They died in the Liberian civil war 25 years ago. But they weren’t forgotten

By Katherine Burgess/

A monument commemorates five Catholic nuns as well as many others killed during the Liberian civil war. Courtesy photo

There is a concrete cross on the Liberian road where nuns Barbara Ann Muttra and Mary Joel Kolmer were killed.

Last month, Sister Therese Wetta of the Adorers of the Blood of Christ visited that site along with others influenced by the five nuns who were killed during the Liberian civil war in October 1992.

The Adorers are a religious community of Catholic women worldwide and have had a central house in Wichita since 1902.

“We often say we plant seeds and the growth continues to happen after we leave,” Wetta said. “St. Paul said many times we will never know the fruits of our labor. Well, that’s what it was. The sisters really didn’t know, but we saw and we heard the fruits of their good works through the people who had been their students or people who had worked with them.”

Another cross marks the Adorers’ home in Gardnersville, Liberia, where Sisters Shirley Kolmer, Kathleen McGuire and Agnes Mueller were shot to death three days after Muttra and Mary Joel Kolmer died. All five women were from Illinois.

Three Adorers, two associates and two Newman University students made a pilgrimage to Liberia to mark the 25th anniversary of the deaths of the five missionaries.

Wetta had a slightly different goal than the others. While her trip was part of the pilgrimage, she also sought to assess whether the Adorers should establish a new presence in Liberia, their first since the five were killed.

She met with local bishops and priests to discuss whether a new group of Adorers should come to the country.

The Adorers are, in a sense, present in the country through the blood of the five women, Wetta said, but she wants there to be a living presence as well. She expects a decision to be made by October on whether the Adorers should fully return to Liberia.

The deaths of the five women brought the work of the Adorers to a halt in Liberia in October 1992. The women had taught, trained health care workers, done religious education and rehabilitated people with psychological wounds from the war.

Every one of the five has something named after her in Liberia, whether a school or a clinic, Wetta said.

Erin Schueller, a sophomore nursing major at Newman, said she could see the ripple effect the women had on the country, even 25 years later.

The group traveled to the country in May, visiting multiple places where the five lived and worked.

One Sunday, the group visited the parish where the five women had worshiped. There, they attended Mass and listened as people shared memories of the five.

“This man said that even though the sisters weren’t living there anymore, they could never be taken out of the land, because their blood was in the soil,” Schueller recalled. “He said it couldn’t be washed away.”

On Oct. 20-21, a special commemoration will be held in Wichita and at other Adorers locations to remember the five women. It will include prayer and the opportunity to share memories about them.

Source: News Now/ The Wichita Eagle Online

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About Cholo Brooks 17144 Articles
Joel Cholo Brooks is a Liberian journalist who previously worked for several international news outlets including the BBC African Service. He is the CEO of the Global News Network which publishes two local weeklies, The Star and The GNN-Liberia Newspapers. He is a member of the Press Union Of Liberia (PUL) since 1986, and several other international organizations of journalists, and is currently contributing to the South Africa Broadcasting Corporation as Liberia Correspondent.