Catholic Information Service Africa has sent us this tribute to Sr Leonella, who was shot dead on Sunday on a visit to a children's hospital. Sr Leonella Sgorbati, n Rosa, was born in Gazzola, Piacenza Italy on 9 December, 1940. In May 1963. She joined the Consolata Missionary Sisters in San Fr Cuneo and took her perpetual vows on November 19,1972. A After the nursing school in England from 1966-1968, she was appointed to Kenya, where she reached on September 6, 1970. From 1970 to 1983 she served alternately in Consolata Hospital Mathari, Nyeri and Nazareth Hospital, on the northern outskirts of Nairobi. In mid 1983, she started her advanced studies in nursing and in 1985 she became the principal tutor for the school of nursing attached to Nkubu Hospital Meru. On November 26,1993 she was elected Regional superior of the Consolata Missionary Sisters in Kenya, a duty she performed for six years. After a sabbatical, in 2001 she spent several months in Mogadishu, Somalia, looking at the possibility of setting up a nursing school in the hospital run by the SOS Village organisation in Somalia. The project became a reality in 2002, and since April 18, 2002, Sister Leonella has been in charge of the nursing school, whose first students graduated only in 2006. In all this time she has fought a long running battle with various government bureaucracies to assure an internationally recognised diploma for her students. She succeeded in obtaining for them an internationally recognised diploma by the WHO last August. She then came back to Kenya, accompanied by three of her students, two girls and a young man, to have them registered at Medical Training College (MTC) so as to form the bulk of the future tutors at the school in Mogadishu. Having succeeded, after an uphill struggle, to secure them the necessary visa, funding and registration at the school, she started scouting in Uganda for hospitals ready to train other students of hers to work in operating theatres. In the meantime, she had to face the difficulties of having her own re-entry visa to Mogadishu, due to the new rules of the Islamic Courts that now control the region. She went back to Mogadishu only on September 13, less than one week ago. On Sunday September 17, 2006 at around 12.00 am (-4 GMT), she was ambushed while crossing the road that separates the SOS hospital from the SOS village where the five Consolata Sisters live. Her two assailants waited her, hidden behind the taxis and kiosks that are found on that stretch of road at the entrance of the hospital. She was shot first in the thigh; when her bodyguard fired back, they shot and killed him, hitting the sister with two extra bullets, one of which entered her back and severed the femoral artery, causing a massive haemorrhage. Taking promptly to the theatre, she died shortly after. Her dying words were uttered in Italian: pardono, pardono (I forgive, I forgive). The news immediately reached the SOS headquarters in Nairobi, and also her three students in Nairobi who, shocked, immediately passed the news to the Consolata Sisters. At 3pm a plane hired by SOS left Nairobi for Mogadishu to evacuate the body of Sr Leonella and also the other three sisters still working in Mogadishu [Sr Annalisa Costardi (66 years in Somalia since the times of Barre); Sr Gianna Irene Peano (68 on 26 September in Somalia only for three years, with a previous long experience in war-torn Liberia) and Sr Marzia Feurra (68 in Somalia since Barres times)]. The plane carrying the body reached Nairobi at around 9pm hours Nairobi Time and the sisters body was taken to the Lee Funeral Home. The Requiem Mass will take place on Thursday September 21, at the Consolata Shrine, Westlands starting at 10am. The body will be laid in the church from 9am for viewing. She will be buried at Nazareth Hospital cemetery. Bishop Giorgio Bertin of Djibuti, also Apostolic Administrator of Somalia, will be present at the funeral. Sister Leonella was well aware of the danger surrounding her. As she used to say, she knew that there was a bullet with her name engraved on it just waiting for her in Mogadishu. But this never deterred her or discouraged her. She was certain that God wanted her in Somalia. For her, that was the will of God. So nothing could stop her in the mission undertaken, not even the knowledge that she could be killed any time. For this reason she dedicated herself completely, sparing no effort and truly turning every stone to accomplish the mission of setting up the school of nursing, to give hope and a future to a country ravaged by war. Her love for God and the Somali people was stronger than any fear, and she strongly believed in the people she was serving. Source: CISA
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