Murdered nun devoted 60 years of her life to service

2015-05-13 17:06
(Jeff Wicks, News24)

(Jeff Wicks, News24)

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Durban - Missionary nun Gertrud Tiefenbacher, 87, died in the same room in which she had spent over 60 years of her life after she was raped and strangled by two men in an Ixopo convent.

The Austrian-born nun, who had lost her sight in one eye and was slowly succumbing to blindness, had devoted her life to service.

Her last evening alive was spent playing cards with a group of nun’s and losing to a 92-year-old sister before she slipped away for evening prayers.

Bursting with laughter around a table, with cards clutched in her fingers, was the last time she was seen alive.

Sister Gerald Frye, of the Mission of the Precious Blood, said that something disturbed her during the night.

“I woke up and found two sisters standing in her doorway. I went to her room and saw that the light was on and she was lying on the floor. Being a nurse, when I pulled the towel off her face I knew she was gone,” she said.

Frye said that Tiefenbacher’s gruesome demise and the pain she endured in her final moments should not overshadow her contribution in life and how much she was revered by those around her.

“She came in 1952 and she went to the convent at Mariannhill and after several months she moved to Ixopo and she called the Sacred Heart Convent her home for over 60 years. All of those years were spent in the same room, an alcove that was her bedroom and became her office when she was the secretary and bursar of the Little Flowers School,” she said.

“She had hundreds of children move through her hands over the years, and the principal of the school now was once taught by her.”

“She was always someone who was there for us when we were having difficulty with money or having problems in our families. She had an enormous heart, especially for the young people and the poor. She was seen as a matriarch amongst us,” Frye said.

The nun, who cut a weary figure, said that Tiefenbacher’s funeral had been attended by over 1 300 people - a testament to the impact her life had had on others.

“She led a rich missionary life that was spent in the service of people. We were in touch with her brother and sister in Austria and also with her foster family. She and her siblings were very poor during wartime and they were taken in by this family who she retained a very close bond with.

"We phoned her sister who was very brave about accepting the news, but when it sank in she called back wanting to know more and we had a long chat with her,” she said.

Frye said that their service to the people of Ixopo would continue.

“We are not barricading ourselves in our convent now and we are taking whatever normal means to protect ourselves. We came here for the people and we will remain where we are because we want to serve them.”

Read more on:    durban  |  crime

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