Why a humble Italian nun was just honored by the US State Department


The International Women of Courage awards honor women who are changing the world.

Among its many noble honorees, the 12th annual International Women of Courage ceremony celebrated Sister Maria Elena, an Italian nun working in Africa to heal areas heavily affected by war and violence.

Heather Nauert, spokesperson for the U.S. State Department, said, “She has provided refuge to those internally displaced people by conflict, and her tireless work to bring peace in the Central African Republic. Thank you, Sister.”

Born in 1944, Sister Maria Elena began working at 15 years old to help support her family and entered the novitiate of the Sisters of Charity of St. Jeanne Anthide Thouret at 19. A strong desire to serve and an ardent compassion for the people of Africa led to her superiors to send her to work as a teacher in war-torn areas of Chad. She was later sent to a mission in the Central African Republic, where she shelters displaced people, and at 74 she is still devoted to working towards peace.

According to the U.S. State Department, The International Women of Courage ceremony celebrates “women around the globe who have demonstrated exceptional courage and leadership in advocating for peace, justice, human rights, gender equality, and women’s empowerment, often at great personal risk and sacrifice.”

Sister Maria Elena definitely falls into such categories and deserves recognition for her devotion and sacrifice both in her vocation and in her service to the people of Africa.