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Sr. Anastasia Malisa, Poor Clare religious who died of COVID-19 at Rieti, Italy Sr. Anastasia Malisa, Poor Clare religious who died of COVID-19 at Rieti, Italy 

A much-loved Tanzanian religious, Sr. Anastasia has died of COVID-19

Some residents of Assisi and Rieti, in Italy, took to Facebook to express their sadness and gratitude for a Tanzanian religious sister, Anastasia Cristian Malisa. She succumbed to COVID-19 over the weekend.

Paul Samasumo – Vatican City

“Today, at 16.30, our Sister Anastasia, returned to Jesus, her spouse and only source of joy, after a terrible month of suffering from the coronavirus,” wrote one of the Poor Clares based in Rieti, last Saturday. The Poor Clares (Suore Clarisse Apostoliche) is the religious congregation to which Sr. Anastasia belonged. Sr. Anna, 60, as she was fondly known was laid to rest in Rieti, Monday.

Santa Lucia home for the elderly in Rieti

Sr Anastasia worked at Rieti’s Santa Lucia nursing home for the elderly. When several senior citizens at the old age home contracted the coronavirus disease, all residents and staff were tested for the disease. Sr. Anastasia’s COVID-19 test came out positive. Hardly a day after, she became seriously ill and was admitted to Rieti’s hospital, San Camillo De Lellis. On the evening of 29 March, her condition took a turn for the worst and she was transferred to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU). It was to be a month-long, excruciating fight for her life. Last Saturday, on 25 April, she succumbed to her illness and died.

A joyful life of simplicity

“A Sister who came from Africa, simple, kind, fully-fulfilled in her vocation as a religious sister and dedicated to the service of the little ones and our dear elderly. May the Lord, in His goodness, welcome her into his Kingdom of joy, reserved for his chosen ones,” was how her fellow Poor Clares described Sr. Anastasia.

The African nun with a warm smile

Eight years ago, Sr. Anastasia arrived in Rieti from the Italian city of Assisi. This week, several of those who knew her in Assisi where she first lived and worked as well as those of Rieti took to Facebook to express their affection and sentiments for “the African nun with a warm smile.” Others wrote, “We shall forever remember your joy and readiness to always give testimony to your calling.” #Lavocedelsilenzio wrote, “Rest your limbs now returned to mother earth in colours glistening as a scarf made of silk…” Some recalled her love and nostalgia for Africa. “It was not possible for us to bid you farewell, but we know that where we could not be, our prayers arrived.” There were many other tributes.

Arrived from Moshi, Tanzania

Sr. Anastasia came to Italy from Tanzania at the age of 34. She was from Tanzania’s Moshi District which lies on the lower slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro. As a Poor Clare, she first worked with children in the nursery schools and then eventually in the care home for the aged, the Casa di Riposo Santa Lucia of Rieti. In all, she lived in Italy for 26 years.

COVID-19 among women religious and priests

As of 28 April, the national tally according to the Italian Catholic newspaper, Avvenire, was 118 priests who have died of the coronavirus pandemic in Italy.

COVID-19 has also been devastating the ranks of female Catholic congregations worldwide. In Italy alone, the numbers of religious sisters who have died of COVID-19 surpasses those of priests by far.  It has been difficult and challenging to reconstruct the exact figures of the women religious deceased. Female religious are more vulnerable because many of them work in hospitals; run nursing and retirement homes, and live closely together in communities.

The death of Kenya’s Bishop Silas Njiru in Italy

Meanwhile, Catholics in Kenya have also been paying tribute and mourning the demise of Bishop Emeritus Silas Njiru. Bishop Njiru was the second Bishop of Kenya’s Meru Diocese. According to a representative of the Consolata Missionaries in Italy, Fr. Pedro Jose da Silva Luoro, after his retirement, Bishop Njiru lived as a resident of the Blessed Joseph Allamano House for the elderly in Alpignano, Turin Italy. He passed away on Tuesday, 28 April due to COVID-19. He was 92 years.

29 April 2020, 11:45