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  • Cheryl Behrent & Mariah Scheuermann

Adag's Difficult Journey

The story of this resident’s journey to Sarah’s is one of deep faith through unimaginable hardship.

Adag was separated from her mother at a young age, living with her grandmother, father, and stepmother who didn’t love her. Adag’s father pressured her to excel in school, only allowing her to come home on extended breaks.

By age 10, Adag felt more at home with the Sisters who schooled her than her biological family. She knew she wanted to join the convent, but they told her she was too young, that she needed to wait until college. But Adag was determined, and told them she would find another convent that would accept her if they didn’t. Not wanting to lose her, Sister Superior promised Adag that some Sunday she would be allowed to enter the convent. Though not as soon as she would have liked, Adag was accepted at age 15. After two years of wearing a dress and veil, Adag made vows and took an assignment to work as a principal. She felt unqualified for the job; she was given no additional training before leaving. Despite her doubts, she was eager to help wherever she was needed.

When Adag arrived at the school, she found kids sitting on the floor. Among many other improvements, Adag furnished the school, and by improving physical conditions, students were able to focus on their studies. Here Adag’s talent bloomed, and after years moving from place to place doing similar work, the Archbishop sent her to be trained as the long-term head administrator for a Catholic university. Although Adag enjoyed being of help to so many students, she found happiness in settling down and committing to one school.

For ten years, Adag relished working among her students. Though challenging, her position as the principal of a well-respected Catholic university was rewarding. Adag had built a life of service to her creator and community, where she felt safe and loved. An intelligent, resourceful woman, Adag continued improving her school until the military arrived.

Adag’s once peaceful community was suddenly consumed by the presence of armed soldiers and their dirty, noisy vehicles. People remained in their homes, knowing that travel meant risking their lives and loved ones. Adag felt a great responsibility to her community and chose to stay with her three Sisters in solidarity against the invasion. When the officers came to question her, Adag's efforts to protect the school resulted in brutal beatings that left her chronically injured. Isolated from the other Sisters, she was left on the floor of her beloved school, assaulted and frightened.

The day became night, and Adag found an opportunity to flee from her attackers. Her body was bloodied and broken from the hours of vicious beatings she had endured. Crouching in a dark corner of the convent, Adag wept for the community she loved. There seemed to be no end to her tears, and eventually, her cries were heard by Mother Superior. She helped Adag to her feet and brought her to a safe place where she was given water and a bed to rest. The Mother Superior knew that the convent was no longer a safe place for Adag to stay and arranged for her to travel to another abbey far away.

Upon her arrival at the new convent, it became apparent that Adag's injuries were much more extensive than she first thought. She wanted to go home for medical care but was afraid of the repercussions if she were discovered. Instead, Adag accepted the invitation of a Bishop and his wife to stay with them. They arranged for transportation and a driver to bring her to the local clinic for medical appointments. Her long, slow recovery had just begun when, four months into her stay, she received a letter from a Sister inviting Adag to stay with her. When the Bishop heard this, he discouraged her from returning and asked her to join a different convent. Trusting the Bishop, Adag moved again.

Now moving to evade further persecution, Adag took to her room at the new convent and became increasingly isolated from the world. Unable to walk without help and lacking the equipment she needed to move independently, she spent most days sleeping in her room. Others living in the convent refused to talk to her for fear of becoming military targets. Eventually, one of the Sisters came to Adag and told her that her presence in the convent jeopardized the safety of everyone else. A recent photograph of Adag had been discovered that might lead the military to the convent doors. Horrified at the thought of another military invasion, she agreed to leave.

Adag was secretly transported to the capital and helped to leave the country. Once she was living abroad, she received letters of support substantiating the circumstances that led to her flight from persecution. Reading the words helped Adag feel less alone in unfamiliar surroundings.

After years of struggling with her injuries' chronic pain and debilitation, she went to see a surgeon in Italy to ask for an operation. He refused, telling her that the risk of paralysis was too significant. Devastated, Adag reached out to the Bishop, begging him to allow her to return home. Feeling that death was imminent, she wanted to be surrounded by those she loved. Realizing the direness of her situation, the Bishop was determined to find help for Adag. He began preparing for her to travel to the United States, where new medical advancements were made daily. He hoped that they would be able to provide Adag with better care in the States.

For two long years, Adag waited patiently for permission to immigrate to the United States. Upon approval, Adag sought medical attention in California for the injuries she sustained at the hands of the military in her country. She suffered each day from excruciating pain that emanated from her curved spine down through both legs. She met with doctors who approved her for surgery, and after the operation and physical therapy, Adag again stood tall. Adag’s surgeon said she would need continuous care and rehabilitation for months, if not years. However, three months after the operation, her hosts told her she must return to her country. Adag needed papers to remain in the United States and obtain health insurance.

She relocated to Minnesota, where the Advocates for Human Rights paired her with an attorney, a kind young woman who helped her in her native language. Adag also learned about the Center for Victims of Torture, which helps survivors like herself connect with services from other organizations. They helped her obtain health insurance and access to medical providers who now address her chronic health concerns on an ongoing basis. The CVT also referred Adag to Sarah’s… an Oasis for Women, where Adag says, “The people, the community, and the sharing are what make the difference.” At Sarah’s, Adag finally experienced a life of peace. She found comfort and healing in her church family within walking distance of Sarah’s and attended daily services. “God has been good!” she says, and though there is still pain, there is much joy.

Upholding one of Sarah’s mantras, “You come to Sarah’s in order to leave,” Adag eventually left to live on her own. Living alone has presented different challenges which have helped her become more independent. She has learned to navigate public transportation and continues to attend daily services at her church across town. Adag’s new life is a blessing for which she thanks daily.

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