdad University.[11]
1988
  • End of the Iran-Iraq War.
  • "After the war, with the family reunited in Kirkuk, Yaqob's father decided to move everyone to Jordan, but she pleaded to stay. She wanted to become a nun and help both Muslims and Christians in the country where Catholics, whose roots stretch back to the early church, make up less than 3 percent of the population."[12]
1991 End of first Gulf War ("Desert Storm").
1993
  • "The 27-year-old left her parents' home in Kirkuk, Iraq, after the first Gulf War to work and live among the poor in Baghdad. After arriving in the Iraqi capital, she traded her regular clothes for a blue habit and white veil in honor of her protector, the Virgin Mary, and began to visit Abu Ghraib prison to pray with the inmates."[13]
  • Ministered to prisoners in the Abu Ghraib prison after the first Gulf War.[14] 12,000 prisoners, including both criminals and political prisoners. It was a life-changing experience to beg food and medication for the prisoners, to pay attention to those who were abandoned by their families, and to accompany the condemned to execution. The government would not allow her to evangelize or prisoners to convert, so she followed the maxim of St. Francis: "Preach the gospel at all times, using words only when necessary."[15]
  • "In 1993, as a young lay woman, she started a lay movement called Love Your Neighbor. She invited young men and women from Christine and Muslim communities to be part of this community to serve the needs of the poor in Iraq."[16]
  • The inspiration was the parable of the sheep and the goats in Matthew: "Whatsoever you do to the least of my brethren, that you do unto me" (25:31:46). Muslim men and women joined the group. The organization continued to grow even after she became an Assyrian sister in 1995.
  • Mother Olga studied Islam in order to better understand and serve the prisoners.[17]
1995
  • "A lay service movement she started called 'Love Your Neighbor' caught the attention of her local bishop, who asked her to found a religious community for women called the 'Missionaries of the Virgin Mary.' As the founder of the order, Yaqob became the first nun in the Assyrian Church of the East in over 700 years, but because she personally observed Roman Catholic practices such as attending daily Mass and praying the rosary, the bishop eventually took the order from her." [18]
  • "In 1995 she established the order of Marth Maryam Sisters--Missionaries of the Virgin Mary, the first order for Religious Sisters in the Assyrian Church of the East in 700 years."[19] "Marth Maryam" is a Syriac phrase that may be translated as "St. Mary" in English, although, perhaps, "Lady Mary" might bring out some of the other nuances of the root, which seems to be related to "Moro" and "Martha" ("Lord and Lady" or "Master and Mistress").
1997
  • Family fled from Iraq. Olga remained in Baghdad against their wishes. She became "enamored of Roman Catholic practice while attending weekday Mass in Iraq."[20]
  • "After graduating college, she was told to take her brother to London to avoid service in the first Gulf War. But she learned before leaving that her family had set up an arranged marriage for her there. She prayed much of the night, put her brother on the plane the next day, and defying her parents, fled to Baghdad."[21]
1999
  • John Paul II asked Arabic speaking professors to work in the Chaldean Catholic seminary. [22]
  • Mother Olga was studying at the seminary and won a full, six-year scholarship to Urbaniana University in Rome offered by the Pope by graduating summa cum laude; the scholarship as for two years of philosophy and four years of seminary training. Mother Olga gave the scholarship to a seminarian.[23]
  • Two Jesuits who were assigned to teach in Iraq in 1999-2000 in response to the Pope's request obtained a full scholarship for Mother Olga at Boston College. Her Assyrian Catholic bishop agreed to let her study at BC.[24]
2001 "She accepted a scholarship from the Jesuits to pursue a master’s in ministry and spirituality at Boston College in 2001. She went to Boston University to learn English."[25] Her studies took two full years and "were not a piece of cake."[26]
2002
  • "She came to the United States in 2001 for her studies where she received her master's degree in Pastoral Ministry from Boston College."[27]
  • "Yaqob came to BU as a part-time worker at the Catholic Center in 2002 and has been full-time for six years. She was named Catholic chaplain just last summer by the archdiocese, the second woman to hold the position."[28]
