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Well-known campus minister professes perpetual vows

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BOSTON — After 25 years of “challenges and struggle,” Sister Olga Yaqob said she finally answered God’s call when she professed her perpetual vows as a hermit on Dec. 8, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary.

Sister Olga, who is from Iraq, felt called to religious life in the Catholic Church when she was 14 but her family, members of the Assyrian Church of the East, did not support her conversion. Fifteen years later she formed the first Assryian religious order for women in almost 700 years which followed many Latin Rite Catholic practices.

She came to study at Boston College in 2000 and after completing her studies made the difficult decision to convert, separating herself from her religious sisters and family, she said.

“It was a very difficult decision to make because it wasn’t only that I would be leaving behind that community but my own family as well because no one accepted my decision,” she added.

Archbishop Seán P. O’Malley received her vows at Boston University’s Marsh Chapel, where Sister Olga has served the Catholic community for five years.

In his homily, the archbishop said Sister Olga comes from the land of Abraham, a man of faith who left everything to follow a call from God.

“Sister Olga has been called to follow Jesus up close,” he said. “Her spiritual journey has led her here today. Like Abraham in the Old Testament and Mary in the New Testament, hers is a journey of faith.”

“Your joy and goodness will help a jaded world experience the hope and joy of Easter,” he told her.

At the reception following the Mass, students and graduates of BU shared stories about how Sister Olga had touched their lives.

“She became very much a sister to me in my heart, my soul, my spirit,” said Lydia Longoria, a BU graduate. “I think one of the best compliments anyone can ever receive is, ‘You remind me of God. You remind me of Jesus.’ I think we can all say that about Sister Olga.”

Currently there is only one other woman living as a hermit in the archdiocese, but Sister Marian Batho, CSJ, archdiocesan Delegate for the Religious, asserts that it is a calling that people are still responding to.

“The call to eremitical life is still very present,” she said.

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