Two Mississippi nuns found dead

nun killed

(CNN) — Two nuns were found dead Thursday in a home in Holmes County, Mississippi, authorities said.

The women, one of whom was a member of the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth, were found stabbed in a residence in Durant, north of Jackson, Holmes County Coroner Dexter Howard said.

The Catholic Diocese of Jackson said the two nuns didn’t show up Thursday morning at a clinic they operate.

Clinic workers called police when the pair didn’t arrive, said Maureen Smith, a spokeswoman for the Catholic Diocese of Jackson. Authorities arrived at the home, saw evidence of a break-in and found two bodies, she said. Officials believe a car is missing.

Howard said the bodies were sent to the state crime lab, which will do the autopsies.

The Kentucky-based Sisters of Charity of Nazareth said the community is in prayer.

“SCN President Susan Gatz asks that all ‘pray in gratitude for the precious lives of Sisters Paula (Merrill) and Margaret (Held) … they served the poor so well. Because we are gospel women, please also pray for the perpetrators.”

Merrill was a nurse practitioner in Mississippi for more than 30 years and had been at the Lexington Medical Clinic since 2010. According to the Sisters of Charity website, the clinic saw 8,000 patients in 2014, many of whom are poor and uninsured.

Held, 68, was also a nurse practitioner. She had been a member of the School Sisters of St. Francis in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, for 49 years and had lived in Mississippi for decades.

“These sisters have spent years of dedicated service here in Mississippi. They absolutely loved the people in their community,” said Bishop Joseph Kopacz of the Jackson diocese.

Mississippi Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann said the sisters had made the community a better place to live and lamented their deaths.

“Unbridled love and care for mankind has been met with unparalleled savagery,” he said.