  • "From 2002 until July 2011 she was involved in the campus ministry of the Catholic Center at Boston University. From July 2010 until July 2011 she was named the University Chaplain for the Roman Catholic community at Boston University."[29]
  • Mother became more involved in campus ministry at Boston University, serving first as a volunteer, then as an intern to meet her Field Education requirements for Boston College, then as member of the team, and finally as the Catholic chaplain.[30]
2003
  • Began Master's studies at Boston College. Lived with the Sisters of Charity in Newton. [31]
  • Visited Iraq after the second Gulf War began (March 20, 2003), but found that she was not wholly welcome in the community she had founded. Her Assyrian Catholic bishop told her that she had become "too Catholic" and gave her two years to make up her mind about whether she would be an Assyrian Catholic or a Catholic in union with Rome. She then asked the Bishop of Boston to receive her into full communion.[32]
2005
  • "She was received into the Catholic Church on September 8th, 2005, in the Archdiocese of Boston. Cardinal Séan Patrick O’Malley, OFM. Cap., received her perpetual vows on December 8th, 2005."[33] Mother Olga deliberately chose the Feast of the Nativity of Mary (September 8) to enter full communion with the Catholic Church because of her consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.[34]
  • It took two and a half years to satisfy the requirements of canon law. She first entered the Chaldean Catholic Church, which is in full communion with Rome, and then obtained permission to enter (?) the Roman rite.[35]
  • "In December 2005, Yaqob finally realized her vocation in a ceremony at Marsh Chapel [at Boston University], where she professed her vows as a Roman Catholic nun and urban hermit. ... 'I went through a lot in my faith journey and as I tell everyone, it took 25 years of my life, but it was worth it.'"[36]
"At BU, ... she founded a counseling program for women students called Nazareth House. The program provides support for women facing issues ranging from homesickness to a family death."[37]
2007 Mother Olga "became a U.S. citizen in 2007 because 'God has given me many American children at BU, and it was time for their mother to be an American, too.'"[38]
2008
  • "In April 2008, she received the award of the Religious Sister of the Year at the 2008 Boston Catholic Women’s Conference."[39]
  • "Cardinal Sean O’Malley first approached Yaqob about founding a new religious order."[40]
2009 "In summer 2009, Cardinal O’Malley gave her the permission to start a new apostolate on the Boston University campus called the Nazareth House. It was a house of prayer and discernment for young women."[41]
2010
2011
  • "In April, 2011, Cardinal Séan Patrick O’Malley, entrusted to her the mission of establishing a new religious community of sisters in the Archdiocese of Boston, Daughters of Mary of Nazareth."[43]
    • The Cardinal wants the Daughters of Mary of Nazareth to work in the "new evangelization" of the western world.[44]
    • The first foundation is dedicated to St. Joseph of Nazareth.
    • The spirituality of the community emphasizes daily intimacy with Jesus in imitation of His hidden life in Nazareth--the sisters aim "to live the life of Nazareth."
    • The community is both contemplative and apostolic. The day begins and ends with Eucharistic adoration; the sisters want to be "living sanctuaries" for Jesus, so that when people see them, they will see Jesus in them.
    • The apostolic work is dedicated to corporal and spiritual works of mercy.
    • Besides the three vows of religious life (poverty, chastity, and obedience), the Daughters will also make a public consecration of themselves to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
    • One practical difficulty the group faces is paying off the student loans of the applicants to the order.
  • "In May 19, 2011, she received an honorary Scarlet Key Award from Boston University."[45]
----
  • Mother Olga is 4' 10" tall.[46]
  • "She sleeps just five hours a night."[47]
  • "As a professed hermit, she spends Saturdays alone, in contemplative prayer."[48]
  • "She has a BS in Biology and Hematology from Arbil University in Iraq [Erbil? Hawler? = Salahaddin University?] and an MA in Philosophy and Theology from Babylon College that is affiliated with the Pontifical Urbaniana University in Rome. She also has a Diploma in Islamic Studies and a certificate in Theology of The Body."

