Bishop hails Sr. Luisa’s service to the poor and Church in Haiti
The late Sr. Luisa Dell'Orto (CARITAS AMBROSIANA)
As Haitians hold a procession in honor of Sr. Luisa Dell’Orto who was killed in an armed attack in Port-au-Prince on Saturday, Bishop Pierre-André Dumas of Anse-à-Veau and Miragoâne diocese upholds the late nun’s work as a point of reference for the Church in Haiti.
Sr. Luisa Dell’Orto, a Little Sister of the Gospel of Charles de Foucauld, was killed on Saturday in Haiti, after falling victim to an armed attack during which she was critically injured. She was rushed to the hospital where she died shortly after.
The 64-year-old nun, originally from Lomagna, in Italy’s Lecco district, had lived in Haiti for twenty years, dedicating her life to the service of the poor and street children.
Pope Francis praised her service during his Angelus on Sunday, saying that she “made her life a gift to others, even to the point of martyrdom” as he offered his condolences to her family and religious community.
Procession in honor of Sr. Luisa
In the wake of the tragic death of the nun, a crowd of Haitians from the neighbourhood where she lived held a procession on Wednesday to the site of the armed attack that led to her death in Port-au-Prince, the Haitian capital.
Sister Luisa died just two days shy of turning 65 years, and the crowd that gathered in her honor, made sure to remember her birthday.
On Thursday afternoon, a Mass will be celebrated in her parish, with the presence of her earthly remains.
Her home parish in Lomagna, Lecco, in Italy, also gathered for the recital of the Rosary on Monday, led by Archbishop Mario Delpini of Milan.
Not afraid to serve
In an interview with Vatican News' Federico Piana, the Bishop of the Haitian Anse-à-Veau and Miragoâne diocese, Bishop Pierre-André Dumas, remembered the nun for her courageous service, even in dangerous neighbourhoods.
The Bishop recalled that Sr. Luisa worked in a “difficult and violent area in the outskirts of the capital, Port-au -Prince” – an area that the Church had indicated to have high levels of violence. Yet, he continued, “Sister Luisa was not afraid to go to the most infamous slum to bring to concrete help to everyone.”
Sr. Luisa with young Haitians
Service to the poor and the Church
Sr. Luisa’s work with the poor made her popular in the neighbourhood. She was the backbone of “Charles House”, which provides shelter for street children in the impoverished slums of the Haitian capital.
The nun was also well integrated into the diocese and the Church in Haiti. She taught philosophy at the diocese’s Notre Dame Seminary and at the Salesian Center for Higher Education (CESADES).
Bishop Dumas said that Sr. Luisa’s work strengthened the Church in Haiti. First, he explained, “she worked very well on the education of young children, creating, for example, dance classes and bringing out the hidden aptitudes of children and young people, enhancing them with professionalism.”
Secondly, the Bishop added, “She empathized with the poor. For our local Church she became a point of reference also because hers was an existence lived in martyrdom: a discreet person who made no noise but embodied the true values of the Gospel. We could also appreciate all this when she was a formator at the major seminary, an excellent job that lasted more than twenty years."
Maddalena Boschetti, a lay fidei donum missionary in Haiti for almost 20 years, also remembered Sr. Luisa for her service to the poor.
“She was one of the friends who accompanied me the most, helped me during these years," said Boschetti. “A missionary friend, chosen by the Lord who called her and asked her to live, not just to die, but to live for her poor, for the neediest people in this country."
Insecurity and social instability in Haiti
Though the motive for the killing of Sr. Luisa is unclear, Haiti, one of the countries with the most severe poverty levels in the Western hemisphere, has had challenges with insecurity and social instability. The devastating earthquakes in 2010 and 2021 have also dealt a huge blow to the country’s economic health.
Bishop Dumas explained the situation on the ground, noting that there “is a chronic lack of basic necessities and a climate of social instability that Haiti has been experiencing for a long time.” He added that clashes between clans have also worsened the situation of insecurity to boot and kidnappings and murders “occur with worrying frequency.”
In the face of this, the Bishop said that the Church has been channeling efforts towards establishing peace among the factions in conflict.
"For too long" said Monsignor Dumas, "the Haitian people have been suffering; we need to give them a real chance for redemption. There are some signs of hope on the horizon: many are realizing that this is not the way forward. Those who have responsibilities must be able to find solutions, while also listening to the advice of the Church."
Sr. Luisa at the service to the poor and the Church
Pope Francis praises work of nun killed in Haiti
Pope Francis expresses his condolences to the family and to the religious community of Sister Luisa Dell’Orto, who was killed in Haiti on Saturday.
Sister Luisa Dell’Orto “made her life a gift to others, even to the point of martyrdom,” Pope Francis said on Sunday at the Angelus, as he offered his condolences to the family and religious community of the Italian nun who was killed Sunday in Haiti.
Just last year, in a letter to a missionary group, Sister Luisa had written of her decision to continue her work in Haiti. “You will tell me I am a bit crazy. Why stay here? Why expose yourself to ‘risk’? What is the point of living in such discomfort? Wouldn’t it be better for people to solve their own problems?
“We cannot keep silent about what we have seen and heard.”
"To be able to count on someone is important in order to live! And witnessing that you can count on the solidarity that comes from faith and love of God is the greatest gift we can offer.”
On Saturday, Sr Luisa was seriously injured during an armed attack in the streets of the Haitian capital, Port-au-Prince. She was rushed to hospital, but died shortly afterwards, just two days shy of her 65th birthday.
Sister Luisa was a member of the Little Sisters of the Gospel, a religious community inspired by St Charles de Foucauld, and had lived in Port-au-Prince for more than two decades, “dedicated above all to the service of street children,” as Pope Francis recalled on Sunday.
“Here, yes, she really gave her life for the work, that is certainly a fact,” said Maria Adele Dell’Orto, Sister Luisa’s biological sister, in remarks to Vatican News. “She was aware that something might happen... because it’s obvious, even in her last letter she said so, that the situation was very difficult. But she was keen to stay and bear witness.”
Maria Adele was comforted by the fact that her sister had followed path taken by St Charles. “In these hours, I think of how she always lived in the footesteps of Charles de Foucauld, and today I think that she died like him.”
In his own remarks at the Angelus on Sunday, Pope Francis commended Sr Luisa’s soul to God, and prayed for the people of Haiti, “especially for the little ones, that they may have a more serene future, without misery and violence.”
By Benedict Mayaki, SJ and Vatican News staff reportersVatican News