By Maureen Smith
DURANT – On Saturday, May 20, at 3 p.m., the community is invited to honor the memory of Sisters Paula Merrill, SCN, and Margaret Held, SSSF. Father Greg Plata, OFM, will bless and dedicate a marker to the two women in Liberty Park in Durant, Miss. The women were found murdered in their home in Durant in August 2016. Both had been nurse practitioners at a medical clinic in Lexington.
Carolyn Reynolds, an alderwoman in Durant, conceived the idea of a memorial. “She called me, she didn’t really know the sisters, she had never met them, in fact, but she knew about all the good work they had done and thought it would be tragic if there was no memorial for them,” said Father Plata.
“She was hearing people in Durant talk about them – grown men were crying about them so she thought ‘surely someone like this needs some recognition,’” said Jaime Sample, the music minister at Lexington St. Thomas Parish where the sisters were in the choir. “I still cry sometimes when I am selecting music,” said Sample.
Family members and members of the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth and the School Sisters of St. Francis will be on hand for the dedication. In fact, the Sisters of Charity will arrive early and spend a week doing service in Durant, which is currently cleaning up from a tornado.
The monument will include pictures of the sisters and will sit near a similar marker dedicated to two Durant natives who died on 9/11. The dedication service will include scripture readings and the sisters’ favorite songs, ‘This Alone I Ask,’ and ‘How Can I Keep from Singing’ as well as some reflections from close friends and family members. After the service, the community will gather for Mass at 4:30 at St. Thomas.
“I still miss them, but I know they are still with us. I know they are watching over us,” said Sample. The parish is still accepting donations for the marker. They can be sent to St. Thomas Catholic Church, 200 Boulevard St., Lexington, MS, 39095 or via Go Fund Me at: https://www.gofundme.com/3r26suw.