sr. Amalia Andreis

Amalia Andreis: Martyr of the Mahdia

“I am happy, I go willingly and if the Lord should want to take me …
I would ask Him only one thing: to be pleased with the sacrifice of my life”…
(Amalia Andreis, 26th December 1880).

It was 7th November 1882; Amalia Andreis was dying, in the middle of the desert, inside a fence of a few thorn bushes. She was 28 years old and had been in the mission for the last two. Six years before, drawn by the message of Daniel Comboni, she had left her town of St Maria di Zevio in Verona, despite the opposition of her family. They, confused and disbelieving, continued to ask: why? Why someone so beautiful, young, much loved, would decide to leave it all to live a life of sacrifice, hardship, risk, so many unknowns?

Why would she go so far away, chasing a dream, when remaining at home she could find “everything” beautiful that life could offer?

Amalia herself answers in the letters she wrote to her family, some of which have been conserved. (Letters which today we can read in the collection no.4 of the Madri Nigrizia Archives). Though sometimes homesick, she writes of her great love for her family and for the poor; of her passion for the mission; of her deep faith, typical of one who has grasped the spirit of the Gospel and accepted to make a gift of her life

Perhaps for this reason, those who knew Amalia could not easily forget her, as happened to Pope Leo XIII. “On Saturday – Daniel Comboni wrote – I returned from the Vatican full of enthusiasm because I sat with the Pope for at least an hour and a half […] Pope Leo is all on fire for Africa and although a good 16 months have passed since he received my last five Sisters […] nevertheless he told me he is enthusiastic about them and their spirit of sacrifice together with such simplicity. He had asked Sr. Amalia Andreis whether she was not afraid of death; and regarding her answer that she would be glad to die even immediately for love of Christ and the Africans, he still remembers the impression this made on him and told me of his admiration”… (S, 6139).

What Amalia would never tell, was what happened when Sudan became a war zone during the popular insurrection guided by Muhammad Ahmad (1843-1885), called the “Mahdi”;   when the Christian community of Delen fell into the hands of his followers and everyone – sisters, fathers, lay people – were taken prisoner and forced to leave the mission and be presented to the Mahdi and stand trial; when they began to die, victims of mistreatment, hunger and the unspeakable conditions in which they were held….

Don Joseph Ohrwalder, who survived, spoke for them all, as Sr. Maria Caprini told when she was freed….

“Your beloved Daughter and our exemplary Sister – she wrote to Amelia’s father, Francesco Pimazzoni – died like an angel in the Mahdi camp” near El-Obeid in Sudan. I think you should rejoice rather than cry”; because in heaven we have another Martyr.

And we believe that we too can say this because Amalia offered her life for the spreading of the Kingdom. In the letter she wrote to her father on 13th January 1882 – the year she died – her spiritual testament is clear: 

“Death is a sacrifice we have to make to God; just as the Saviour suffered death and death on a cross . . . so must we take this great step with love”…
This was her way of saying “farewell” but also “until we meet again”…

To know more:

OHRWALDER, JOSEF. I miei dieci anni di prigionia. Rivolta e Regno del Mahdi in Sudan. EMI, 1998.

VIDALE, MARIA (a cura). Amalia Andreis: una Martire della Mahdia si racconta.

Tutte le lettere di Amalia Andreis in: Archivio Madri Nigrizia, 4(2002).

SCANDOLA, ATTILIO. Ti seguirò in terra arida. S. Giovanni Lupatotto, 2004.