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This, she says, “opened a new door” and gave her a mission.

“I thought I’d go there and restore the faith that we have had for centuries.”

But being a believer in Armenia means an endless bout — a battle against desperate social conditions and the legacies of the Soviets: atheism, deteriorating values and intolerance. Faith in the Gospel helps to overcome the problems, but the Armenian Sisters of the Immaculate Conception often feel alone in this struggle.

“We do see some positive changes in the children whom we educate. We see their kindness, their love for one another,” she says.

“Sisters show them another way.”

But the sisters do not stop there; they seek to help parents and families, and the communities in which they live and work. It is an effort to overcome social ills through broader unity.

“There is no division for us,” she says of her community of Armenian Catholic sisters, who also work closely with the preeminent church of all Armenians, the Armenian Apostolic Church, particularly in assisting children in their catechism to receive the sacraments.

“Our faith never divides. Every day, every hour we live, we must strengthen our faith; every hour we must feel that God created us all with love and that he loves us, and we must pass that love to each other,” Sister Arousiag says, wearing an almost childlike smile of kindness, albeit tempered by the wisdom of experience.

“This is the guide for life ... and, ultimately, this is the only salvation and impulse for happiness all over the world.”

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Gayane Abrahamyan’s reporting has appeared in The Atlantic, EurasiaNet and ArmeniaNow.

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