Liberians go to the polls today (Tuesday, Oct. 10) to elect a successor to President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who led the West African country out of the depths of a 14-year civil war that killed hundreds of thousands of Liberians. Five of the dead were our own U.S. Sisters, Barbara Ann Muttra, Mary Joel Kolmer, Shirley Kolmer, Agnes Mueller and Kathleen McGuire, who were killed 25 years ago this month. We sent some of our Adorer family to visit Liberia earlier this year. Here’s a remembrance of the experience from one of them.
By Cheryl Wittenauer
We go in twos to try to understand the impact of the five.
Two Adorers, two ASC Associates and two Newman University students are traveling to Liberia on a pilgrimage that marks the 25th anniversary of the death of our five missionary sisters in October 1992.
Two were ambushed on a road they traveled on Oct. 20 that year. Three others were shot to death three days later in front of their convent.
For long-suffering Liberians,
Diane Shirley Kolmer so loved and admired her “soul-mate aunt,” Sister Shirley Kolmer, that she adopted the legal middle name, “Shirley,” when her aunt and four other missionary sisters were killed in Liberia in October 1992.
Now 62, the retired Des Moines, Iowa, lobbyist had grown up admiring and emulating Sister Shirley, whom she described as a “born leader,” a “force of nature” who was “ridiculously smart” and “so damn funny.”
“She was my soul-mate aunt,” she said. “She was who I wanted to be when I grew up.
On this day in 1992, two Adorers were killed by rebel forces on the road between Gardnersville and Barnersville, Liberia. They were two of five sisters serving in Liberia during the country’s Civil War. Three days later, the final three sisters would be shot outside of their convent.
After the recent death of Sister Toni Cusimano, letters were found in her possession that were some of the last letters received by the missionary sisters, sent in March 1992.
This week, on the anniversary of their death, we hear the echo of their voices and consider the ways we have been altered by the loss of these women.
By Sr. Raphael Ann Drone ASC
Recently, I led a group of women in marking the upcoming nuptials of a young woman who met her husband while both served as missionaries in Liberia. Our weekend together was a different take on the traditional bachelorette party; we didn’t roast and toast the bride-to-be with old girlfriend stories and bottles of wine, but looked at ourselves as “God’s Holy Women” within God’s Great Story of Salvation History.
Rachel, the bride-to-be; Jackie, one of the bridesmaids; and I had lived together in Liberia as lay missionaries with the Society of African Missions from 2010 to 2012.
It has been 22 years since ASC sisters were martyred during the Liberian Civil War. In honor, we revisit a reflection written by Sister Regina Siegfried, ASC to commemorate the 15th anniversary of the deaths of the Martyrs and published in Review for Religious, October 2007.
October 20, 1992—Rebel soldiers shoot Mary Joel Kolmer, ASC and Barbara
Ann Muttra, ASC, their guard Peter, and two ECOMOG (Economic Community of West African States Cease Fire Monitoring Group) soldiers on a stretch of road to Barnersville,Liberia,