And, it’s the first new order of its kind in over 60 years.
It was May 2001 when Sister Olga Yaqob arrived in Boston. She had graduated top of the class in seminary in her native Iraq and was offered a scholarship to study ministry and spirituality at Boston College. First, she had to learn how to speak English. She studied for two years in an intensive program at Boston University.
They will be the first orders founded in the archdiocese since 1945, when Cardinal Richard Cushing invited the Poor Sisters of Jesus Crucified and the Sorrowful Mother to relocate from Pennsylvania to a motherhouse in Brockton. Currently, 20 sisters live there.
So far, she has six recruits, four of them from out-of-state whom she met through her ministry at BU, two others she met within the archdiocese. Two other orders are forming as well, in Weymouth and in Bellingham.
Cardinal Sean O’Malley sought out Yaqob to found the new order because of her experience at BU. “She has served as a guide and spiritual mentor to young men in formation for the priesthood and women in formation for the consecrated life,’’ he said in a written statement.
“I cried a lot,’’ said Yaqob. “I never thought I’d learn this language.’’
“I feel the church is like a ship, and in the last few years, this ship was almost sinking,’’ said Yaqob, 44. “Cardinal Sean came at the right time and helped our ship get safely to shore. Now, we need renewal and repair for the ship to go back to the ocean.’’ As she speaks, she interjects “Thanks be to God’’ and “God-given grace’’ in every other sentence, and on her wedding-ring finger wears a silver band with “Jesus’’ inscribed on it, along with a rosary ring.
As an Assyrian Christian nun, Yaqob always wore an ankle-length habit with a veil. In the months following Sept. 11, 2001, people often mistook her for a Muslim, with her olive skin and covered head. She was detained at airports, and when she sat down next to people on the T, they’d change seats.
But she got her master’s degree from BC, converted to Catholicism, worked as a campus minister at BU and was promoted to university chaplain. Her most recent accomplishment had not been achieved in the Archdiocese of Boston since World War II: she founded a religious order of sisters.
Daughters of Mary of Nazareth is one of many initiatives the archdiocese is taking to restore faith among area Catholics, following the priest sex-abuse scandal, the closing of several churches, and the declining attendance at Mass, Yaqob said.
There’s much more. Read on.