Tanzanian Nun Who Succumbed to COVID-19 Lived a “joyful life of simplicity”

Sr. Anastacia Cristian Malisa, a member of the Order of Saint Clare (The Poor Clares) who died of COVID-19 in Italy's city of Rieti

Sr. Anastacia Cristian Malisa, the Tanzanian-born nun of the Order of Saint Clare (The Poor Clares) who succumbed to COVID-19 April 25 while serving in Italy is being remembered as a simple and joyful person who was always at the service of vulnerable in the society.

Aged 60, Sr. Anastacia died after a month-long battle with the deadly virus.

She was “a Sister who came from Africa, simple, kind, fully-fulfilled in her vocation as a religious sister and dedicated to the service of the little ones and our dear elderly,” the Poor Clares have been quoted as saying in Vatican News report

They added, “May the Lord, in His goodness, welcome her into his Kingdom of joy, reserved for his chosen ones.”

A native of Tanzania’s Moshi diocese on the slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro, the late Sr. Anastacia left her country for Italy in 1994. As a Poor Clare, her first assignment in the European country was to work with children in nursery schools in the town of Assisi.


Eight years ago, Sr. Anastacia changed her residence from Assisi to the city of Rieti in central Italy where she worked as a caregiver at the Casa di Riposo Santa Lucia of Rieti nursing home for the elderly. 

In March, at the peak of the coronavirus outbreak in Italy, several elderly people at the house where Sr. Anastacia ministered contracted the disease.

Together with the staff and residents at the Nursing home, she was examined for the coronavirus.

“Sr. Anastasia’s COVID-19 test came out positive. Hardly a day after, she became seriously ill and was admitted to Rieti’s hospital, San Camillo De Lellis. On the evening of 29 March, her condition took a turn for the worst and she was transferred to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU). It was to be a month-long, excruciating fight for her life,” Vatican News reported in reference to events leading to her death last Saturday, April 25.

Some residents of Italy’s Assisi and Rieti towns who knew Sr. Anastacia took to social media to express their affection and gratitude to “the African nun with a warm smile.”

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“We shall forever remember your joy and readiness to always give testimony to your calling,” Lavocedelsilenzio wrote in a Facebook post in memory of Sr. Anastacia.

“Rest your limbs now returned to mother earth in colors glistening as a scarf made of silk…” reads another eulogy on Facebook. 

Recalling her love and nostalgia for Africa, another resident of Rieti commented, “It was not possible for us to bid you farewell, but we know that where we could not be, our prayers arrived.” 

According to a nun of the Poor Clares, Sr. Anastasia has “returned to Jesus, her spouse and only source of joy, after a terrible month of suffering from the coronavirus.” 

The nun was laid to rest in Rieti, in the central region of Italy Monday, April 27, a day before another native of East Africa based in Italy, Bishop Emeritus of Kenya’s Meru Diocese, Silas Silvius Njiru died of COVID-19. Bishop Njiru had been residing at the Blessed Joseph Allamano house in Alpignano, Turin, Italy. He was aged 92.


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.