(NewsNation) — An 83-year-old Marianite nun was abducted by 10 gunmen from her bed in a West African nation, the Archdiocese of New Orleans was told on Tuesday.
Sister Suellen Tennyson had been a missionary in Yalgo, Burkina Faso since 2014, NewsNation local affiliate WGNO reported. According to church officials, the 10 gunmen broke into Tennyson’s house, where she lived with four other religious women.
The gunmen didn’t bother Tennyson’s housemates, but left with her. Still dressed in her pajamas when she left, the kidnappers didn’t give Tennyson time to take her phone and glasses or put on her shoes.
Before leaving, the gunmen trashed the home.
People back in the U.S. have been praying for her safety. At the Chateau De Notre Dame in New Orleans, parishioners recited the rosary, praying that Tennyson will be released unharmed.
“She’s probably ministering to them. She’s probably comforting them. She’s probably forgiven them. She’s an extraordinary soul,” said Karen Swensen, a longtime friend of Tennyson, during an exclusive interview on NewsNation Prime.
“There’s no judgement. She just meets you where you are, and I have no doubt that if she’s been subjected to something, she’s probably somehow rationalized in her head that this isn’t them,” Swensen added.
Right now, there isn’t much information about the kidnapping available: all that’s known is that the other sisters are physically OK. Law enforcement officials are concerned, though, for Tennyson’s health. She has high blood pressure— and no medication with her.
Burkina Faso, where Tennyson was stationed, has seen a great deal of violence linked to al-Qaida and the Islamic State group over the past six years.
The State Department has warned people not to travel there because of the risk of kidnappings, crime and terrorism.
Just last week, Marianite congregational leader Sister Ann Lacour said she and other nuns were encouraging the women stationed in Burkina Faso to come to France or Louisiana for their safety.
But another Marianite Sister, Renee Daigle, said missionaries’ minds are usually set on staying.
“They said they did not want to leave because, ‘The people that we live among and work with, they don’t have the wherewithal to leave, so we will stay with them,'” Daigle said.”That’s the mind and the spirit of a missionary very often.”
Typically, the captors’ motive for a kidnapping like this is ransom, law enforcement officials say.
Lacour said the other women in the house with Tennyson are traumatized after watching the gunmen remove her from the room.
‘They said pretty much everything in the house has been demolished,” Lacour said.
Since it’s been 24 hours, Lacour and Daigle, speaking on NewsNation’s “Morning in America” from France, said that they are getting concerned for Tennyson’s health and well-being.
“I can’t even imagine the trauma she’s going through,” Lacour said.
What’s most confusing to the sisters is why this happened. Tennyson’s main duty is to help support other sisters who do nursing activities.
“It’s not controversial at all,” Daigle said. “She’s there helping sick people get better no matter who the people are.”