Women of Faith: Honoring Catholic Sisters Killed in Service in Africa

They were teachers, nurses, administrators, health care workers, social workers, formators for younger sisters. They belonged to different congregations. Some ministered in their home countries, or neighboring nations in Africa. Others were missionaries, serving thousands of miles from their country of birth.

Yet they were united in their love of Jesus Christ, their dedication to helping others and devotion to living out the Gospel message to aid "even the least of these." They were women of faith who died violently, their lives and ministries cut short by evil acts. They are mourned by their families, friends and congregations, and their loss keenly felt in the communities they served.

They are remembered and honored in this special section of Global Sisters Report. In so doing, we pray their contribution and sacrifice is remembered, and that their legacies live on. This is the start of a project to honor sisters killed violently around the world. Please contact us here to tell us of a sister who should be included. Email us here for corrections, additions or photos that should be added. God bless these sisters – may they remain symbols of hope and goodness in a world sorely in need of both.

- Wycliff Oundo, Gail DeGeorge, Doreen Ajiambo, Brittany Wilmes

Read GSR Editor Gail DeGeorge's post announcing this project and how it pays tribute to Catholic sisters killed violently in African countries.

Read contributor Wycliff Oundo's introduction to our memorial project.

Do you know of a sister who was killed while living, visiting, and/or ministering in an African country? Click the button below to tell us about her life and death, and we may add her to our memorial page.

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You can use the filter below to sort our sister profiles by congregation or country.
Sister Mary Daniel Abut

On August 16, 2021, South Sudanese Sisters Mary Daniel Abut and Regina Luate Roba were ambushed and killed by gunmen along a highway as they traveled to their convent from an event.

Sr. Regina Luate Roba

On August 16, 2021, South Sudanese Sisters Regina Luate Roba and Mary Daniel Abut were ambushed and killed by gunmen along a highway as they traveled to their convent from an event.

Sr. Matilda Mulengachonzi

On August 24, 2020, two Zambian Catholic sisters, Matilda Mulengachonzi, 57, and Akuffor Assumptor, 48, were assaulted by an armed bandit at their convent house in Kataba, Zambia.

Sr. Lydie Oyanem Nzoughe

On March 20, 2020, the body of Sr. Lydie Oyanem Nzoughe was discovered in her room in the Center d'accueil Fraternité Saint Jean in Libreville, Gabon.

A booklet made in honor of Sacred Heart of Jesus Sr. Henrietta Alokha

On Sunday, March 15, 2020, Sr. Henrietta Alokha was killed in an explosion that occurred near Bethlehem Girls College in Lagos State, Nigeria.

Sr. Denise Kahambu Muhayirwa

Denise Kahambu Muhayirwa, 44, was killed on Dec. 7, 2019, by armed uniformed men who broke into the monastery where she worked.

Sr. Plaxedes Kamundiya

Sr. Plaxedes Kamundiya, 49, was killed on October 22, 2017, when she was visiting other sisters at the Mother of Peace Community in Mutoko, Zimbabwe.

Sr. Clara Agano Kahambu

On November 29, 2016, Sr. Clara Agano Kahambu was killed at the Mater Dei Parish in Bukavu, South Kivu, capital of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Sr. Marie Emmanuel Helesbeux

On March 1, 2013, Sr. Marie Emmanuel Helesbeux was killed in Mandritsara, a city in northeast Madagascar.

A funeral guest holds a flier depicting Sr. Liliane Mapalayi.

On Feb. 2, 2012, Sr. Liliane Mapalayi, 32, of the Sisters of Charity of Jesus and Mary was attacked in a high school that her congregation managed in Kananga, Democratic Republic of Congo.

A white dove in flight

On January 17, 2011, Sr. Angelina, 37, of the local Institute of St. Augustine in the diocese of Tombura-Yambio, South Sudan, was killed by armed guerillas of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA).

A white dove in flight

Sr. Jeanne Yegmane was murdered on Jan. 15, 2011, in a street ambush after armed bandits loyal to the Lord’s Resistance Army sprung from the forest, opening fire to cars and passengers and taking others hostage.

A white dove in flight

On Palm Sunday, April 1, 2007, Sr. Anne Thole, 35, died while trying to rescue patients from a hospital fire.

Consolata Missionary Sr. Leonella Sgorbati, 66, was murdered in Mogadishu, Somalia on September 17, 2006, by two gunmen hidden behind a car waiting for her as she left the hospital where she worked.

