Four Nuns Who Succumbed to COVID-19 in South Africa “were generous servants of the Lord”

Four members of the Religious Congregation of the Precious Blood Sisters who succumbed to COVID-19 in South Africa's Umtata Diocese.

The leadership of the Catholic Church in South Africa has described the four members of the Religious Congregation of the Precious Blood Sisters who succumbed to COVID-19 as “generous servants of the Lord” who died “in a very short period of time.”

“The SACBC expresses deep sadness and sincere sympathy to the Provincial and Sisters of the Precious Blood Congregation on the sudden passing of four of your dedicated sisters in this very short period of time,” the Bishops wrote Monday, June 15 referencing their common of the Southern African Catholic Bishops Conference (SACBC).

They added, “The departed were generous servants of the Lord and while we mourn them we express heartfelt gratitude for their service to God’s people over many years.”

“Your sisters have now gone below this world’s horizon to rise in the dawn of God’s presence. They have gone to join so many generous souls of your religious family who are with God,” the Bishops in South Africa have told the Precious Blood Sisters in their country and added, “Be assured, dear Sisters, of the prayers of the SACBC and of all the faithful of the Church in Southern Africa.”

In their collective message, the Bishops also condole with Bishop Sithembele Sipuka, the Local Ordinary of Umtata Diocese where the late Sisters were serving.

“We wish to assure your Bishop, Sithembele Sipuka that we are close to him and the diocese on this tragedy. We assure you, dear Sisters, that your loss is not only felt by the Congregation but by the whole South African Church,” the Catholic Church leaders have said in the message of condolences signed by their spokesperson, the Archbishop emeritus of Pretoria, William Slattery.

“While we mourn them, we express heartfelt gratitude for their service to God’s people over many years,” the Bishops have said.

In an interview with ACI Africa, SACBC Communications Officer, Fr. Paul Tatu said that the people of God in South Africa are still in shock after the loss of the four Sisters.

Fr. Paul disclosed that three of the sisters who passed on were organizing for the burial of one of their own who had succumbed to the new coronavirus when they received news that they too had contracted the virus. They died shortly afterwards.

The South African Cleric said that one of the sisters who works at a Catholic-run hospital in the diocese tested positive of COVID-19 and has since been quarantined.

“When the sister tested positive of COVID-19, the other sisters in her community were made to undergo mandatory testing to establish their status. Some results were brought over the weekend and three sisters who tested positive passed on,” Fr. Paul said told ACI Africa Monday, June 15 and added that the nuns who have passed on were senior members of the community, with the youngest aged around 60.

In the meantime, it has been discovered that more Sisters are infected, young and old. Presently 17 have tested positive, 15 are negative and 3 are still waiting for the results of the test. 

The names of the Sisters who died are: Sr. Celine Nxopo on the 8th (buried on 15th), Sr. Maria Cord Wardhor, on the 12th, Sr. Martha Anne Dlamini on the 13th and Sr. Beautrice Khofu on 14th of June.

Confirming the COVID-19 related deaths, the President of Leadership Conference of Consecrated Life (LCCL) in South Africa, Sr. Nkhensani Shibambu said that one of the four Sisters who passed on was buried on Monday, June 15.

“Over the weekend we received the sad news of the passing away of four Precious Blood Sisters of the Mthatha Province, who died as a result of COVID-19 related diseases,” said Sr. Nkhensani, and added, “One of the sisters was buried on Monday, 15th June 2020 and arrangements are underway for the burial of the three other sisters on Saturday, 20th June 2020.”

In her message of condolence, Sr. Nkhensani noted that the Precious Blood Sisters’ cases were the first confirmed cases among Religious Orders in Southern Africa.

“We would like to express our solidarity with the congregation and wish to extend our heartfelt condolences as the LCCL. Let us continue praying for them and for the Diocese of Mthatha,” the LCCL President said, and added, “Let us continue praying for one another and for each other’s safety during this period of uncertainty.”

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ACI Africa was officially inaugurated on August 17, 2019 as a continental Catholic news agency at the service of the Church in Africa. Headquartered in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, this media apostolate will strive to facilitate the telling of Africa’s story by providing media coverage of Catholic events on the African continent, giving visibility to the activities of the Church across Africa where statistics show significant growth in numbers and the continent gradually becoming the axis of Catholicism. This is expected to contribute to an awareness of and appreciation for the significant role of the Church in Africa and over time, the realization of a realistic image of Africa that often receives negative media framing.

Father Don Bosco Onyalla
Editor-in-Chief, ACI Africa
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