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Yemen attack: Nun left 40 years ago, all family may get are ‘blood-stained clothes’

It was when a team of the Missionaries of Charity reached Bhandar Kutlu, nearly 180 km from Ranchi, that the family came to know of the attack, and her death.

Written by Prashant Pandey | Gumla |
Updated: March 6, 2016 8:09:48 am
Cecilia Minj, nun Cecilia Minj, nun death, nun Cecilia Minj death, Missionaries of Charity, Vincent Minj, Sister Anselm, Diocese of Gumla, nation news, india news The family of Sister Anselm, who was killed in a terror attack in Yemen on Friday. Prashant Pandey

ALL they have left of Cecilia Minj here is a framed, fraying photograph, in habit. Little else remains of the then 20-year-old who left home 40 years ago to join the Missionaries of Charity, and died in a terror attack in Yemen on Friday.

It was when a team of the Missionaries of Charity reached Bhandar Kutlu, nearly 180 km from Ranchi, that the family came to know of the attack, and her death. They were barely in touch with her, and no government official has contacted them yet.

Cecilia’s brother Vincent Minj can’t escape the irony of it. Nearly 80 now and a former evangelist himself, he says he took Cecilia to join the Missionaries of Charity in Ranchi after she had survived a fall in a well near their home. He was the eldest among six siblings, Cecilia the youngest and the only girl.

“I thought that if God had given her another life, it had to be used in His service. So I just took her along with me and got her admitted to the Missionaries of Charity,” he says. He had begun working as a preacher for the Mission in his village, half of whose population is Christian, by then.

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“Cecilia was eating something and playing when she accidentally fell into the well,” recalls Vincent. Luckily, the well, located close to the house, was not too deep and there was little water.

Vincent remembers hiding the fact that he was taking Cecilia to become a nun from their father, telling him they were going to Ranchi for her studies. His father didn’t protest much later, he says. In the order, Cecilia came to be known as Sister M Anselm and moved first to Kolkata, and then to the US, Iraq, Rome, Jordan and, lastly, Yemen.

“I have been told she was serving breakfast when she was shot dead by the terrorists,” Vincent says.

The last time the family saw Sister Anselm was in 2010, when she came home for a month in the summer. “She helped villagers even then,” recalls Vincent.

Struggling to add more about a girl they no longer knew, he adds, “She was helping the poor and old and the downtrodden all through her life. That was why Sister Anselm left home as a 20-yr-old, all the family may get of the nun is a ‘blood-stained cloth’

I had given her to the Mission. What more do I say?… As you know, once one has joined the Mission, family does not mean anything.”
One of their brothers works as a farmer in the village, another is employed in a tea estate in Andman and Nicobar Islands, while another retired from Tata Motors and is now based in Jamshedpur. It’s this Jamshedpur-based brother who talked to Sister Anselm once in a while over the phone, though the family doesn’t remember when they last had a conversation.

Kutlu has poor network connectivity and they didn’t try contacting Anselm from there, Vincent’s son William said.

William hoped the death of Sister Anselm would draw the government’s attention towards their plight. Vincent has seven more children, and farming no longer provides enough.

Vicar General (Diocese of Gumla) Father Cyprian Kullu, who led the Missonaries of Charity team to Sister Anselm’s house, also hoped the government should intervene.

Describing Sister Anselm’s death as “martyrdom”, Kullu added, “In her order, a nun is allowed to meet her family after a gap of 10 years. If she last visited in 2010, she would have been allowed to come home in 2020. But that was not to be.”

As per another rule of the order, nuns and priests are buried at the place where they were last working. So Sister Anselm is likely to be given a burial in Yemen itself. “There is no question of the body coming back home, because the person concerned is supposed to have left worldly attachments. However, tribals have a practice of keeping something belonging to a deceased as a memory. If the family asks for it, we would try and help,” says Kullu.

“Maybe, (send back) a piece of blood-stained clothes or some other belonging…”

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