A white dove in flight

Sr. Margaret Branchen, 74, a member of the Society of Saint Ursula of Brigue (Canton Valais), was shot and killed on Dec. 28, 2005, in the town of Ngqeleni, East Cape, South Africa, on the premises of St. Mary’s Clinic where she served as a nurse and midwife.

A white dove in flight

Sr. Christiane Philippon, 58, regional superior of the Missionary Sisters of Our Lady of the Apostles, was killed at about 3:00 am in Chad, on the road from Ba Hilli to N’Djamena.

A white dove in flight

Sr. Mathilde, a Sister of the Servants of Jesus, was killed on August 9, 2003, by Lendu militiamen who robbed the convent and church.

A white dove in flight

Sr. Lorek Czeslawa from Poland, a Sister of the Sacred Heart, died in Kinshasa on May 21, 2003, of wounds inflicted by thieves after they found and attacked her inside the church.

A white dove in flight

Sr. Anna Nanjala of the Ursuline Sisters of the Roman Union - Kenya was shot dead on March 16, 2003, by gangsters in Lodwar, Kenya. 

A white dove in flight

Sr. Claire Nduwakristu, 28, of the Family of the Disciples of Christ, was killed in a vehicle in Mutambara, Burundi, on June 11, 2001. 

A white dove in flight

Sisters Dorothy Akweyo and Pierina Asienzo of the Little Sisters of Mary Immaculate were killed in Gulu, Uganda on November 5, 2000.

A white dove in flight

Sr. Pierina Asienzo of the Little Sisters of Mary Immaculate was killed in Uganda on Nov. 5, 2000.

A white dove in flight

Sr. Gina Simionato, 55, a Sister of St. Dorothy, was killed in Gihiza, Burundi on October 15, 2000.

A white dove in flight

Sr. Floriana Terilli, a Sister of St. John the Baptist, was killed in Solwezi, Zambia on October 7, 2000.

A white dove in flight

Sr. M. Odette Simba Abakumate, a Sister of Charity of Jesus and Mary, was killed in Bambari, Central African Republic, on February 5, 2000.

A white dove in flight

Missionary of Charity Sr. Maria Indu Anastasia Xalxo was shot on Jan. 23, 1999 in Freetown, Sierra Leone by RUF rebels.

A white dove in flight

Missionary of Charity Sr. Mary Carmeline, 30, born Bernadette Nzembi, was murdered on January 23, 1999 in Freetown, Sierra Leone by rebels.

A white dove in flight

Missionary of Charity Sr. Maria Sueva Sujila Asakra, 43, from Bangladesh, was murdered on Jan. 22, 1999 in Freetown, Sierra Leone by RUF rebels.

A white dove in flight

Missionary of Charity Sr. Aloise Ansama Maria Antony was murdered on January 22, 1999 in Freetown, Sierra Leone, by RUF rebels.

A white dove in flight

Sr. Lucy Katihe of the Franciscans of Jesus the Sacrament was murdered in Benguela, Angola, on Sept. 24, 1998.

A white dove in flight

Sisters Adrienne Kagarabi, Germaine Lugolo and Germaine Nyagira, all members of the Daughters of Resurrection, were murdered on August 24, 1998 in eastern Congo by rebels in a massacre that left 37 people dead.

A white dove in flight

Sisters Germaine Lugolo, Adrienne Kagarabi and Germaine Nyagira of the Daughters of Resurrection were murdered on Aug. 24, 1998 in eastern Congo by rebels in a massacre that left 37 people dead.

A white dove in flight

Daughters of Resurrection Sr. Germaine Nyagira was killed on August 24, 1998 along with two other members of the Daughters of the Resurrection, Srs. Adrienne Kagarabi and Germaine Lugolo, by eastern Congo rebels in a massacre that left 37 people dead.

A white dove in flight

Sr. Valens Mukanoheli of the Benebikira Sisters was murdered in Gisenyi, northwestern Rwanda by unidentified attackers who shot her in front of her mission on July 31, 1998.

A white dove in flight

Sr. Theodolinde Scherck of the Holy Child Franciscans was murdered in Eshowe, South Africa on July 25, 1998.

A white dove in flight

Sr. Anne Desrumeaux was killed the evening of April 8, 1998 by a group of about 20 armed men in uniform who forced their way into the convent of Sainte-Thérèse in Nganza in the diocese of Kananga in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

A white dove in flight

On Jan. 8, 1998, armed Rwandan Patriotic Army rebels infiltrated the Daughters of Resurrection convent in Busasamana, Mutura Commune, Democratic Republic of Congo and attacked the community with machetes.

