sr. Concetta Corsi

Concetta Corsi:
Faithful to the end, in spite of everything…

“But our tears and our suffering are like those which the Son of God underwent and suffered for us, so full of courage and resignation… we offer ourselves to God as victims ready to be sacrificed, we entrust ourselves to his power…to almighty God… My hope is in god. I turn to Him who can do all things, from whose hands come all graces”…
(Concetta Corsi, 26th August 1878).

Certainly the day on which, from Berber, she wrote these words to her mother to comfort her in her suffering and to help her to understand the deep meaning of pain, Concetta Corsi could not imagine that one day she would need to repeat the same words to herself, to pray with the same intensity…     

A native of Barletta, Concetta entered the Comboni Missionary Sisters (Pius Mothers of the Africans) when she was 24, in 1874. She left for Africa with the first five Comboni Missionary Sisters in 1877, then she went with Sr Maria Rosa Colpo to found the agricultural settlement of Malbes though she was forced to leave it “temporarily” when the latter died on 17th September 1881…

What she hoped was that she could return to take up the good work they had begun, instead things went differently and she never returned to Malbes.

On 10th October 1881, Daniel Comboni died, while from the province of Cordofan, the Islamic insurrection led by the “Mahdi” became more and more serious and threatened to extend to all Sudan. On 19th January 1883 in fact, El-Obeid surrendered because of hunger, after a siege of four months. The Christianity of Delen was betrayed. The extremely sad “via Crucis” of the Comboni Missionaries, sisters, brothers and priest, prisoners of the Mahdi, began…

The first year of prison, spent in the Mahdist camp, was made lighter by the hope that the Anglo-Egyptian army would defeat the Sudanese uprising. But then came the dreadful defeat of General Hicks in November 1883 which opened the way to Khartoum for the Mahdi.

Separated first from the men, and then from each other, the young sisters lived dreadful weeks. The conditions laid down for them to be able to meet again were to accept Islamic ways which demanded that the woman submit to male authority. The Mahdi himself set the date for the “wedding” which would be celebrated according to the Muslim use.  Fortunately he did not personally choose the “husbands”. These, of European origin, accepted to keep just the appearances, in the hope that in a future liberation, which they hoped would be soon, they would be rewarded generously by the mission authorities for having protected the sisters. This agreement was respected, but not by all of them. Concetta sadly was betrayed and raped, then bore the consequences of the rape…

So, while in 1885, Maria Caprini and Fortunata Quasce were freed, she had to remain… In 1891, when the second chance to flee came, Concetta understood that this time, she would be freed too, but in a different way and forever.

In Omdurman at that time there was a widespread and violent epidemic of typhoid. She was taking care of a child when she caught the disease and could not overcome the crisis. “For me this is the end – she confided to Sr Elizabeth Venturini – I die and I die happy”

“Since we had no coffin, we wrapped the body in a cloth, as the Sudanese do – Fr Joseph Ohrwalder later wrote – and then wrapped this in a mat, and we carried it out into the desert she had often gazed at”…. 

We remember her today as one of our first martyrs!

 
Anyone who wants to read further should go to:

PEZZI, Elisa. L’Istituto delle Pie Madri della Nigrizia: 1881-1901. Vol. 2°, Roma, 1987,

GAIGA, Lorenzo. Donne tra fedeltà e violenza. EMI, Bologna, 1993.

VIDALE, Maria (a cura). Le Pie Madri della Nigrizia: Raccolta biografica. Vol. 1° in: Archivio Madri Nigrizia, 10(2005)73-108.