WASHINGTON, August 27, 2016 – The two Mississippi nuns recently found murdered in their home remain known for their wonderful legacy of commitment and love for the poor.
According to Mississippi News Now, Sister Margaret Held and Sister Paula Merrill were found dead in their Durant home on Thursday morning. The two served together in a community which is one of the poorest in Mississippi.
Rodney Earl Sanders, 46, of Kosciusko, has been arrested and charged with two counts of capital murder in the killing of the two Catholic nuns, according to a law enforcement statement, reported Mississippi News Now. The state had posted a reward of $22,500 for information leading to an arrest and conviction of possible assailants. The nuns’ car which had been taken from the home and was found at a nearby grocery store nearly a mile from their residence.
The Mississippi Bureau of Investigation, Durant Police Department and the Holmes County Sheriff’s Department have been investigating the murders.
The angels of this economically challenged Mississippi area helped to build the Lexington Medical Clinic, and with it the hope that quality medical services would begin to meet the need of the poor.
Many in the area are just beginning to feel the loss. Dr. Elias Abboud, who has worked with the sisters for years was not certain what would happen to the clinic because of their untimely and tragic death. Dr. Abboud stressed, “I think the community is going to be different after this. You need somebody with that passion to love the people and work in the underserved area,” reported Fox News.
Death of these caring nuns does not diminish the passion that they gave in meeting the medical as well as the spiritual needs the community. It appears that this energy reached far beyond simply delivering flu shots and other necessary medical assistance. In their Sisters of Charity of Nazareth Vimeo video, one is struck by the endearing love, caring, and warmth the sisters and their supporters exuded daily.
Some, including their neighbors, found the pair of spiritual caregivers uplifting and infectious in showing their heartfelt giving, Patricia Wyatt Weatherly who was their next door neighbor pointed out, “They were sweet, very loving people, easy to get along with. And they didn’t bother anybody. As a mater fact, Paula know that I love to do flowers so she was going to plant me a flower so she was great,” reported Mississippi News Now.
The Sisters of Charity of Nazareth issued a statement honoring their fallen colleagues’ life work while also calling for forgiveness. It stated in part, “As a community we have come together in prayer. SCN President Susan Gatz asks that all, “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.”
Accolades to the life and humanitarian works of the two nuns are a living tribute to who they were and the enduring Christian principles they lived by. Bishop Joseph Kopacz. stated “We mourn with the people of Lexington and Durant and we pray for the Sisters of Charity, the School Sisters of St. Francis and the families left behind.,” he added, “These sisters have spent years of dedicated service here in Mississippi. They absolutely loved the people in their community.”
Rosalind McChriston-Williams, a nurse who had worked with the nuns said, “They were earthly angels with hearts of pure gold,” reported Fox News. Perhaps the love and passion the two planted as seeds of grace will grow and nurture many others in their former community and the nation to take a step forward and live by the Christian Bible call to help those who are considered the least but have the greatest need.
Matthew 25:40 And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’
Sisters Margaret Held and Paula Merrill lived their life by doing their best for the least of those in their community. Perhaps others will be motivated to do the same.