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COVID-19 Surge, Deaths in Religious Communities Cause for Alarm: Nuns in South Africa

A reported surge in COVID-19 cases alongside deaths in religious communities in South Africa is a cause for concern, the leadership of the Conference of Catholic Sisters in the country has said in a statement shared with ACI Africa.

In the December 18 statement, the officials of the Conference urge members of the various Religious Orders and Societies of Apostolic Life in South Africa to adhere to COVID-19 preventive measures.

“As the Leadership Conference of Consecrated Life (LCCLSA), we are deeply hurt by the loss of lives under this spell of COVID-19,” the officials say in the collective statement signed by LCCLSA President, Sr. Nkhensani Shibambu.

They highlight Sisters who have succumbed to COVID-19 in recent days saying, “It is with great sadness and shock that we announce the death of six Sisters from the Daughters of Saint Francis in Port Shepstone, Marianhill Diocese. Sisters Elmara Skhakhane FSF, Leonissa Nzimande FSF (78), Colleta Msomi FSF (78), Anastasia Mthetwa FSF (86), Amara Madlala FSF (75) and Edmunda Nkomo FSF (80) passed away as a result of COVID-19.”

The named Sisters, LCCLSA leadership says, “all died within a period of a week, from 10-17 December 2020.”

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“Sisters Elmara Skhakhane FSF and Leonissa Nzimande have already been buried. Sisters Colleta Msomi FSF, Anastasia Mthetwa FSF, and Amara Madlala FSF were buried Saturday 19th December in Port Shepstone,” the leadership of the Sisters’ Conference say, adding, “Fifteen other sisters are said to be critically ill.”

The death of the Sisters is “a deep wound to the Church, the Congregation and the Conference at large,” LCCLSA leadership bemoans.

“This is a very painful reminder that the scourge of COVID-19 is yet to lessen its devastation to communities and society at large,” the Sisters say in their December 18 statement shared with ACI Africa.

They express their solidarity with members of the affected Religious Orders and urge caution and vigilance.

“We send not only consolatory messages to the Congregation of the Daughters of Saint Francis but also urge all religious congregations and communities to be extra vigilant and cautious in light of the deadly and subtle Second Wave of the pandemic,” LCCLSA leaders say.

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“None of us is immune to this pandemic,” the Sisters say, and continue, “In the absence of a vaccine, we remain our own best defense against the virus and the least we can do is to continue adhering to the safety protocols of COVID-19 prevention and containment especially as most people and communities gather for the celebration of the festive season and beyond.”  

They further say, “Our prayers go to the Daughters of Saint Francis and all religious congregations and personnel infected and affected by this scourge.”

“May the souls of the Sisters, the Religious, and all the faithful who have lost the battle to COVID-19, through the mercy of God, rest in eternal peace,” LCCLSA leadership implores in the December 18 statement shared with ACI Africa.