The School Sisters of St. Francis offer our heartfelt thanks to the thousands of people who have contacted our congregation to offer their prayers and kind words of condolence on the tragic deaths of Sister Margaret Held and Sister Paula Merrill of the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth.
We have been greatly touched by the outpouring of support from religious communities of women and men from around the world, as well as parishes, schools and universities, organizations, companies, Sister’s former students and patients, and so many other individuals.
Your cards and letters, emails, phone calls, and offerings of memorial Masses and gifts in remembrance of Sister Margaret have been a great comfort and gift to us all.
Please know that you are in our prayers, as we give thanks for the love and kindness you have shown to our heartbroken and grieving community.
By Sister Maureen McCarthy, SSSF, and Sister Elsa Paul Chiriyankandath, SSSF
September 2, 2016
A Joint Statement from the School Sisters of St. Francis and the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth
August 28, 2016
We two congregations ask that we move forward together at this time in a prayerful and healing manner, focusing on the lives of Sisters Paula Merrill and Margaret Held, two compassionate, faith-filled women. We want to reiterate our beliefs as women of faith, that we value life. For years now the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth and the School Sisters of St. Francis have worked to abolish the death penalty, even as we seek justice and truth. Let us hold everyone involved in prayer.
A Statement on the Arrest of a Suspect
A statement from the U.S. Province Leadership Team, School Sisters of St. Francis
August 27, 2016
We have been made aware this morning that an arrest has been made and charges have been filed in connection with the deaths of Sister Margaret Held of our community and Sister Paula Merrill of the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth. The suspect has been charged with two counts of capital murder.
There is still much we do not know about the suspect and the circumstances that led to this brutal and senseless crime. The Mississippi Bureau of Investigation and local authorities will continue to keep us apprised of details as the process of justice progresses. We will share more information as it emerges and as we are able.
We wish to offer our deepest appreciation to the Mississippi state and local law enforcement teams and to the many other public servants who have worked tirelessly the past two days, under extremely difficult circumstances, to investigate the sisters’ deaths and gather evidence. They have been unfailingly kind and courteous to our congregation as they have kept us informed of their progress. We are most grateful for the care, consideration, and dedication with which they have carried out their work.
We also wish to thank the hundreds of people and organizations who offered their prayers and words of support in the wake of the sisters’ deaths. Your kindness is deeply appreciated by the School Sisters of St. Francis at this tremendously difficult time.
Mississippi Memorial Services Announced
August 26, 2016
Mississippi services for Sister Margaret Held, SSSF and Sister Paula Merrill, SCN, have been announced.
There will be a vigil wake service, with the Bishop Joseph Kopacz of the Diocese of Jackson, on Sunday, Aug. 28, at 5:30 PM at St. Thomas Catholic Church, 200 Boulevard Street, Lexington.
There will be a Memorial Mass on Monday, Aug. 29, at 10:00 AM at the Cathedral of St. Peter the Apostle, 123 N. West St., Jackson.
Arrangements are still pending for services at St. Joseph Chapel in Milwaukee.
Sister Margaret Held
Sister Paula Merrill
A Statement from the School Sisters of St. Francis
United States Province Leadership Team
August 25, 2016
It is with heavy hearts that we report the deaths of Sister Margaret Held, a member of our Province, and Sister Paula Merrill, a nurse with the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth, with whom Sister Margaret worked and lived in Durant, Mississippi. We are awaiting more information from official sources. Local authorities confirm that both sisters were found dead at their home, and that there is an ongoing criminal investigation.
We are deeply shocked and grieved by this terrible news. Sister Margaret has been a member of our community for 49 years and lived her ministry caring for and healing the poor. Please keep Sister Margaret, Sister Paula, and their families and loved ones in your prayers. We will share more information as we are able.