A Catholic Monthly Magazine

A Nun Always

Edited by Thérèse PickardA Nun Always
The amazing true story of a missionary sister captured and enslaved by Mahdist Islamists in the Sudan.The story is told through documents and letters edited by her grand-daughter Thérèse Pickard who lives in Christchurch NZ.
Reviewed by Sister Teresa Hanratty RSM

“A Nun Always” is a true story about Teresa Grigolini, an Italian Sister of the Order Pie Madre di Nigrizia in Verona. In 1878 Teresa led a group of Sisters on mission to Sudan. Much of Teresa’s story is told in her own words through her letters. The early days in the Sudan were full of promise for the new mission, although not without difficulties as the Sisters coped with the different climate, diet, culture and isolation from family and community. In 1882 the situation became perilous when the Muslim leader Mahdi began persecuting Christians. He demanded that the Sisters convert to Islam. When they refused he imprisoned them and they were subject to much abuse.

The details of the abuse and deprivation suffered by the Sisters are in contrast to the courage, faith and support for one another shown by Teresa and the other Sisters. In a passage reminiscent of Pilate’s words in the gospel, Teresa said, “The chiefs were talking among themselves in low voices. I pricked up my ears. ‘We have nothing that points to them as being culprits or accomplices. Why are we treating them so badly?’” On this occasion the Sisters thanked God that they were not killed. Teresa remained in captivity for 16 years. Some of the Sisters died during this time as a result of the harsh treatment they suffered.

The Sisters were required to marry. Some false ‘marriages’ were arranged to Greek husbands. The oppressive captors became suspicious of the Sisters’ ‘marriages’ as none of them had children. The Madhi threatened to enslave the Sisters in a harem. To save her Sisters Teresa volunteered to be a true wife to her Greek husband and was married by a Catholic priest. Teresa had several children, including a daughter who died at the age of three, and two sons, for whom she cared with great love.
The editor is Teresa’s grand-daughter Thérèse Pickard, daughter of Teresa’s son, Georgio, who wrote to Therese in 1968 and spoke of Teresa as a great mother and said ‘she was constantly living with God.’ Teresa died in 1931 and was buried in Mambrotta. In 1995 Teresa’s remains were returned to the Mother House in Verona where she was laid to rest among the Sisters of the Order Pie Madre di Nigrizia.

Thérèse Pickard

Thérèse Pickard

It is testament to the way Teresa was revered, in that so many of her letters were kept by family members, Sisters and others. The words, some written in pencil on scraps of cloth, tell a story of great hardship and outstanding heroism. Teresa’s style of writing is energetic and captivates the reader today. Her grand-daughter has used the letters along with other reports and historical information to hold the attention of the reader as the grim story is revealed. The book would appeal to readers with an interest in the missionary church with its story of faith, courage and holiness.

This review was first published in The Tablet Dunedin , NZ
Reprinted courtesy Gilian Vine (Editor)

Order on line at www.dunmore.co.nz or send cheque for $32.99 (includes p&p) to Dunmore Publishing ,
Ph. 095213121
PO Box 28387
Auckland 1541

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1 Responses »

  1. This story is unique and beautiful one full of heroism at a very difficult time. Sr Teresa saved her sisters by making an irreversible personal sacrifice. Her natural children ought be hugely proud of her.
    It would make a wonderful movie to go with the classic "Khartoom" starring Laurence Olivier as the Maadi.
    I recommend it to all MM readers