More than 300 people came to a small church to say farewell to two nuns killed in their Mississippi home, even though more than half had to watch the service called vigil for the deceased on a monitor outside.
A funeral Mass for Sisters Margaret Held and Paula Merrill, both 68, will be celebrated today at the cathedral in Jackson, even as authorities continue to investigate the harrowing crime.
About 145 people filled St Thomas Church in Lexington, where the nuns led Bible study.
A monitor was placed outside where another 160 people sat on folding chairs and others stood to watch the service led by Bishop Joseph Kopacz of the Jackson Diocese.
The church’s priest, the Rev Gregory Plata, spoke about how far-reaching the nuns’ work was, and how much they’ll be missed.
They worked in a clinic for the poor in Lexington, about 10 miles from their home in Durant.
The final hymn, described as Sister Margaret Held’s favorite, was “How Can I Keep from Singing?”
Afterward, nuns from the dead women’s orders, people from other faiths, and members of the community, black and white, embraced the women’s families.
The killing shocked people in the small communities where the women committed their lives to helping the poor.
Rodney Earl Sanders, 46, of Kosciusko, Mississippi, has been arrested and charged in the stabbings.
The county sheriff said Sanders confessed to the killings although many people are struggling to comprehend why anyone would want to take the two women’s lives.
Their bodies were found in their Durant, Mississippi, home after they failed to show up for work Thursday at the health clinic.
Willie March, the sheriff of Holmes County where the killings occurred, said Saturday that police work and tips from the community led police to Sanders.
Authorities have said Sanders was developed as a person of interest early in the investigation.
March said he had been briefed by Durant police and Mississippi Bureau of Investigation officials who took part in Sanders’ interrogation and was told that Sanders confessed to the killings and gave no reason for the crimes. The sheriff said the investigation is ongoing.