Tuesday, November 3, 2009
Posted: 11/03/2009 12:00:00 AM MST
NAVAJO — Authorities believe a Roman Catholic nun was murdered on Halloween in her home at St. Bernard Convent in Navajo.
Sister Marguerite Bartz, 64, failed to show up for church Sunday morning, so a colleague went to look for her and found her body.
"Everyone is in shock in that area," said Lee Lamb, spokesman for the Diocese of Gallup, which encompasses the entire Navajo Nation.
Navajo is located on the New Mexico-Arizona state line northwest of Gallup and inside the Navajo Reservation, where federal authorities investigate crimes such as murder.
Bartz was a 40-year member of the order of the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament. She served since 1999 in Navajo, and prior to that at the Guadalupe Indian Mission in Peña Blanca, Saint Joseph in Laguna and Saint Catherine Indian School in Santa Fe.
"She was always passionate for justice and peace," Lamb said. Lamb learned of Bartz from her superior, Patricia Suchalski, president of the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament, based in Bensalem, Pa.
FBI Probes Murder Of Nun On Indian Reservation
Sister Marguerite Bartz, 64, Found Dead In Residence At Church
Sister Marguerite Bartz, 64, failed to show up to Sunday Mass and a colleague who went to check on her discovered her body. Investigators believe Bartz was killed sometime between Halloween night and Sunday morning, but FBI Special Agent Darrin Jones said he could not disclose any details about how she died.
"The sister from the bingo was murdered," Kim Davis told CBS affiliate KRQE-TV in Albuquerque. "She played bingo over here and I knew her. She was a friend of ours."
The FBI and state police were searching her residence for any clues.
Authorities and officials with the Diocese of Gallup, which oversees the parish in Navajo, said they were not sure whether Bartz or the church were the target, or if the attack was a random act.
Authorities were also searching for Bartz’s vehicle, a beige 2005 Honda CR-V with a New Jersey license plate, and asking anyone who spoke to Bartz on Halloween night to contact investigators.
"We would very much like the public’s assistance if they saw anything or heard anything," Jones said. "You never know what little detail may help."
Bartz was one of more than a dozen Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament who are currently ministering within the Diocese of Gallup, which spans 55,000 square miles in New Mexico and Arizona.
The diocese said Bartz was born in Plymouth, Wis., in 1945. She entered the order in 1966 from Beaumont, Texas, and professed final vows in 1974. She had ministered in Massachusetts, Louisiana and in several communities around New Mexico before ending up at St. Berard in 1999.
A spokesman for the diocese said the bishop has been in contact with the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament, and those at the parish in Navajo were shaken up about the incident.
The diocese said there is usually another sister who lives at the residence with Bartz, but she was out of the state at a meeting and Bartz was alone.
The diocese said in a statement released Monday: She was known to be a woman always passionate for justice and peace—and the life she lived would tell us that she would respond to this incident with a spirit of forgiveness towards whoever is responsible for these acts.
(Reposted Under Fair Use Act.)