Catholic Institutions in South Sudanese Archdiocese to Close for Days to Honor Slain Nuns

Sr. Mary Daniel Abut (left) and Sr. Regina Roba (right) killed in a road ambush along the Juba-Nimule highway that links South Sudan and Uganda on 16 August 2021. Credit: Courtesy Photo

Catholic institutions in South Sudan’s Juba Archdiocese are to remain closed for four days, beginning Tuesday, August 17, to allow the people of God in the Metropolitan See to mourn two Catholic Nuns murdered Monday, August 16.

Sr. Mary Daniel Abut and Sr. Regina Roba, members of the Sacred Heart Sisters (SHS) of Juba Archdiocese, were among five people who died August 16 following a bus ambush along Juba-Nimule Road, the highway that links South Sudan and Uganda.

In a statement issued August 17, the Secretary General of Juba Archdiocese announces the four-day closure of Catholic institutions and daily Eucharistic celebration in honor of the two South Sudanese Catholic Nuns.

“I would like to inform the public that all the Catholic Church Institutions (Universities, Seminaries, (Colleges), Kindergarten, Primary and Secondary Schools) in the Catholic Archdiocese of Juba will close down for four days to mourn the late Sr. Mary and Sr. Regina,” Fr. Samuel Abe says.

The mourning period, Fr. Abe says, is to be observed from “today, Tuesday 17th to Friday 20th August 2021 and work resumes on Monday, 23rd August 2021.”


“There will be Holy Mass every evening at 5:00 pm starting from today, Tuesday,” the member of the Clergy of South Sudan’s only Archdiocese adds.

Sr. Mary Daniel, the immediate former Superior General of SHS who was serving as the Head Teacher of Usratuna Primary School in Juba, and Sr. Regina, a Tutor and Administrator at the Catholic Health Training Institute (CHTI) in South Sudan’s Wau Diocese, were returning to Juba from Centenary celebrations in South Sudan’s Torit Diocese.

In a statement dated Tuesday, August 17, SHS Superior General recalls the events of Monday, August 16 leading to what she describes as “the cruel deaths” of two members of the Catholic Institute.

“The two Sisters were part of the 12 passengers (7 Sisters and 5 men) on a Costa bus returning to Juba from the Centenary Celebration of Loa Catholic Parish dedicated to Our Lady of the Assumption,” Sr. Alice Jurugo Drajea says.

The Costa bus that had left Loa Parish around 7.30 a.m. on the fateful day had hardly traveled for about an hour when it “ran into an ambush of armed men who opened gunfire,” Sr. Drajea had recounted.
Suspecting that the male passengers would be the first targets of the gunmen, Sr. Drajea says, the driver of the bus ordered them to alight from the bus and to flee.

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Four Sisters also attempted to flee while three elderly Sisters remained on the bus, the SHS Superior narrates, and adds, “The gunmen intended to burn the (three Sisters) in the bus as they did a small car in front of the bus. Thank God, they (had) neither a lighter nor petrol to start off the fire.”

While the male passengers fled into the bush alongside four Sisters, Sr. Drajea narrates, “the armed men followed and shot two of the Sisters, namely, Sr. Mary Daniel Abut and Sr. Regina Roba.”

Two male persons who were on the bus were among the dead, Eye Radio reported and added that “a boda-boda rider also died after he was knocked down by a speeding truck - fleeing from the attack. This brings the total number of the deceased to 5.”

In his August 17 statement, the Secretary General of Juba Archdiocese says the Archdiocesan Administration, women and men Religious and the Clergy in South Sudan’s only Metropolitan See “are saddened with the news about the untimely passing on of Sr. Mary Daniel Abut and Sr. Regina Roba after being shot by gunmen.”

Pope Francis has offered his “heartfelt condolences” to the families and Religious community of the two South Sudanese Catholic Nuns.


In a telegraph sent through Vatican’s Secretary of State, Pietro Cardinal Parolin, the Holy Father expresses his deep sadness following what he calls the “brutal attack” and the “senseless act of violence,” Vatican News reported August 17.

The Pope expressed the hope that the sacrifice of the two Catholic Sisters “will advance the cause of peace, reconciliation and security in the region” and implored God for “their eternal rest and the comfort of those who grieve their loss.”

Meanwhile, the Bishop of Catholic Diocese of Tombura-Yambio has condoled with the Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus of Juba Archdiocese following the demise of the two Nuns. 

In his August 17 statement obtained by ACI Africa, Bishop Eduardo Hiiboro Kussala says he is “deeply touched by the sudden death of these great and tender loving Sisters.”

Bishop Hiiboro adds that the Nuns have been “perhaps the guiding light in presenting a coherent defense of Religious life and Catholic principles and applying those principles to issues of public import.”

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The South Sudanese Bishop who knew the two late Nuns for more than 30 years says he will live to remember them because their “warmth and humanity won the affection of countless individuals, Catholics and non-Catholics alike.”

The Centenary celebration attended by the Nuns before they met their death was “an earthly crown of their good life,” Bishop Hiiboro says, adding that the two slain Nuns “have died as MARTYRS of South Sudan! They are our modern Saints for good life!”

“Those who have carried out this cowardice action God remains their judge!” the Bishop adds.

In the two Sisters, SHS Superior General says in her August 17 statement, “the Congregation has lost great resource persons with excelling leadership qualities.”

“May their innocent blood unite us in our Congregation more and bring peace to this Country of South Sudan, which has never known true peace,” She says in reference to Sr. Mary Daniel and Sr. Regina, natives of South Sudan’s Wau Diocese and Yei Diocese respectively.

Sr. Mary Daniel and Sr. Regina are expected to be laid to rest on Friday, 20 August 2021.

This story was updated on 19 August 2021 at 11.50 East African Time.

Magdalene Kahiu is a Kenyan journalist with passion in Church communication. She holds a Degree in Social Communications from the Catholic University of Eastern Africa (CUEA). Currently, she works as a journalist for ACI Africa.