Daughters of Mary of Nazareth

Motto: "Passion for God – Compassion for Humanity."

Background

"Catholic Chaplain Sister Olga Leaving BU."
"Hers is one of two new orders of nuns trying to form in Boston, according to Sister Marian Batho, the archdiocesan delegate for religious. The last order of nuns established in Boston was the Poor Sisters of Jesus Crucified, founded in 1945, she says."
"Rather than a specific mission such as education or tending the poor, she says her new order will seek to do everyday tasks with holiness, modeled on the way the Virgin Mary reached out to help people such as her cousin Elizabeth in Luke’s Gospel."

Address

St. Joseph Convent
509 Hammond Street
Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts 02467

Spirituality

Daughters of Mary of Nazareth website.
Daughters of Mary of Nazareth is a Roman Catholic religious community of women. We are a private association of the faithful in the Archdiocese of Boston founded in 2011 by Mother Olga of the Sacred Heart.
Our spirituality is guided by Blessed Charles de Foucauld’s spirituality of Nazareth. As he lived his life imitating the example of Mary and Joseph in Nazareth, so are we called to live in a daily intimacy with Jesus. Starting our daily life with Jesus in prayer and adoration will transform us so that we may become little vessels of His presence wherever we serve. Our prayer life is nourished by daily Communion, Eucharistic Adoration, Sacred Scripture, and Marian devotions.
Our vocation is to follow St. Paul’s teaching to the Corinthians: "I made myself all things to all people in order to save all," 1 Corinthians 9:24. As Daughters of Mary, our ministry is focused on loving God and our neighbors through the corporal and spiritual works of mercy.
Inspired by Blessed John Paul II’s call for a new evangelization "to incarnate Christian values and open the Gospel message to human cultures.&rdquo, our charism is to be Ambassadors of Christ through word and deed. Our call is to incarnate the love and peace of the Holy Family of Nazareth, God’s love for all His people, and the gracious and kind motherhood of Mary for the Church and all her children.
Community Life
It is very important for each member in our community to foster a joyful spirit. This joy will give them the vitality to carry out their mission in serving the body of Christ.
To care for the well being of our Sisters there are a few further things which will be essential to our community life:
  • Healthy diet and regular exercise: Our body is God’s temple and the healthier the Sisters are the better we can carry out our mission.
  • Each Sister will observe once a week a day of solitude.
  • As a community we will have a monthly weekend for spiritual refreshment and recreation.
  • Each Sister is expected to take an annual eight day retreat outside of the annual community retreat.
  • Each Sister is encouraged to meet with a spiritual director every month
The spiritual directors for the Sisters will be selected prayerfully according to the spirituality and charism of our formation. The mother servant of the community, along with her council will review the selection of spiritual directors

Sayings of Mother Olga

The Station of the Cross e-Newsletter, "Will You Be a Star for Jesus?"
  • "The love of Christ will heal the wounds of division."
  • "Hope is the fruit of faith."
"Around the Catholic World."
  • " I wanted to become a missionary of peace."
The Good Catholic Life, "Program #0158 for Monday, October 17, 2011: Sr. Olga Yaqob."
"My life is a mystery, even for me."
The Good Catholic Life, "Program #0158 for Monday, October 17, 2011: Sr. Olga Yaqob."
  • A student at Boston University asked Mother Olga to give her some spiritual direction. Mother objected that her broken English would make it difficult for them to talk to each other. The student replied, "I did not choose you because you understand my language; I chose you because you understand my heart."
  • Mother has had many nicknames, among them "Sr. Hug," "The Flying Nun," and "Blue Lightning." Her favorite nickname is "Mother." "It's not biology that makes a woman fit to be called 'Mother.'"
The Station of the Cross 2012 Women's Conference, Buffalo, NY
  • "Jesus did not say, 'I made everything new,' nor did He say, 'I will make everything new,' but 'I make all things new.' His promise is for today and for every day of our lives."

Awards

  • Humanitarian Award
  • 2008 Religious Sister of the Year
  • ‘Saint Paul the Apostle Award’
  • Honorary Scarlet Key Award from Boston University

The short story

Mother Olga was born in Kirkuk, Iraq, in 1966, and was baptized in the Holy Apostolic Catholic Assyrian Church of the East, an ancient church which is independent both from Rome and from the Orthodox Churches.

In her early teens, Mother found herself attracted to adoration of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, and felt a strong calling to consecrate herself fully to Him.

After the Iran-Iraq war, Mother served the poor in Baghdad. She wore a blue habit and white veil in honor of her protector, the Virgin Mary, and began to visit the Abu Ghraib prison to pray with the inmates. She continued to minister to prisoners there after the first Gulf War.

In 1993, she started a lay movement for both Christians and Muslims in order serve the poor and needy.

Her local Assyrian bishop then asked her to found a religious community called the 'Missionaries of the Virgin Mary.' Mother thus became the first nun in the Assyrian Church of the East in over 700 years.

With the encouragement of two Jesuit friends, she came to study in the United States in 2001, and eventually received a Master's degree in Pastoral Ministry from Boston College.

Mother became a Catholic in 2005. Cardinal Séan Patrick O’Malley received her perpetual vows three months later on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.

During her first nine years in the United States, Mother Olga served in campus ministry at Boston University, where she eventually became the Catholic Chaplain and was affectionately known to the students as "Blue Lightning."

In 2007, Mother Olga became a U.S. citizen because, as she said then, "God has given me many American children, and it was time for their mother to be an American, too."

In 2011, Cardinal O'Malley gave Mother permission to found the Daughters of Mary of Nazareth. Inspired by Blessed Charles de Foucauld, the spirituality of the community emphasizes imitation of the hidden life of Jesus in Nazareth.

