Saint Anuarite

Member of the Sisters of the Holy Family

Marie-Clémentine Anuarite Nengapeta (29 December 1939 -1 December 1964) born Anuarite Nengapeta.

Remembered for

She is commemorated as the first Bantu woman raised on the altars with her beatification on August 15, 1985 by Pope John Paul II.

She is declared a martyr of purity.

Her story

Anuarite was born into an animistic family. At the age of 16 Anuarite expressed her intention to became a nun.  Her parents were against this idea.  But Anuarite was not easily discouraged and, on her own initiative and  requested to be admitted to the convent.

She was initially refused to the convent  because or her was too young at the time. She later joined the Bafwabaka community. In 1959, Anuarite took her vows and became Sister Marie-Clémentine.

In 1964, Mulele rebellion broke out in  Congo and in the space of a few weeks it occupied most of the country. The Simba rebels clearly opposed everything western and this included but also indigenous monks and nuns because they suspected them of being in cohoots with foreigners.

In November 1964, they arrived at the Bafwabaka convent and loaded all 46 nuns onto a truck to take them to Wamba. The move was for security reasons, the nuns were told. Nevertheless, the truck changed direction and went to Isiro where the nuns were taken to Colonel Yuma Déo’s house.

All the sisters except for Anuarite were moved again, this time to a nearby house called “the blue house.” One of the Simba leaders, Colonel Ngalo, with the help of a soldier named Sigbande, tried to convince Anuarite to be his wife.  His first  proposal was rejected and repeatedly refused, even after the furious soldiers isolated her and threatened her with death.

Meanwhile, the other nuns in the blue house refused to eat without the presence of their mother superior. At supper time, Anuarite shared a dish of rice and sardines with Mother Xavéria but could not eat much. She warned her sisters not to drink the beer provided by the Simbas because they were in mortal peril. She declared that she was ready to die defending her virginity.

Later that night, Colonel Olombe, with a group of Simbas, sent the nuns to bed, allowing them to sleep in one room as long as Anuarite remained behind. Very troubled and anxious, Anuarite asked the mother superior to pray for her.

Anuarite attempted to escape but was caught and a fierce struggle ensued. Between the blows, Anuarite had the strength to say: I forgive you for you know not what you are doing. The colonel  called some Simbas over and ordered them to stab Anuarite with their baionettes. After they had done this several times, Olombe took his revolver and shot her in the chest.

The colonel then seemed to calm down a bit and ordered the nuns to come and take away her body. Still breathing feebly, Anuarite lingered on for a few more minutes before dying at about one o’clock in the morning on December 1, 1964.

Anuarite was buried in a common grave along with other prisoners and  eight months later, her body was disinterred and buried with all the honors in the cemetery near the Isiro cathedral.