Family members of Sister Annselna outside their home at Kutlu Bhandar village in Gumla district. Telegraph picture
The pall of gloom extended 1,814km from Kutlu Bhandar in Jharkhand's Gumla district to Bangalore, Karnataka, on Sunday as friends, family members, priests and Cardinal Telesphore P. Toppo mourned the Yemen massacre that claimed one of our own.
More than 150 people - men, women and children - attended an early morning mass in the remote Gumla village, under Dumri thana area, which is the birthplace of Sister Annselna (57), who along with three nuns and 12 others, were gunned down at the Yemeni port city of Aden on Friday.
The special mass, held 170km from state capital Ranchi for more than an hour, was conducted by Cyprian Kujur, the parish priest of the church at Yajamal, a village 5km from Kutlu Bhandar.
"It is my earnest desire that the body of my sister be brought to India and be buried in her homeland. I do not want her lying in a foreign land where she was brutally murdered," septuagenarian farmer Vincent Minj, the elder brother of Sister Annselna, told The Telegraph over phone from Gumla.
Vincent said the last time the family had seen her was in 2008. "Annselna was then working with the Missionaries of Charity in Calcutta. Later, she was sent to Yemen to serve the old and the poor," the elderly man's voice choked as he perhaps visualised his sister falling to bullets fired by two gunmen at a Missionaries of Charity convent and nursing home for the elderly and the disabled in Aden, the provisional capital of Yemen.
Though the bereaved brother expressed his heartfelt desire, Sister Annselna is being laid to rest in Aden. Sister Sebastino, the regional superior of Missionaries of Charity in Ranchi, had on Saturday clarified to The Telegraph that tradition demanded that nuns are interred at the place of their martyrdom.
Cardinal Toppo, currently attending the 32nd plenary assembly of the Catholic Bishops Conference of India (CBCI) at St John's Medical College in Bangalore, expressed his shock and profound sadness at what happened in Yemen.
"I do not know what to say. I am at a loss of appropriate words," the Cardinal, who took time off from the hectic deliberations at the CBCI conclave to speak to The Telegraph over phone from Bangalore, said.
The CBCI is the highest policy-making body of the Roman Catholic Church in the country. The CBCI plenary, which commenced on March 2, will conclude on March 9.
"This is an act of wanton killing; a pointless murder of nuns who had opted to lead a life of celibacy; to be of service to God, the poor and the needy. The dedicated sisters were brave women who had chosen to ignore the ongoing turmoil and violence in Yemen to be by the side of the elderly and the needy," Toppo said.
He added, "We are in the midst of Lent, a 40-day period during which Christians the world over spend their time in prayers, fasting and self-denial. This unfortunate incident has shaken me to the core."
What is your message for the family of Sister Annselna? Tell [email protected]