The community is both contemplative and apostolic. The day begins and ends with Eucharistic adoration. The Daughters desire to be living sanctuaries for Jesus, so that when people see them, they will see Jesus in them. Their apostolic work is dedicated to the new evangelization.

The motto of the Daughters is "Passion for God – Compassion for Humanity." The Daughters encourage each other to maintain a joyful spirit, no matter what burdens God gives them, in imitation of Jesus, who "for the sake of the joy that was set before Him, endured the Cross, heedless of its shame" (Heb 12:2).

Welcome, Mother. It is a great joy to have you with us today!

References

  1. "Sister Olga Yaqob Named University Chaplain for BU’s Catholics."
  2. "Sister Olga Yaqob found her calling to serve God amid the rubble in Iraq."
  3. The Good Catholic Life, "Program #0158 for Monday, October 17, 2011: Sr. Olga Yaqob."
  4. Wikipedia, "Iran-Iraq War."
  5. "Journey of Faith."
  6. The Station of the Cross e-Newsletter, "Will You Be a Star for Jesus?"
  7. The Good Catholic Life, "Program #0158 for Monday, October 17, 2011: Sr. Olga Yaqob."
  8. The Good Catholic Life, "Program #0158 for Monday, October 17, 2011: Sr. Olga Yaqob."
  9. "Journey of Faith."
  10. The Good Catholic Life, "Program #0158 for Monday, October 17, 2011: Sr. Olga Yaqob."
  11. "Journey of Faith."
  12. "Sister Olga Yaqob found her calling to serve God amid the rubble in Iraq."
  13. "Sister Olga Yaqob found her calling to serve God amid the rubble in Iraq." The entry has been corrected from "37-year-old" to "27-year-old" because Mother would have been 27 in 1993 and 37 in 2003; her work in the prison was in the 1990s, so "37" must have been a typo.
  14. "Journey of Faith."
  15. The Good Catholic Life, "Program #0158 for Monday, October 17, 2011: Sr. Olga Yaqob."
  16. "Mother Olga of the Sacred Heart."
  17. The Good Catholic Life, "Program #0158 for Monday, October 17, 2011: Sr. Olga Yaqob."
  18. "Journey of Faith."
  19. "Mother Olga of the Sacred Heart."
  20. "Catholic Chaplain Sister Olga Leaving BU."
  21. "Sister Olga Yaqob Named University Chaplain for BU’s Catholics."
  22. The Good Catholic Life, "Program #0158 for Monday, October 17, 2011: Sr. Olga Yaqob."
  23. The Good Catholic Life, "Program #0158 for Monday, October 17, 2011: Sr. Olga Yaqob."
  24. The Good Catholic Life, "Program #0158 for Monday, October 17, 2011: Sr. Olga Yaqob."
  25. "Journey of Faith."
  26. The Good Catholic Life, "Program #0158 for Monday, October 17, 2011: Sr. Olga Yaqob."
  27. "Mother Olga of the Sacred Heart."
  28. "Catholic Chaplain Sister Olga Leaving BU."
  29. "Mother Olga of the Sacred Heart."
  30. The Good Catholic Life, "Program #0158 for Monday, October 17, 2011: Sr. Olga Yaqob."
  31. The Good Catholic Life, "Program #0158 for Monday, October 17, 2011: Sr. Olga Yaqob."
  32. The Good Catholic Life, "Program #0158 for Monday, October 17, 2011: Sr. Olga Yaqob."
  33. "Mother Olga of the Sacred Heart."
  34. The Good Catholic Life, "Program #0158 for Monday, October 17, 2011: Sr. Olga Yaqob."
  35. The Good Catholic Life, "Program #0158 for Monday, October 17, 2011: Sr. Olga Yaqob."
  36. "Journey of Faith."
  37. "Sister Olga Yaqob Named University Chaplain for BU’s Catholics."
  38. "Catholic Chaplain Sister Olga Leaving BU."
  39. "Mother Olga of the Sacred Heart."
  40. "Catholic Chaplain Sister Olga Leaving BU."
  41. "Mother Olga of the Sacred Heart."
  42. "Mother Olga of the Sacred Heart."
  43. "Mother Olga of the Sacred Heart."
  44. The Good Catholic Life, "Program #0158 for Monday, October 17, 2011: Sr. Olga Yaqob."
  45. "Mother Olga of the Sacred Heart."
  46. http://www.catholiccincinnati.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/epistle07-13-11.pdf
  47. "Sister Olga Yaqob Named University Chaplain for BU’s Catholics."
  48. "Sister Olga Yaqob Named University Chaplain for BU’s Catholics."

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