News reached us that Sister Susanne Tuyaerts passed away on February 22nd, in the town of Batouri (Cameroon). Until the end, she lived among the people she loved and served. Sister Susanne ran a clinic and a maternity ward, supported by Cordaid (Memisa) for years. It was her life’s mission.
In many ways, Sister Susanne stands for the best in human nature. For over 40 years she dedicated her life to serving underserved and marginalised communities. She was a missionary in everything she did. Her love for God inspired a love for people, and above all, solidarity with the underprivileged and the poor.
Past and present
And though Cordaid has thoroughly reshaped its work, giving, for example, more prominence to local ownership and leadership, Sister Susanne, and many other missionaries do stand for our past. And her wish, drive and love to serve fellow human beings in distress and in need, still very much echo Cordaid’s mission today. As her congregation, the Zusters van Liefde, put it: ‘to love is to give everything’ could have been Sister Susanne’s motto.
Perseverance in the face of tragedy
In 1998, armed men attacked the Sisters’ missionary compound in Kananga (Kasaï), DR Congo. At the time, Susanne Tuyaerts had been doing health care work in Kananga for 16 years. Another Sister of her congregation was brutally murdered. She herself narrowly escaped death.
“Most of all, she really helped to put mother and child care on the map in that part of Cameroon.”
After the tragedy, sister Susanne moved to Cameroon. Here, she expanded and improved health facilities, until the end of her life. The maternity she helped to set up, and seeing how its services were gradually reaching more women and children, was her personal pride.
Mother and child care
In this, mother and child care, Cordaid Memisa and Sister Susanne found one another. For several years, Cordaid Memisa financially supported health care facilities in Batouri.
Our colleague Desiree Verzantvoort remembers her well. “Her hospitality was boundless. Whenever we visited her, she went out of her way to cater for our wishes. But most of all, she really helped to put mother and child care on the map in that part of Cameroon. The mothers and their kids who came to the clinic and the maternity loved her.”
Last of the Mohicans
She was dedicated to the Church as much as to the community she lived in. “Missionaries like Sister Susanne”, Desiree continues, “are a vanishing breed, at least in the Netherlands and also in Belgium, her country of origin. She was one of the last Mohicans. People in Batouri will continue to reap the fruits of her work.”
Indeed, Sister Susanne was the last of her congregation still actively doing missionary work.
Being there for others
Renata Burger, another colleague who met her in Batouri, can only agree. “Every year, more women came to the clinic for pregnancy check-ups, and to deliver in safe conditions. More kids came for vaccinations. Seeing that gave her a lot of joy. And in fact, she herself was instrumental in the achievement.”
Joy seems to be an important word. The joy of helping others, of being there for others. “Every now and again, people came and visited Sister Susanne on the compound of the missionary post. Not only for support or urgent needs, very often just for a chat and a nice time. I am sure people in Batouri will dearly miss her”, Renata concludes.
Sister Susanne Tuyaerts died of COVID-19 related complications in Batouri, at the age of 81. As was her wish, she is buried there.