With great sadness we announce that this afternoon, we were informed that Paula Merrill, SCN, was found dead at her home in Durant, Mississippi. Police found both her and Margaret Held, SSSF, dead this morning after being called by personnel at the medical clinic where they ministered. The two had not come into the clinic this morning.
We have very little information at this time. There is an investigation underway. We have spoken with the parish priest, the chief of police, and the coroner’s office to confirm the deaths of Sisters Paula and Margaret.
As a community we have come together in prayer. SCN President Susan Gatz asks that all, “pray in gratitude for the precious lives of Sisters Paula and Margaret … they served the poor so well. Because we are gospel women, please also pray for the perpetrators.”
Please keep the families and religious communities of Sisters Paula and Margaret in your prayers, as well as those who work at the medical clinic where the Sisters were in ministry and the clinic’s many clients, and those involved in the investigation. Please also keep the community of Durant in prayer as well.
The Sisters of Charity of Nazareth are an international Congregation in a multicultural world. Impelled by the love of Christ, in the tradition of Vincent de Paul and the pioneer spirit of Catherine Spalding, Sisters and Associates are committed to work for justice in solidarity with oppressed peoples, especially the economically poor and women, and to care for the earth. They risk their lives and resources, both personally and corporately, as they engage in diverse ministries in carrying out this mission.
To learn more about Sister Paula click here.
My prayers are with you as we mourn the loss of Sr Paula and Sr Margaret. I knew Sr Margaret briefly in Milwaukee many years ago and was inspired by her dedication to serving the poor.
May the angels lead them into paradise.
My sincere sympathy to the SSSF and SCN communities and the Durant,Mississippi area for the loss of two Sisters who gave their lives for the impoverished in this area. May their memory live on…. so that their gift and generosity may inspire and grow in the hearts of others. And as we gaze into the night of stars, we believe they look down and offer their blessing to us!
The poor of Holly Springs were blessed with their compassionate presence and service while they ministered through Sacred Heart Southern Missions in the 80s. Women of great faith with a love for the poor, they are remembered fondly by people in Holly Springs and among our staff. Our prayers are with all of you as you grieve your loss, celebrate their memory and proclaim your faith in Christ Jesus. May Paula rest in peace.
We are saddened by the death of these two Sisters. As Religious ourselves, we understand and appreciate their dedication to God’s poor. Our prayers are with your communities, family and friends of the Sisters. Feliciano Sisters from Wallington, New Jersey
I pray for Mercy. I pray for Peace, but the Peace from God that surpasses all understanding. May the Lord bless you.
To the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth
I send you my prayers and sympathy on the deaths of Sister Margaret and Sister Paula. I pray for all concerned in this unbelievable senseless act–for the sisters who died, for all the sisters of Charity everywhere, for the people whom they served and who loved them, and who now will miss the loving care these sisters gave them. I pray also for the person who did this, especially I pray that he/she be treated with justice but also with mercy just as Jesus would do. Blessings and Peace,
Sister Elizabeth Kolmer, ASC
Adorers of the Blood of Christ, Ruma Illinois
When you read of such tragedies and wonder why, what kind of person, demonic source would commit such offenses —
“As a community we have come together in prayer. SCN President Susan Gatz asks that all, “pray in gratitude for the precious lives of Sisters Paula and Margaret … they served the poor so well. Because we are gospel women, please also pray for the perpetrators.” Surrender to God’s new will for each one experiencing this tragedy. What else can you do!
For those of us who live here in Durant, MS. and who knew and loved both sisters, it is real difficult to forgive the one who killed them. And for what did he do this? Yes, he stole one of their cars, but he abandoned it less than a mile from their home. The man who did this, and he is in custody since yesterday, I have seen this man walk the streets of our little town. The police said that he was a nomad, he lived 12 miles from Durant but he spend as much time here as he did in Lexington where the sisters had their clinic. He had to have known them. It is so difficult to understand what drove him to this horrible act, and understanding seems to be necessary in order to forgive. Lord, help me.
Humbled to my knees to pray for the Sisters who made the ultimate sacrifice for all of us, The human race.
Any other lives matter?
Rest in peace sisters..
May they rest in Peace. You are in my prayers, the community members, the family members and friends of these Sisters. They enjoy the heavenly rewards! ?
My prayers and thoughts are with you all at this time. I know Sister Paula and Margaret will be deeply missed by your community and the Mississippi community they served.
Sr. Lourita, SND
I am very sadden and am praying, for all their families, their families of birth, families in SCN and families in community they served. I have done mission and board work with SCN and value the work and how they live, lead and contribute to other’s lives. Prayers for all.
