· Vatican City ·



An existence conceived as a total gift of Mary and Louise, martyr nuns

 L’esistenza concepita come dono totale di Maria e Luisa, suore martiri  DCM-009
01 October 2022

Two women, two missionaries, both killed. On the night of September 6, in Mozambique, Sister Maria De Coppi, a Combonian. On 24 June, in Haiti, Sister Luisa Dell'Orto, of the Little Sisters of Charles De Foucauld. Both women died while quietly doing what they had dedicated their lives; to serving God and humankind. Sister Maria in Chipene had opened a boarding school that allowed girls from poor families to study; Sister Lucia in Port-au-Prince devoted herself to street children.

Two meek, simple women. Normal, if by this term we indicate the sobriety of their behaviour, even in the exceptional and risky situations in which they lived, in lands tormented by wars of which few speak. They were not crowd pullers, they were not engaged in political battles, and they were not famous. They simply conceived their existence as a total gift. To God, who had called them. To the poorest, to whom God had given them.

The mark that unites these two religious martyrs is life understood as delivery to the people with whom they lived, making a “common cause”, according to a Combonian motto. “My people”, Sister Maria used to say. Sister Lucia similarly used these words, when speaking of the suffering of the humanity in Port-au-Prince. In this vocation to be there, they remained close to their people even when conditions became difficult.

When one speaks of martyrs who, despite being able, do not abandon the places where they live and their communities, one’s thoughts go to the Trappist monks of Tibhirine, Algeria, who were killed by Islamic terrorists in 1996.

A missionary sister of Sister Maria explains, “But we do not seek death.” Rather, they seek - they ask - to be faithful, to God and, consequently, to the men, women and children with whom they share their lives. It is this daily fidelity, this presence that does not fear death, which “annoys”, as Pope Francis said. They bothered, these two women, because they were there. They were the voices and eyes of those who have nothing.

“The true martyr is the one who has submitted themselves totally to God’s will for their existence. Martyrdom is not a simple interruption of living, it happens when one says yes to a life fully given.” This is the thought of Mother Maria Emmanuel Corradini, abbess of the Benedictine monastery of San Raimondo in Piacenza.  We read in the spiritual testament of Father Christian de Chergé, prior of the monastery of Tibhirine, “If one day I happen to be a victim of terrorism [...] I would like my community, my Church, my family to remember that my life was given to God and to that country”.

By Elisa Calessi