The following comes from a March 18 Catholic News Agency article by Elise Harris:
After their seminary in Qaraqosh was dissolved following a brutal ISIS attack in 2014, four Iraqi seminarians chose not to give up after being forced to flee, but to continue their path to the priesthood.
Now, a year and a half after the attack that uprooted them from their homes, the four men will be ordained deacons, and have chosen a church in an Erbil refugee camp for the March 19 ceremony.
“People want hope, and when they see that there are four young people who will become deacons and after a few months they will be priests, that will give them hope and the power to stay,” Remi Marzina Momica told CNA March 17.
Momica is one of the four seminarians from the Syriac Catholic Church of Mosul who will be ordained Saturday. All of them formerly studied at St. Ephraim’s seminary in the mainly Christian city of Qaraqosh, which is now under the control of ISIS.
The young seminarians were forced to flee the city when the militants attacked on Aug. 6, 2014, driving out inhabitants who didn’t meet their demands to convert to Islam, pay a hefty tax or face death.
Since the Qaraqosh seminary has been closed following the 2014 attack, the four seminarians were sent to finish their studies at the Al-Sharfa Seminary in Harissa, Lebanon.
The only seminary left in Iraq providing formation for diocesan priests in the country is the Chaldean rite’s St. Peter Patriarchal seminary for the Chaldean Patriarchate in Erbil. Archbishop Bashar Warda is the Chaldean Archbishop who oversees the Chaldean diocese of Erbil.
After completing their studies in Lebanon, the four Syriac Catholic rite seminarians returned to Iraq for their ordination.
Momica, whose family fled to Erbil, where they are still renting a small house, said he and the other three seminarians told their bishop that they specifically wanted their ordination to take place in a refugee camp, “because we are refugees.”
“We want our people to know, we want to tell everyone that there are young people who will become priests,” he said, explaining that the event will be a sign of hope for the Christians who are left.
“I want to stay here in Iraq and I want to know if there is anyone who can help us to stay, to speak with the governments outside to see if they can help us to stay here,” Momica said.
With the future of Christianity in Iraq uncertain, there are many who want to stay, but don’t see a clear solution in sight, he said.
“Our people want to see what the future is here in Iraq for Christians. And…we don’t know the future of Christians here in Iraq,” Momica said, but added that despite the uncertainty, there are still people who are willing to give it a shot.