Church in South Sudan Mourns Sudden Death of a Faith-filled Kenyan Missionary Nun
CANAA || By Father Don Bosco Onyalla, Nairobi || 11 June 2018
A woman of deep faith, a great apostle, a mother to all, a great humble Christian, resilient in all odds, a humble servant of God, caring and loving, a big loss to us all, surely in heaven praying for us… these are just but a small sample of the way Sr. Mary Mumu, a member of the Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd (OLCGS) is being remembered by various people who have known her.
In a message addressed to all Religious Superiors Association of South Sudan (RSASS), Sr. Teresa Mogesi, MCESM, stated, “The Catholic Diocese of Rumbek regrets to announce the sudden death of our beloved Sr. Mary Zipporah Mumu which happened yesterday in Nairobi _ Kenya. She left Rumbek one week ago for her yearly rest and there was no health complains so far.”
“We learned (about) the death of Sister Mary Mumu on Friday with shock and regret,” the Coordinator of the Catholic Diocese of Rumbek (DOR), Father John Mathiang, told CANAA Monday, June 11 and added, “Sister left (Rumbek) for Nairobi when she was not sick.”
Sr. Mumu was pronounced dead at Nairobi’s Karen Hospital on Thursday night, June 7 where she was rushed after collapsing at her religious congregation’s premises in Langata, Nairobi.
She had returned to the community house after spending most of that Thursday downtown Nairobi procuring items for St. Monica's Women Promotion Centre in Rumbek Diocese, which she founded well over 17 years ago with the mission to empower South Sudanese women.
Since the death of Bishop Caesar Mazzolari of Rumbek diocese in July 2011, the clergy and religious ministering in the vast diocese still await a shepherd.
Sr. Florence Kisilu, OLCGS Provincial leader of Eastern Central Africa Province told CANAA Monday, June 11 that funeral arrangements are not yet finalized and could not say when and exactly where Sr. Mumu, whose body is currently at Nairobi’s Umash funeral home, is going to be laid to rest.
Meanwhile, those who have interacted with Sr. Mumu have expressed glowing tribute to her person and mission since the news of her passing on was shared.
“I knew her since Kakuma when I was alleluia dancer,” South Sudanese Veronica Ajok commented on social media, recalling her active participation during the celebration of Sunday mass at the Kakuma refugee camp in Northern Kenya in 1999 where she first met Sr. Mumu.
“Since arriving at Holy Family Parish in Rumbek township around the year 2000, Sr. Mumu has always had one mission – to empower women with skills that help them earn income,” the Director of Good News Radio in Rumbek, Luka Gumwell told CANAA Sunday, June 10.
Gumwell continued, “The widows, single mothers and several other marginalised women have over the years flocked to St. Monica Women Center to get skills in tailoring, baking bread, soap making and home care. Even with very little knowledge of the Dinka language, Sr. Mumu would labor to give lessons every day to the women before they could proceed to any other activity. Many women are able to read and write thanks to Sr. Mumu.”
“It is exciting and inspirational to see lepers happily handling sawing machines,” Gumwell said referring to the various centers Sr. Mumu established in reaching out to marginalized women.
“With the sudden death of Sr. Mumu, it is hard to tell what will become of the Center that has changed lives of several women in the Diocese,” Gumwell said and went on to pose, “Who will be patient enough to listen to women? Who will give hope to them?”
“I heard just this morning of Sr. Mumu, a great humble Christian,” Comboni Father Fernando Colombo who served as Rumbek diocesan Administrator after the passing on of Bishop Caesar Mazzolari in July 2011 told CANAA Sunday, June 10 and added, “She is surely in heaven praying for us.”
More people who have worked closely with Sr. Mumu in South Sudan have also recalled her unique personality and focus on things that matter.
“I have never met a woman strong like her, lovingly dedicated to her mission and courageously determined to bring it ahead notwithstanding all obstacles and at times lack of appreciation she may have encountered on her way,” Ernst Ulz who is currently project and youth Coordinator of Focolare Movement in Eastern Africa stated in a letter addressed to Rumbek diocesan administration and staff.
“An image will remain always impressed in my memory: Sr. Mumu - very short in stature – surrounded by two dozens of very tall South Sudanese women who loved and respected her as and more than themselves, because Sr. Mumu loved them as and more than herself,” Ulz recalled.
“She never gave up, even if projects failed, but invented new ideas, new approaches in order not to have to abandon the women entrusted to her,” Ulz continued, adding, “It was always a pleasure for me to work with her and I thank God that he allowed me to support a bit her work for St. Monica’s Women’s Group, which I deeply admired.”