These deaths and other “untimely deaths” weigh heavily on my heart. I cry out to God, asking Why? “Why God, Why?” We have a nurse on our unit who is about to release her son to God in heaven, but my heart hurts for all left behind.
This is to tell you all that we are with you and praying for you all. They were wonderful women. We all in the Nazareth convent Chandapura want to tell you that you all are very much in our thoughts and prayers
My heart feels the pain of the deep loss of our Sisters Paula and Margaret and send my love and prayers to embrace each member in your communities, families, and co-workers.
I saw this sad news last evening here in Montana and feel so badly for this great loss for the Sisters in the Communities of which they are apart and the Community in which they served as well as their family and friends. They and you are in my prayers.
Paula was a humble, simple, loving presence among us! She was completely focused on the well being of everyone she served. Truly doing the work of Vincent, Louise and Catherine.
We are deeply saddened. We know how the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth are committed to caring for hundreds of children in India. Our prayers and condolences to all of the sisters of this community as you and we mourn this tragic loss.
Prayers of lament and hope for you and the ones so loved by Paula and Margaret. Peace of Christ.
I share your sorrow at the loss of such loving and generous Sisters. May God’s peace comfort you as it embraces them in eternal joy.
Dear Sisters and Members of Sister Paula’s family,
Prayers are offered for all of you and for those who have been receiving care through Sister’s ministry. May she rest in peace.
Patricia Cuddihy, RHSJ
My condolences to the Sisters and family of Sister Paula during this difficult time. Prayers to all. May she rest in peace.
Dear Sisters, I am very saddened by the deaths of Paula and Margaret, our sisters in the quest for justice, relief from poverty, and joy for the poor. May they rest in peace and may you be consoled by all of us who join in your sorrow.
Dear, Sisters Susan, Sangeeta and Brenda, The sudden and the sad news of Sr. Paula shocked us. As SCNS we go through the painful moments we assure you our prayerful support. May both sisters experience Eternal happiness and strength and comfort to their Religious sisters, family and friends.
I met Sister Paula my senior year at Ole Miss. She and Sister Margaret were fill-in cantors at our Saturday night masses, and I played the piano for them. They were not only fantastic song leaders, but they were incredibly devoted to our faith. They were incredibly kind, and extremely patient with me as I “learned the ropes” of accompanying for mass. They were also a huge blessing to the Magnolia State, and they have definitely left a legacy with their extraordinary service to the poor. God Bless their beautiful souls, and God Bless all the sisters who serve throughout the world.
Dear Sisters, We are deeply saddened to hear of the death of the 2 sisters. They were the recipients of a grant from our Hilton Fund for Sisters not too long ago for the wonderful work they did with those most in need. God will surely reward them for acting as Christ’s hands and heart to those He loves most. You will know that Sr. Paula, one of your own, has certainly been welcomed into the loving arms of God. With love and prayer, All of us at the Conrad N. Hilton Fund for Sisters
Sister, thank you for your kind comments about Sister Margaret and my dear Sister Paula. I was visiting with them when they were working on their grant application. They enlisted me to do some proof reading as well as doing additional research. They were so delighted to receive your generous grant. It was a godsend in their early years at the Lexington Medical Clinic.
We share the sorrow of SCN.
May God welcome both those wonderful sisters into his heavenly home, we humbly pray.
What a terrible tragedy. My prayers are with your families and your communities.
Beloved Sisters – you dedicated your life to treating the poor and sick. I am truly humbled by your service to God and to humanity. Peace be with you both. Heartbroken in Boston
Our prayers are lifted for the sisters and for the communities and families of the sisters. God provide consolation and peace
I send my prayers, love, and condolences to the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth for this great loss of a woman of courage, service and compassion. She was a healing help for the suffering poor. I so admire all that the SCN members do for our suffering world. May God support you all at this sad occasion. S. Jean Schafer SDS
A great distance away in Kansas but our daily paper published the news. I am sadden and feel your loss. Please know I share my sorrow and prayers for everyone.
Many prayers for the entire SCN and SSSF families on such a profound and sudden loss of your sisters. May their spirit live on in the people they loved and served so faithfully.
Our deepest support and sympathy are with you. The prayer of our community is with all of you
Sisters of St. Francis,
We hold you gently in prayer during these difficult days. May God grant you – and our hurting world – peace.
My heart is breaking for all the SCN’s I know and respect so much in the tragic loss of S. Paula, and for all in Margaret’s community as well. Please know that I am praying with and for you all and for the people of Holmes County, Mississippi.
