Murdered Nuns Recalled for Their Generosity, Service in Mississippi

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Sister Margaret Held (l), 68, a member of the School Sisters of St. Francis in Milwaukee, and Sister Paula Merrill (r), 68, a member of the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth in Kentucky, are pictured in undated photos. The two women religious were found stabbed to death Aug. 25 in their Durant, Mississippi, home, police said. (CNS photo/School Sisters of St. Francis and Sisters of Charity of Nazareth)

JACKSON, Miss. (CNS) – The deaths of Sister Margaret Held and Sister Paula Merrill demand justice, but not revenge, Franciscan Father Greg Plata said during a Memorial Mass for the women religious in the Cathedral of St. Peter the Apostle.

“I truly believe with all my heart that Margaret and Paula would tell us that we need to keep loving,” said the priest during the Aug. 29 Mass.

Father Plata is sacramental administrator of St. Thomas the Apostle Church in Lexington, Mississippi, the parish in which the sisters were active.

Sister Margaret, a member of the School Sisters of St. Francis in Milwaukee, and Sister Paula, a member of the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth in Kentucky, were recalled by family and friends in prayer services and Masses in the days after they were found dead Aug. 25 in the Durant, Mississippi, home they shared.
Rodney Earl Sanders, 46, of Kosciusko, Mississippi, has been charged with two counts of capital murder, larceny and burglary in connection with the incident.

The day before the Mass, representatives of the sisters’ religious communities and families issued a statement opposing the death penalty for the suspect charged in their deaths.