Relating the timing of Sr. Mumu’s death on the eve of the Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, which is followed by the feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, to God’s plans for His chosen ones, Jesuit Brother Herbert Liebl said, “what more beautiful day can the Lord have chosen for this Apostle for South Sudan … as she reached the heavenly home.”
“I am most happy to have met Sr. Mary Mumu, Br. Liebl said and added, “we have an advocate for us now in heaven.”
“It is our faith that God has called her to stay now with him near his heart as his beloved spouse and to harvest in abundance the fruits of her tireless work. From there she will continue supporting the Diocese of Rumbek with her intercession, more than we may be able to imagine,” Ulz of Focolare concluded in his letter to Rumbek diocese administration and staff.
Sr. Mumu is originally from the Catholic diocese of Meru in Kenya.
Below is the tribute from Sr. Orla Treacy, Principal of Loreto Girls’ Secondary School in Rumbek. Further below are sampled reactions from social media.
Sr. Orla Treacy, IBVM on Sr. Mary Mumu, OLCGS
She was the mother to all – the women, girls and to us as Religious in the diocese. She was the longest serving sister and she was the one to welcome us all over the years – we all started life with her in her home until we were ready to move into our own community homes – The Evangelising Sisters, Missionaries of Charity and Loreto.
When Loreto first came to Rumbek in 2005 Sr Mary became firm friends with our leadership team and when we arrived she continued to reach out to us to act as and a mentor and a role model for us all. She enjoyed a good laugh and despite the many challenges she always had time to sit and listen. She believed so much in fighting for justice and in standing for women in the face of injustice, counselling them, challenging, training them and loving them.
She never gave up despite and the many challenges she faced. She was a woman of deep faith and when things were tough and they often were she turned her mind and heart to Jesus. She saw the face of the suffering Christ in her women each day but she believed in hope and the dream of better days for her women.
Since the start of our Loreto school ten years ago Mary has worked quietly in the background supporting us – she has been a member of our board of management, helping us to establish practices and policies which support the girl child and ensuring the poorest were always welcomed. She set up a tailoring school with her women and they provided uniforms for many of the Schools in the Diocese. She believed in teaching her women to be independent and not dependent.
She is a big loss to us all in the Diocese of Rumbek. May she rest in Peace. And may we continue the work she was so committed to in caring for the women.
Reactions on Facebook following Sr. Mary Mumu's Demise
Kathleen MacLennan: Shocking news the passing of this wonderful Sister - may she now rest in peace and have a great reunion with Bishop Caesar Mazzolari!
Peter Mamer De Makoy: Unbelievable! How could it be, I just met her the other day I was in Rumbek. Death is so cruel, R.I.P Mama Mumu, whole D.O.R will miss you.
Fr. John Waweru (Rumbek): Sr. Mary Zippora Mumu was on 12th May 2018 for a day with women group in our area. May her Soul rest in peace. I personally will miss her.
Mark Simuyu Barasa: I am a beneficiary of her great generosity. When I arrived in Rumbek for the first time in Sep 2005, and with nowhere to go, she helped me settle in as I waited for my employer. I had travelled from Yei to Rumbek on land (...no roads by then) a journey that took me some 3 weeks. Upon arriving Rumbek, I missed my employer and my instincts told me to find sanctuary at DOR and she is the first person I met! After sharing my ordeal, she gracefully gave me accommodation and food for a week as I connected with my employer. I last met her in Oct 2014 when I visited her house in Rumbek where she facilitated exchanging SSP for Kenya shillings. Fare thee well Sr. Mary Ziporrah.
Wani Robinson Odong: May the good Lord forgive her earthly inequities and grants her eternal rest. Diocese of Rumbek, especially women group will surely miss her. Resilient in all odds, a humble servant of God, caring and loving. May her soul find peace.
Ernst Ulz (Focolare): A hero has gone to heaven - she has spent two decades of her life to lift up women of Rumbek South Sudan.
Luka Ellen D’Gumwell: Sr. Mumu has inspired lives of many women in D.O.R and will be missed. May the Lord give her the crown of life for she has run the race.
Kocdedhie Thomas Makuek: Sr. Mumu had been very instrumental in bringing up women of Catholic Diocese of Rumbek for many years, she will be dearly missed by all faithful of DOR! May her soul rest in peace.
Lilian Angalika: Oh no no what happened to her ... she was a wonderful sister...all my life in Rumbek I have known her as a faithful soul... RIP SR Mumo.
Titus O. Pacho: My heartfelt condolences, I worked with Sr. in Rumbek in 2009/10. May her soul rest in peace.
Agal Pa Ocitti: What a sad news to hear Wada? my condolence to DOR family, her Congregation and her own family and may God grant her eternal rest.