Kidnapped Nun from Louisiana Rescued Alive After Four Months, Now in U.S. Hands

Sister Suellen Tennyson, the Roman Catholic nun and Kenner native kidnapped almost five months ago from her bed in a west African mission site, has been found.

Newsroom (04/09/2022 3:30 PM Gaudium Press) Sr. Tennyson, 83, is alive and in U.S. hands in Niamey, the capital of Niger, according to the letter sent to Marianites of Holy Cross members and obtained by The Times-Picayune. Sister Ann Lacour, U.S. congregational leader for the order, confirmed via a phone interview that Tennyson is alive but would not comment further in an effort to maintain Tennyson’s privacy and allow for a safe return home.

“Thanks be to God!!!!” the Archdiocese of New Orleans exulted on Facebook at the news of Tennyson’s freedom. 

“We have no statement to make at this time other than she is safe,” Lacour said. 

Lacour told the Clarion Herald, the archdiocese’s newspaper, that Tennyson was “recovered” Monday morning and that she has spoken with the missionary.

“She’s totally worn out,” Lacour told the Clarion Herald. “I told her how much people love her, and she doesn’t have anything to worry about. I told her, ‘You are alive and safe. That’s all that matters.'”

The Marianites letter, which Lacour signed, said Tennyson is awaiting a complete health assessment. Where she goes next, the letter said, is up to her.

The letter does not say how or where Tennyson was found. Neither the U.S. Embassy in Niamey nor the FBI field office in New York, which posted a missing person report about Tennyson after her abduction, responded to the request for comment.

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On April 4, 10 armed men raided the home that Tennyson shared in Yalgo, Burkina Faso, with two nuns – Sister Pauline Drouin, a nurse from Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, and Sister Pascaline Touma, a midwife from Burkina Faso – and two Burkinabè women. The gunmen shot up their possessions and truck and kidnapped Tennyson, Bishop Theophile Nare of the Kaya Diocese said at the time. The others were not harmed. 

The abduction made global news.

Niamey, where the letter said Tennyson had been moved, is about 200 miles west of Yalgo.

Sr. Tennyson is a former teacher and principal at elementary and high schools throughout Louisiana, including Resurrection of Our Lord Elementary School in New Orleans East. After a long career that included serving as the superior general for the worldwide Marianite order, Tennyson found her calling in ministering to starving and malnourished children in Burkina Faso after Bishop Thomas Kabore invited Marianite nuns in 2014 to establish a parish and help run the newly built Blessed John Paul II Center.

Violence intensified in Burkina Faso over the past few years, and the Marianites encouraged Tennyson to come home to New Orleans. Her sense of spiritual duty compelled her to stay.

– Raju Hasmukh


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