NEW ORLEANS — Friends and fellow Marianite Sisters of the Holy Cross are leaning on their faith, praying for the safe return of Suellen Tennyson.
She’s the New Orleans nun kidnapped by armed men Tuesday in West Africa.
Sister Ann Lacour, the U.S. congregational leader for the Marianites, told WWL-TV there were five people in the house when the men ransacked the home and torched their truck.
Sister Suellen was the only one taken.
“They believe that there were more than ten men,” Sister Ann said. “We know that they were armed. We know that Sister Suellen was in her room and probably sleeping and that she was taken, blindfolded without shoes, without her glasses, without her cellphone.”
From an early age, Sister Suelllen had a calling to help the less fortunate. That led the Kenner native to join the Marianite sisters.
After a lifetime ministering in the New Orleans area, she headed to a small, impoverished country called Burkina Faso in 2014, to establish a church and medical clinic.
“Right now, in this phase of her life, that’s where she was needed most, to serve these people,” Sister Suellen’s close friend Shirley Lachmann said. “She loved working with those people with the simplicity of their lifestyle.”
Sister Ann and Sister Renee Daigle spoke from France where they are visiting the Marianite order’s mother house in Lamans.
“As late as this afternoon, both Renee and I have been on the phone with the FBI in Paris who are working with the FBI in Burkina Faso,” Sister Ann said. “At this point, they don’t have a lot of leads.”
“We don’t know where she is,” Sister Renee said. “We don’t know how she is. We don’t know how she’s being treated. If they have any intention of returning her."
Lachmann says it’s hard to comprehend why anyone would want to kidnap someone who has devoted her life to serving others.
“I’m totally confused. It’s like, it’s hard to wrap my brain around that I actually know someone who has been hijacked by terrorists,” she said. “She’s very much a part of my family. My entire family is in shock.”
Armed groups, some with extremist ties have overrun large swaths of the territory where Sister Suellen’s mission is located.
“The FBI, the embassy, the (papal) nuncio, I mean everybody that can be helping I think is,” Sister Renee said.
In the meantime, Sister Suellen’s friends are praying for her.
“All I can do is hope and put it in the hands of God that they will find her, and she will be safe and come home,” Lachmann said.
“I believe in this time of Lent, there will be a resurrection and Suellen will be back with us,” Sister Ann said. “When and where we do not know.”
New Orleans Catholic Archbishop Gregory Aymond released a statement expressing sadness and shock over the kidnapping.
He said in part, “Please join me in praying for Sr. Suellen, the Marianite Sisters of the Holy Cross, and all who know and love her during this difficult time.”