“I didn’t go to southern Sudan to be in a war situation. I went to be with the people, and I can’t walk away from them because the situation has changed.”
Born in Hamilton, Scotland, Nancy Lyons received her R.N. from Law General Hospital, Carluke. She moved to the U.S. in 1961 and worked in hospitals in San Francisco and Oakland, CA. Sponsored by Catholic Relief Services, she nursed Cambodian refugees in Thailand before joining the Maryknoll Sisters from Walnut Creek, CA, in 1981. Sister Nancy began her mission life in Africa in Bura, eastern Kenya in 1983, in an isolated area where she worked in a clinic and a nutrition program for children.
Assigned to the Sudan in 1985, she lived in Kworijik near Juba and worked in a community-based health program. When the war forced the Sisters to leave Kworijak, she set up a kindergarten for children in a displaced persons camp. Sister Nancy made her final vows there in 1989 and the entire community of 5,000 came to the celebration. In 1992, all Maryknoll missioners and all expatriates were expelled.
Soon, Sister Nancy returned to the diocese of Torit in South Sudan, where displaced persons were located. “Where else would we go,” asked Nancy. “We have been with the Southern Sudanese through the war; we want to be with them in exile, too.” She continued working with women as well as teaching displaced youngsters in a makeshift classroom.
In Nairobi, Kenya, Sister Nancy helped administer the Africa World Section House for Maryknoll Sisters from the Sudan and other African countries. She helped Sudanese refugees and founded three preschools in Kibera, the largest slum area in East Africa. Children could learn in this safe and clean oasis. This work was turned over to 10 trained women from Kibera.
Presently a member of the Western U.S. Region, Sister Nancy has most recently volunteered in hospice care, at a crisis center, and with centering prayer in a women’s prison.