Two Catholic nuns were found stabbed to death at their home in central Mississippi. Police are investigating the case as a robbery that escalated into murder.
The Sisters of Charity of Nazareth (SCN) confirmed the deaths on Thursday of the two women, who worked at a medical clinic in the town of Durant. They were identified as Sister Paula Merrill, of the SCN in Kentucky, and Sister Margaret Held, with the School Sisters of St. Francis in Milwaukee.
“Pray in gratitude for the precious lives of Sisters Paula and Margaret … They served the poor so well. Because we are gospel women, please also pray for the perpetrators,” SCN President Susan Gatz said in a statement.
“It was a shocking news for me this morning. I am finding it very difficult to believe,” an SCN member who identified herself Sister Suma wrote on the website on Friday. “I remember being with her for two days when we visited the sisters at Mississippi. Sister Jeanine had taken us to her home and to the hospital she worked. We had a wonderful time with her and that is very fresh in my mind. She was a wonderful person. I feel very sad. May they rest in peace.”
Police were called by personnel at the medical clinic where they ministered after the two failed to show up on Thursday morning.
The clinic is about 60 miles northeast of Jackson. Their bodies were found in a check of the house by a co-worker, police told local media. No arrests have been made yet, they said.
The Boston Globe quoted an investigator saying that there were signs of a break-in in their home, and one of the victim’s vehicles was missing.
The SCN statement said Merrill was born in Massachusetts, and moved to the south as a second-year novice with the order. “She felt a connection and a need to serve the people. She has been there ever since,” it said.
The clinic the nuns worked at serves a country where 41 percent of the population lives in poverty. Approximately 40 percent of the patients are uninsured or have only Medicaid.
The Sisters of Charity of Nazareth, based in Nazareth, Kentucky, were founded in 1812. They describe themselves as an international congregation who are “committed to work for justice in solidarity with oppressed peoples, especially the economically poor and women, and to care for the earth. They risk their lives and resources, both personally and corporately, as they engage in diverse ministries in carrying out this mission.”
The School Sisters of St. Francis community was founded in 1874 and also serves the poor. It is based in Milwaukee.
(Material from Reuters is included in this report.)