Mary Carmeline

A white dove in flight


Date of Death
January 23, 1999


Missionary of Charity Sr. Mary Carmeline, 30, born Bernadette Nzembi in Kathonzweni, Makueni, Kenya, was murdered on January 23, 1999 in Freetown, Sierra Leone by rebels during the country's 11-year civil war as she prepared food in a camp for hundreds of people displaced by the violence. In events narrated to author John Gibson by Francis Freeman, the congregation’s driver who had stealthily followed the abducted sisters to the National Stadium where Revolutionary United Front rebels had been holding them hostage.

Freeman recounted the horrific events that transpired that day when the rebels accosted the sisters and told them, “You are women; we are men. You are going to permit us to do what men do to women.” The superior of the congregation reaffirmed to the rebels their vocational calling and told them, “We are consecrated to Jesus, heart, soul, and body. God has a purpose for you: to respect us because God has given you to us to be our brothers. We are your sisters. You are not going to touch us.” 

The rebels, vexed by her stand, opened fire on the sisters, but the bullets whizzed by the superior without hitting her. Mary Carmeline, however, was among the sisters who succumbed immediately to the lethal impact of the gunfire.