NAZARETH, Ky. (WDRB) – The body of a nun, who was killed in Mississippi, arrived back home in Kentucky on Thursday afternoon.

Church bells rang throughout the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth Campus as hundreds who were touched by Sister Paula Merrill’s life came to pay their respects.  

“This is such a good person. This is such a person who loves life and loves God,” said friend Connie Rotters Blake. “The community has lost a wonderful sister. Her family has lost a wonderful sister and aunt ... I lost the best friend I've ever had in the world.”

“We're all used to the idea that we have to go sometime, and the manner is not our choosing. In a faith-based community like this, it's definitely something we have to take as faith, that this is God's plan,” said Sister Merrill’s nephew, David Merrill.

Last Thursday, Sister Merrill and another woman, Sister Margaret Held, were found stabbed to death in the home they shared in Mississippi. Both sisters were 68 years old and worked as nurse practitioners in some of the poorest areas of the state for 30 years.

“Two lives that if we all emulated five percent of it, the world would be an exponentially better place,” David Merrill said.

Last week police arrested Rodney Earl Sanders, 46, and charged him with their murders.

But fellow sisters were unknowingly able to say their final goodbyes days before her death. Even though Sister Paula Merrill lived in Mississippi, she was in Kentucky just last week for a meeting and was able to take a few days to visit with her sisters. She left the Nazareth Community on Monday and was found killed on Thursday.

As Sister Merrill's visitation began, butterflies could be seen flying around the church. Fellow sisters said it’s a welcomed sight as their dear friend adored the colorful creatures.

“Now she's wrapped in the arms of our loving God, and she's now praying for us and that's a comfort,” said Sister Susan Gatz, the president of Sisters of Charity of Nazareth.

Her legacy now, friends say, is this: Be good to everyone and treat each person with kindness and respect.

“It was a privilege," Rotters Blake said. "It was a blessing to have known her all these years."

Family and friends also say Sister Merrill had a humorous side. She loved speaking in a Donald Duck voice with her brother and sister, and she loved chocolate. In her younger years, she would even make visits on a moped.

Sister Merrill’s funeral mass will be at 10:30 a.m. Friday at St. Vincent Church in Nazareth.

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