JUBA, South Sudan — A Slovak nun and medical doctor died Friday from gunshot wounds she suffered in an attack in Yei, South Sudan, last week.
Sister Veronika Terézia Racková was shot and wounded by three soldiers on May 16, and she died from her injuries on May 20, said Martin Kramara, spokesman of the Slovak Bishops’ Conference (KBS), according to Slovak news sources.
The sister had been driving a patient to a nearby hospital when she was attacked, shot in the stomach and suffered multiple other injuries, including fractures to her pelvis, according to several reports. She underwent surgery at a local hospital before being flown to Nairobi, Kenya, for further treatment.
A member of the Holy Spirit Missionary Sisters, Sister Veronika was the head of St. Bakhita’s Medical Center in Yei. She has also served in Italy, the Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Ireland, the United Kingdom, Indonesia and Ghana, according to the News Agency of the Slovak Republic.
“Precious indeed is the life given for mission,” said a tribute post to Sister Veronika, posted on her order’s Facebook page.
“Thank you so much for all your precious prayers and support extended. Though we are in deep pain and sorrow for the death of Sister Veronika, we offer peace, healing and compassion to the people in South Sudan, (for) whom she gave her life, especially those who wounded her. May the love of the Triune God be sown in every heart,” the message read.
A Mass was celebrated in memory of Sister Veronika over the weekend at Yei’s Christ the King Cathedral in South Sudan, according to Vatican Radio.
Father Zachariah Angutuwa Sebit, vicar general of Yei Diocese, told the tearful congregation at the Mass that Sister Veronika knew she was dying.
According to media reports in South Sudan, three suspects have been arrested in connection with the shooting: soldiers from the Joint Military Unit, which provides security for civilians at night.
Earlier in the week, Father Emmanuel Sebit, secretary general of the Diocese of Yei, told media that he believed the shooting of Sister Veronika was “a tragic accident,” since it happened on the eve of anniversary celebrations marking 30 years of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLA), and the military had been deployed in large numbers that night to protect civilians.
At the Mass, Erkolano Lodu Tombe, bishop of Yei, spoke of his sadness at the death of Sister Veronika, especially at a time when the war-torn country had just begun to take steps towards peace. He also urged the government to punish soldiers who abuse their role while protecting civilians.
Yei River State Information Minister Stephen Lodu Onesimo said the shooting was an “undisciplined and barbaric act,” and the perpetrators “must be brought to justice.”
Sister Maria Jerly, Provincial Regional Superior of the Holy Spirit Missionary Sisters, told journalists that the death of Sister Veronika was a tragedy for all of her sisters, especially those working in South Sudan. Still, she reiterated the order’s commitment to staying in the area despite the risks, reported Vatican Radio.
“It is our hope to continue to serve the needy people of this great nation of Africa, despite this unfortunate incident.”