So shocking to read the news this morning of the death of Margaret and Paula. How sad for the Community of Mississippi for whom they were doing such wonderful ministry. Their reward will be great in heaven! God forgive whomever is responsible for their death.
The video about Paula and Margaret on the SCN website gave me a tiny glimpse of what a gift Paula and Margaret were to so many. May their on-going love be a source of comfort for all you knew them.
We, the morning Mass group from St. Joseph’s, in Tiltonsville, Ohio, are sending our prayers to the communities & families of both Sisters who were tragically murdered in Mississippi.
With many tears and strong sentiment I have to acknowledge that God has two new saints in his heavenly company today. I offer prayers of suplication for all of those immediately touched by this tragedy. And additionally I send up prayers of gratitude for not only what these sisters did, but for the great model they inspired. As a 1962 graduate of Pres I can say without doubt that this kind of spirit, dicipline and courage, learned so long ago, has been an enduring guiding light for me through these many years.
As a representative of St. Paul Mission Circle (La Habra, CA) we want to express our sadness at hearing the news of Sister Paula and Sister Margaret. We are praying for you and the families of these kind and giving women. May God watch over all of you and may everyone find solace in knowing God is near.
So sorry for your loss praying for their families RIP
Dear Sisters Susan, Sangeeta, Brenda and all our SCN family,
We your sisters in Arunodaya, Patna express our sadness and heartfelt condolences as we grieve the loss of our Sister Paula and Margaret Held. Our sincere prayers are with the families of these sisters. May their compassionate ministry to the poor and sick continue to comfort the ones they served. May the good God grant them eternal bliss and peace.
Our prayers for Sr. Paula and Sr. Margaret and their community of religious, as a member of the Vincentian family we pray in solidarity for their loving service to those in need and offer our prayers to their families.
Please accept my prayer and sympathy as you dear SCNs miss the earthly presence of one of your Sisters, gone so quickly to heaven and taken so tragically. May she and her companion Franciscan Sister rest in peace and God’s mercy upon their assailant(s). God love you all!
Eternal rest grant to Sr. Paula and Sister Margaret and let perpetual light shine on them. May their communities and families fine support from all of us who are praying for them.
Such a shock! With fond memories of the SCN sisters and of many retreats in Nazareth, my heart breaks for the community and for their families. We now have two new saints in heaven interceding for us.
We are in solidarity with you in praying for Srs. Paula and Margaret. Thanks for lives offered in the service of the poor.
Thank God for the two lives of these wonderful, caring, Nuns. They served God and their Community well. May they Rest In Peace and may peace and comfort come to the other members of their Community and to the Clinic and co-workers and patients that they served so well.
We, Sisters of Divine Providence of KY, hold Sr. Paula, Sr.Margaret, the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth, School Sisters of St. Francis, the people of Durant, Mississippi, and all who mourn in our hearts and prayers.
I would like to help keep their mission going….what can I do to help
Dear Heavenly father. Please bring peace to the family members and friends. Father let them catch the person responsible for this.soon in Jesus name Amen
I am a Lay Associate of the Humility of Mary Community. I am aware of all the love Sisters give to the world so am deeply grieved at the loss of Srs. Paula and Margaret. I will light a candle for your community this Sunday
Dear Sister Susan, We at Notre Dame grieve with you at the death of your Sisters Paula and Margaret. We pick up such varied reports about the manner of their death. Our condolence and prayer are with you, with the community and the family of those dear Sisters. Your message in the Google was full of mercy and forgiveness. May the Sisters rest in peace.
Sisters of Notre Dame, Provincial House, Patna
We,Sisters of St. Francis of Tiffin, join with you in prayer at the sudden and shocking death of both sisters. We pray for Sisters Paula and Margaret, all Sisters of Charity of Nazareth, the School Sisters of St. Francis, all those people whose lives were touched by the ministries of these two sisters and for the perpetrators of this horrendous act. May you know God’s peace.
The word says, “Touch not my anointed and do my prophet no harm.” These sisters are going to be fine. Their lives were lined up and they knew Christ as their personal saviour. But for the murderer, I pray that you ask God for forgiveness, I pray for your soul and I pray that you come forth and turn yourself in. As a Christian and law enforcement officer, I pray that you do the right thing. May God give the family and friends of these lovely ladies peace in the midst of this storm. Comfort them and let them know that you will never put no more on us than we can bear. I am praying for strength for each of you. Amen.
My sympathy and prayers are with you, communities, families, friends of Sister Paula and Sister Margaret. In this sad time, I celebrate with you the beauty, love, and hope that live on because Paula and Margaret vowed themselves to a life of love.
My heart goes out to all of you at the loss of Paula. Two wonderful people doing wonderful and needed work. I am sure they will be misses by the people they served.