A white dove in flight

On Jan. 8, 1998, armed Rwandan Patriotic Army rebels infiltrated the Daughters of the Resurrection convent in Busasamana, Mutura Commune, Democratic Republic of Congo, and attacked the community with machetes.

A white dove in flight

On Jan, 8, 1998, armed Rwandan Patriotic Army rebels infiltrated the Daughters of Resurrection convent in Busasamana, Mutura Commune, Democratic Republic of Congo and attacked the community with machetes.

A white dove in flight

On January 8, 1998, armed Rwandan Patriotic Army rebels infiltrated the Daughters of Resurrection convent in Busasamana, Mutura Commune, DRC and attacked the community with machetes.

A white dove in flight

On January 8, 1998, armed Rwandan Patriotic Army rebels infiltrated the Daughters of Resurrection convent in Busasamana, Mutura Commune, DRC and attacked the community with machetes.

A white dove in flight

On January 8, 1998, armed Rwandan Patriotic Army rebels infiltrated the Daughters of Resurrection convent in Busasamana, Mutura Commune, DRC and attacked the community with machetes.

A white dove in flight

Sr. Griet Bosmans, 62, was killed by Hutu gunmen on April 27, 1997 in Rwanda.

Methodology Note


Objective

This research initially aimed to honor native African sisters murdered in Africa by illustrating objectively the circumstances leading to each sister's killing due to their vocations to needy communities in the continent. We realized, however, that we also needed to include those not native to African countries, for they too forfeited their lives in their service to others. The research further aims to lay the foundation to identify and honor sisters killed in similar circumstances in other countries and continents (Asia, the Americas, Oceania, etc.)

The research includes biographical data of each sister (their names, congregations, communities they served, and the date they died), their ministries and recounts factually the unfortunate and extreme events that propagated the attacks and killings of these heroic nuns. This is in-progress – all the information is presented to the extent possible at the time of publication and will be updated as new information is received.

Data Analysis

In compiling this list of honored sisters, GSR used qualitative data analysis to review secondary data from published articles and news sources by reputable local and international publications and texts such as research papers.

To maximize the scope of research data, descriptive data were preferred over experimental data as it allowed profiles of the sisters and the circumstances leading to their murder or killing to be compared and contrasted for fact-checking.

A questionnaire was also used to reach out to congregations and audiences who might have had information on sisters whose biographical data and circumstances of death were unclear.

Data Sampling Methods

Since the research seeks to continue building upon its existing database of sisters killed in their missions and ministries across the world, convenience sampling was preferred to meet this objective. It allowed data that was most accessible and inexpensive to be captured first and create a base for additional data samples.

Next, purposive sampling/judgment sampling was used to select samples or data troves that were most useful and met the criteria for inclusivity in the research.

This research sampled data from two published works and analyzed secondary data from more than 30 publications. Afterward, the following criteria were used to eliminate vague and redundant data from the gathered information.

Criteria for Inclusion

To provide factual data on the whereabouts of the murdered sisters, we considered the following circumstances for inclusion in this list.

  • Initially, the sisters needed to be native to Africa.
  • The scope of the project was then expanded to include missionaries and those not native to Africa.
  • The sisters' deaths had to have occurred in Africa.
  • The sisters honored in the research had to be victims of murder or a violent death and not victims of natural deaths such as sickness or acts of God such as floods. Those sisters deserve recognition for their ministries and missions to serve others but are outside the scope of this project.

Criteria for Exceptions

Under exceptional circumstances, some sisters who did not meet the above criteria were also included in the list. The following were the considerations observed:

  • The sisters had undergone beatification and canonization to be declared saints, or are in the early stages of this process.
  • Consideration was given to sisters who were not explicitly killed from direct attacks by perpetrators -- but died due to their heroism; an example is Sr. Henrietta Alokha of the Sacred Heart of Jesus sisters who died in an explosion as a hero for saving the lives of 300 students.

Justification of Methodological Choices

Although this research was not quantitative (which would have been preferred for detailed analysis), its methodological choices for data collection, sampling approaches, and criteria for inclusion and exclusion were sufficient to gather basic information and hopefully be a foundation for future in-depth research.

- Wycliff Oundo, reporter, researcher