South Africa: Austrian Missionary Nun Dedicated to Caring for Children Killed

Fellow Sister Says Rosary Was Wrapped Around Late Nun’s Wrists

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An Austrian nun who spent over 60 years caring for poor children has been killed.

According to Fides, 86-year-old Austrian missionary nun, Sister Stefani Tiefenbacher of the Missionary Sisters of the Precious Blood, was killed in her room in the night between Saturday and Sunday of last weekend.

The nun who tirelessly dedicated herself to the poor children of the local community was staying at the mission of the Sacred Heart of Ixopo, in the province of KwaZulu-Natal, in the east of South Africa.

Around 3 a.m. Sunday, a sister nun found the body of the sister who was bound, gagged, and sexually abused.

According to South African news source News24, police are trying to hunt down murder suspects and are appealing to the Ixopo community for information regarding the guilty’s whereabouts.

The fellow sister who discovered the nun’s body said, “Her rosary was wrapped around her wrists and she was clutching onto the cross when we found her.”

Sister Gertrud was found dead on the floor next to her bed in her room at the Sacred Heart Home in Ixopo.

The cord of her electronic typewriter was binding her hands together and a wet towel, believed to have been used to suffocate her, was over her face.

Although a source close to the investigation cautions they are awaiting forensic reports to confirm, the local police believe the nun was raped by the killer.

Born in 1928 in Austria, Tiefenbacher lived with a foster family on a small farm and came to South Africa in 1952.

The nun was described by her convent sisters as a motherly figure with a young heart. Sister Gerald Frye said, “She was a people’s person and held the impoverished and the young children in the community close to her heart.” 

For more than 60 years, Sister Stefani Tiefenbacher served her missionary order, and for about 40 of them, she worked at the Little Flower School as a teacher and secretary, where she was said to have enjoyed writing letters to past students, sisters and relatives on her typewriter.

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Deborah Castellano Lubov

Deborah Castellano Lubov is Senior Vatican & Rome Correspondent for ZENIT; author of 'The Other Francis' ('L'Altro Francesco') featuring interviews with those closest to the Pope and preface by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Parolin (currently published in 5 languages); Deborah is also NBC & MSNBC Vatican Analyst. She often covers the Pope's travels abroad, often from the Papal Flight (including for historic trips such as to Abu Dhabi and Japan & Thailand), and has also asked him questions on the return-flight press conference on behalf of the English-speaking press present. Lubov has done much TV & radio commentary, including for NBC, Sky, EWTN, BBC, Vatican Radio, AP, Reuters and more. She also has contributed to various books on the Pope and has written for various Catholic publications. For 'The Other Francis': or

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