Women with strenght have been martyred.
So sorry for the loss of these great women. I pray for all.
Our sympathy,prayers and support are with all of you.
Our prayers go out to you, the Sisters of St. Francis, and to the community in Mississippi. A tragic loss for everyone. May peace prevail.
I pray for the Lord’s comfort for this heartbreaking news! And I pray they find the personwho did this. I pray that the ministry of these two women will be continued in their honor. My condolences and love are with your community. May God bless you
Nuns and Priests are being murdered around the world….Evil has no reason…EVIL has no gender…………..It takes EVIL to murder Sisters of God…Enough is ENOUGH…….God bless you Sisters.
Our prayers and sympathy are with the families and communities of these two great and good women.
I am so sorry for such a tragic loss! Know that the Communities, Family, Friends and Co-workers are in my thoughts and prayers!! Sr. Margie
God’s hear was the first to break. Blessings and consolation to all who loved these faith-filled women.
Clare Walsh, mhsh
Please someone post how a memorial may be made in these two great womens’ honor. I’d like to help continue their ministry.
I share your sorrow at the tragic death of Sister Paula and her partner Sister Rose. They served the Gospel well, now may they rest in Peace! Critas Dei Urget Nos!
Father Joseph Bacheldor
Prayers for all whose lives have been touched by Sisters Paula and Margaret – especially their families and their Sisters. There is no way to understand this kind of senseless violence.
The priests here at our retirement community in Rhode Island were, of course, shocked and saddened by this terrible news. Our prayerful solidarity in this time of grief and loss. Fr. John Burger, Missionary Society of St Columban
Lord have mercy. Christ have mercy. Lord have mercy.
I was deeply shocked and saddened to hear about the brutal and senseless murders of the two nuns in Mississippi yesterday. My heart and prayers go out to both of these angels of mercy. May God give peace and comfort to both of them.
Heartfelt prayers from myself and the students of Vincentian Academy.
Prayers from our Bereavement team in Florida. May the dear Sisters send
us all graces and consolation from heaven to cope with this shocking and tremendous loss.
God Bless the Sisters of Charity at this sad time.
I am sorry to hear of the loss.
My connection is Our lady of Nazareth Academy, Wakefield, MA.
I was a student,(1967-1971),apparently just as Sister Paula Merrill was beginning her vocation.
Also, Sisters in Religious Life have made a wonderful difference both for me and for my family.
I am shocked to hear of these tragic deaths. Needless violence seems such an act of desperation. That you ask for prayer for those responsible shows you do not wish to cause further hurt. With you in Ireland, where I hold you in prayer, at this dreadful time.
It was a shocking news for me this morning. I am finding it very difficult to believe. I remember being with her for two days when we visited the sisters at Mississipi. Sister Jeanine had taken us to her home and to the hospital she worked. We had a wonderful time with her and that is very fresh in my mind. She was a wonderful person. I feel very sad.May they rest in peace.
Dear sister, family members and Co- workers,
Sorry about the sad news heard about our sisters. Assure you of our prayerful support at this time of pain.
Dear Sisters it is so sad to know that Srs. Paula Merrill and Margaret Held
who served the poor and the needy are no more. May their Souls Rest in Peace. My heartfelt condolences to our sisters and the families. Our prayers are with you all.
Our prayers go out to the families, friends and community of these two sisters, as well as prayers for the perpetrators. God bless each of you.
RIP dear sisters. Your good deeds live forever.
Patrick and I just heard the tragic news of the death of S.Paula and S. Margaret. May God Bless these two martyrs and comfort you in your loss.
We are saddened and horrified at the death of Paula and Margaret. We send our prayers for the community of people they ministered to and with and their religious communities . We pray for the perpetrators that they will be caught, that justice will be done and that they will be given the help they need. Many of us who ministered with them in Mississippi are saddened by the loss of two partners in ministry and friends.
We are very saddened to hear of the shocking news. Praying for Paula and her companion and all their family members.
The sisters at Dharan, Nepal
Our hearts are saddened to hear the tragic news of Sister Paula and Sister Margaret. Heaven has gained two new Saints.
Paula was a good person and a dear friend. Paula and Margaret
made a great team! My sympathy especially goes to her sister Rosemarie and her family. Paula will surely be missed by all who knew and loved her.
My wife and I live in Durant, MS. and have known sister Paula and sister Margaret for many years. We have come to love them and are depressed about the evil done to these two loving people. They truly cared about everyone around them, without looking at status, color, or income. Each year they gave school supplies to kids who would not have them otherwise. My wife made dolls and sister Paula knew so many young girls who would love to have one, either on a birthday or at Christmas. My wife and I will miss them, the world around us is less without them in it. Pray for us here in Mississippi.
