DR Congo. Bl. Marie-Clémentine Anuarite Nengapeta

July 9, 2019

Anuarite was born in Wamba (D.R. Congo) on December 29, 1939. She belonged to the Wabudu tribe.  Anuarite’s baptism name was Alphonsine.  The name Nengapeta signifies “riches deceive.” Anuarite, means “one who laughs at war.” 

Anuarite was a sensitive child. After school she loved to help her grandmother with her work. Even as a young girl, Anuarite aspired to be a nun and inspired the same desire in her friends. She admired the nuns in her village and wanted to follow in their footsteps. Sister Ndakala Marie-Anne, her third year teacher, remained a spiritual mother for her.

At first Anuarite’s mother was against her desire to become a nun. But Anuarite was not easily discouraged and, on her own initiative, requested to be admitted to the convent. Nevertheless, the sisters refused to take her because she was too young at the time.

One day, a truck arrived at the mission to take the postulants to the convent at Bafwabaka and Anuarite seized the opportunity to climb aboard, unseen. Her mother looked for her for several days only to discover her whereabouts from one of the village children. Even though Anuarite had run away, her mother did not demand that she return home.

Anuarite remains in the convent. On August 5, 1959, she  took her vows and became Sister Marie-Clémentine. Her parents were present at the ceremony and gave two goats as presents to the nuns to show how proud they were that their daughter was consecrating herself to God. 

In her life at the convent, Anuarite devoted herself to serving others and to making them happy. She would even tackle the chores that others avoided. Nevertheless, sometimes she would openly scold those who had shirked the work.

In 1964, the Mulele rebellion broke out and in the space of a few weeks it occupied most of the country. The Simba rebels opposed westerners but also indigenous monks and nuns because they suspected them of being in co-hoots with foreigners.

On November 29, 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.

That night, 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. She categorically and repeatedly refused, even after the furious soldiers isolated her and threatened her with death. Mother Léontine attempted to defend her but in vain.

Meanwhile, the other nuns in the blue house refused to eat without the presence of their mother superior. Colonel Pierre Olombe brought along sisters Banakweni and Marie-Lucie, to report the situation to Colonel Ngalo who asked for his help in seducing Anuarite. Sure of his success, Olombe accepted.

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. 

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. Olombe again pressured her to yield to Ngalo’s request. Then he changed his mind and decided he wanted Anuarite for himself. When she categorically refused, he hurled insults at her but she remained defiant.

Then the colonel forced Anuarite and Sister Bokuma Jean-Baptiste – whom he wanted for himself -into a car. Anuarite, followed by Sister Jean-Baptiste, attempted an escape while Olombe went to get the car keys in the house. Unfortunately he caught them and a fierce struggle ensued. Mother Léontine and Mother Mélanie, who were witnessing the scene, implored the colonel to have pity on the two nuns. But the colonel was furious and silenced them.

Colonel Olombe then began mercilessly beating the two nuns. Sister Jean-Baptiste fainted, her right arm broken in three places, but Anuarite continued to resist courageously, saying she would rather die than commit this sin. Her words only heightened Olombe’s fury.

Between the blows, Anuarite had the strength to say: “I forgive you for you know not what you are doing.” In a new fit of rage, Olombe called some Simbas over and ordered them to stab Anuarite with their bayonets. 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 executed by the Simbas. Nevertheless, eight months later, her body was disinterred and buried in the cemetery near the Isiro cathedral. She was beatified on August 15, 1985 by Pope John Paul II during his visit to Africa. She was the first Bantu woman elevated to the altars. Her memorial is 1 December.