MONTREAL — A Canadian nun who was released after two months in captivity in Cameroon predicted on the weekend she and her two fellow prisoners would soon be set free.
The head of her congregation in Montreal says Gilberte Bussiere told two Italian priests on Saturday they would all be allowed to go.
One day later, that very scenario unfolded and the three abductees were on a plane heading away from their captors, Josephine Badali, leader of the Congregation de Notre-Dame, told reporters in Montreal on Monday.
The details of their release were still unclear, but Bussiere was in good health and happy to be free, Badali said. And despite the fact the past two months were long and difficult for all involved, the happy ending is what matters, she added.
Bussiere, 74, Gianantonio Allegri and Giampaolo Marta were working as missionaries in Cameroon when they were kidnapped on April 5 from Tchere, in the country’s north.
“I spoke to Sister Gilberte this morning and her voice was strong and she was happy,” said Badali, surrounded by fellow congregation members. “She told me she had seen the doctor and, from what we know at the moment, her health is good.”
Bussiere, who is originally from Asbestos, Que., was in Yaounde, the capital of Cameroon, and was to meet with President Paul Biya on Monday.
The congregation hopes to have her back in Canada as soon as possible. Bussiere has been a member of the congregation since 1957.
Through Badali, she sent along her thanks for those who supported her and helped free her.
Badali said Bussiere offered just a few details about her time in captivity. The nun described it as a deep religious experience. The captives were housed together and they prayed and shared the word of God each day, giving each other comfort.
Saturday marked the Feast of the Visitation — an important Roman Catholic religious holiday that prompted Bussiere’s prediction of freedom. The captives requested some kind of protein and got their wish: spaghetti and beans.
Bussiere told Badali she shed the dress she’d been wearing for two months and that one of the sisters gave her a much-needed haircut.
“She’s a woman of faith and that came through in her voice,” Badali said of their conversation. “It didn’t sound like she was afraid — now she must have been — but from what she said, she was not afraid.”
Congregation members received the news while attending a religious conference on Sunday. The 300 people present stood and clapped.
“I jumped for joy, I called my colleagues, we were all jumping for joy,” Badali said. “It was just such a moment of joy and relief.”
Bussiere has lived in Cameroon since 1979 and worked with various missions. She has served as educator and school administrator. She returned to Canada briefly last year for health reasons, but soon went back.
Her family had expressed concerns about her not having access to medication in captivity.
But everyone kept the faith, including Bussiere’s 97-year-old mother, who told Badali a few weeks ago to remain hopeful.
“I can tell you from meeting her mother, the faith and courage and determination that I experienced from Sister Gilberte comes from her family,” Badali said. “It’s well-rooted in her family background.”
It’s unclear why Bussiere was targeted whereas others also present were left behind. Six hours before her kidnapping, Bussiere had sent an email saying the situation was becoming more dangerous and that two rival groups were at the root of the problem, Badali said.
Bussiere’s snatching is a first in the congregation’s history and will trigger serious reflection about their missions abroad. But Badali says the missionaries aren’t fearful.
“They don’t have concerns, to be quite honest, they’re not worried,” Badali said. “They are so much loved by the people, they’ve integrated so well, they’ve promoted education, they’ve worked with the people.