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Dublin: 9 °C Thursday 25 April, 2019
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Nuns who ran clinic in poverty-stricken Mississippi community found dead in their home

The two nuns provided almost all the care at the local clinic.

Jamie Sample, a parishioner of St. Thomas the Apostle Catholic Church in Lexington, Miss., sits in the shade in Durant, Miss., and shows a smartphone photograph taken last December 2015, of Sisters Paula Merrill, left, and Margaret Held.
Jamie Sample, a parishioner of St. Thomas the Apostle Catholic Church in Lexington, Miss., sits in the shade in Durant, Miss., and shows a smartphone photograph taken last December 2015, of Sisters Paula Merrill, left, and Margaret Held.

TWO NUNS WHO worked as nurses and helped the poor in rural Mississippi were found slain in their home yesterday, perhaps victims of a break-in and vehicle theft, officials said.

Authorities would not say if they have a suspect but disclosed that they’d recovered a car missing from the home and were taking it to a crime lab for analysis. They also did not release a cause of death, but the Reverend Greg Plata said police told him the sisters were stabbed.

The nuns were identified as Sister Margaret Held and Sister Paula Merrill, both 68. Their bodies were taken to a crime lab for autopsies.

The women, both nurse practitioners, were found yesterday morning when they didn’t report to work at a nearby clinic, where they provided flu shots, insulin and other medical care for children and adults who couldn’t afford it.

The two nuns provided almost all the care at the clinic, and many in the community wondered what would happen to it now — and the people it served.

“They were two of the sweetest, most gentle women you can imagine. Their vocation was helping the poor,” said Plata, who oversees a 35-member Catholic church the sisters attended.

Maureen Smith, a spokeswoman for the Catholic Diocese of Jackson, said there were signs of a break-in at the home and the nuns’ vehicle was missing.

Found

Nuns Killed Source: Apexchange

Later, Warren Strain, spokesman for the Mississippi Department of Public Safety, said the blue Toyota Corolla was found abandoned last night on a secluded street barely a mile from the home, the vehicle apparently undamaged. He said police haven’t determined when the car was abandoned and it was being towed to the state crime lab near Jackson, Mississippi’s capital city.

Authorities didn’t release a motive and it wasn’t clear if the nuns’ religious work had anything to do with the slayings.

“I have an awful feeling in the pit of my stomach,” said Durant Assistant Police Chief James Lee, who is Catholic.

Police Chief John Haynes said officers are checking video from surveillance cameras in town to see if they spot anything unusual.

Merrill had worked in Mississippi for more than 30 years, according to the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth in Kentucky. She was from Massachusetts and joined the order in 1979.

Two years later, she moved to the South and found her calling in the Mississippi Delta community, according to a 2010 article in The Journey, a publication by the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth.

When asked about her ministry, Merrill was humble.

“We simply do what we can wherever God places us,” Merrill said.

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Associated Press

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