After a decade of service to the Boston University community, University Chaplain Sister Olga Yaqob announced on Sunday that she will be leaving BU in late June to found a new religious order for women in the Archdiocese of Boston.
Since her arrival on campus in May of 2001, Yaqob said she has worked to provide guidance to students by getting to know them and comforting them.
“Olga has worked unstintingly, not only on behalf of Roman Catholic students, faculty and staff, but also for the whole BU community,” said Robert Hill, dean of Marsh Chapel, in an email to the BU community.
“I have an appreciation of her presence and, of course, [her] plenty of amazing hugs,” said College of Arts and Sciences sophomore Brittany Schwartz.
Yaqob said she came to the United States from Iraq to pursue her master’s degree at Boston College. A week into her studies she was encouraged to join BU’s Center for English Language and Orientation Programs.
“When I came to BC in early 2001, the [staff at BC] knew I didn’t know any English and they said that BU has a very good program for international students to learn English at CELOP,” Yaqob said in an interview. The BC staff encouraged her to learn English at BU and later return to BC to pursue her master’s degree.
Yaqob said she volunteered to pray for people at Marsh Chapel, giving simpler prayers earlier on in her English education.
“If people had intentions they used to write them and I would go and check my dictionary just to see what they wanted me to pray for,” she said.
After two years in CELOP, Yaqob returned to her studies at BC, but continued to find ways to insert herself into BU’s Catholic community.
It was because of her strong presence on campus, she said, that the Archdiocese of Boston made Yaqob a full-time campus chaplain in 2005.
Yaqob said she recalls one BU student, at the time a sophomore from Texas, asking her to be her spiritual director. Yaqob said she initially turned down the offer, insisting that she lacked knowledge in the English language. But the student told her that she chose Yaqob as her spiritual adviser “not because you know my language very well, but because you understand my heart very well.”
Yaqob said she tries to connect with students on an interpersonal level, keeping track of names and greeting them when she passes them.
“She always seems to have a kind smile or word for everyone she sees,” said CAS freshman Sarah Leonard.
“I’ve seen the impact when I call somebody by name,” Yaqob said. “They say, ‘you remember my name?’”
Yaqob said one of her goals is to foster the same connections with the new order. However, she said her home will always be at BU.
“I truly feel it and mean it,” she said. “A piece of my heart will always, always be at BU.”