I am so sorry to hear of the loss of your sister, our sister, Paula, and for the loss of Sister Margaret. I lift my prayers with a heavy heart and turn again to the God who loves and consoles us. May they rest in peace and may the peace of Christ be with all who are grieving.
How very sad for everyone involved. Two new saints who have walked among us. Special sympathy to the SSSF congregation and Mother Catherine Spalding’s Sisters of Charity of Nazareth from Mother Spalding’s cousin and his wife, an Associate of the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Thank you to all of the prayers for my beloved Sister Paula and Sister Margaret. They were truly women of God. Their work was selfless and done with love and caring for all of their patients. Please keep my family and Sister Margaret’s in your prayers as well as those poor souls who perpetrated this.
I am so sorry to hear this tragic news – all of the SCNs will be in our prayers along with this Mississippi community where Sister Paula served.
God bless these two amazing saints. Prayers for them and all of their Sisters and people they served so well.
I am so amazed by the work these sisters did for their community, they are true heroes.
No words can express the tragic loss you must feel I’m sure. May you feel the comfort of our God. Know of prayers being sent to you!
My prayers are with the community. Thank you for the work you do.
I have no words , but the prayers of this Protestant are with you .. As Is my grief .
My heart goes out to the SCN Community and to Paula and Margaret’s families and local community to whom they served! Paula and I were in the formation program at Nazareth just a few years apart, and I have read of Paula’s compassionate and caring support she gave to the people of Mississippi! I was so proud of her and the work she has done to bring justice and peace, comfort and hope to all she served. May God bless the seeds of her ministry to bear much fruit!
I am so so sorry for the loss of these two wonderful sisters. May they now enjoy the fullness of life after such a loving life here.
I have known both sister Paula and Margaret for ten years. My heart is heavy today. I count myself blessed to call them friends. Two more Godly women I have never met.
My heart aches at the loss of these faith-filled women. What a gift they have been to our world.
I am so sorry for such a loss both to their communities and the people they so generously loved and served.
From the Oblates of Mary Immaculate Associates, we offer you our deepest condolences and prayers.
I am deeply saddened by the news. Sending prayers to the SCN and SSSJ community.
My family and I moved away from the area over 4 years ago but while we lived there my children and I saw Sister Paula at the medical clinic. She was a great lady! My family and I are so saddened by this news! She was a wonderful person to know and she cared!! This will be devastating to that community I’m sure! God blessed us with their knowledge and caring hands! We are forever grateful!!
My husband and I just saw this sad story on the evening news and guessed the “Kentucky sister” might be a member of the SCN family. Our prayers are with you all and the people of Durant.
Oh my goodness, I am so saddened and horrified to read this! You all and the people they served are in my prayer.
From our Providence Family to yours we send our deepest condolences. May Providence continue to be with each of you at this time!
My sincere sympathy and prayers on the tragic death of these two sisters. How very sad.
I had the honor of working as communications director for the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth in the early 1990s and was absolutely amazed by the good work these brave women were doing throughout the world. While I worked there two SCNs, one in Belize and one in India, both passed away suddenly and unexpectedly under terrible circumstances, and I remember how very deeply these deaths affected the entire SCN community. I am so saddened by this news, and my heart is very heavy now. The SCN comunity, the people these two Sisters served, their families, and the perpetrators are all in my prayers. I hope that any investigation brings information that will help bring closure to all affected.
My sympathy and prayers to our SCN sisters. What a tragic loss!
If they are the SCN family, they are family to me. My prayers and love are sent to Nazareth and all places where SCN’s minister.
Graduate of St. John Grade School, Bellaire, Ohio 1968
Graduate of St John High School
I am a Lutheran pastor serving a parish in Jackson, MS and monthly visiting a very small parish just outside of Durant. Please know that the Lutherans of Mississippi will be praying for your community in your time of sadness and for the lives of Sister Paula and Sister Margaret. Though I never met them, we give thanks to God for their ministry and their faithfulness.
I met Paula and her sister when on a group tour of Italy. Beautiful people, both. Lovely inside and out! Always ready with a kind word, adventure and good laugh. May God welcome the souls of Sister Paula and Sister Margaret. My prayers are with their loved ones; especially Paula’s sister.
When Mary Monica Boll , Frances Rita and myself were in Holly Springs we were ALL in the same Faith Group with Paula. HER SISTER BOUGHT THEIR HOUSE as an investment. Margaret Held did the cooking and Paula did the maintenance+