PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti – A missionary from Spain who devoted her life to helping the poor in Haiti was fatally shot at a crowded intersection in the Caribbean country's capital Friday.
Jean Bruner Noel, a justice ministry official at the scene, identified the woman as Isabel Sola Matas, 51. He said she was from Barcelona but had lived in Haiti for years.
Noel said her purse was stolen after assailants shot her twice in the chest as she sat at the wheel of her old SUV. She was attacked as she inched down a winding avenue filled with pedestrians and vehicles in Bel Air, a rough hillside neighborhood of shacks in downtown Port-au-Prince.
A Haitian woman who was a passenger in the car was also shot twice and taken to a hospital. Her condition was not immediately known.
At Sacred Heart Catholic Church, the Rev. Hans Alexandre described Sola as a "tireless servant of God" who helped build houses, worked as a nurse, fed the hungry and created a workshop where prosthetic limbs were made for amputees injured in Haiti's devastating 2010 earthquake.
"The loss is immense. In killing her they didn't kill just one person, they killed the hopes of many people," Alexandre said.
Sola invited Alexandre and four other priests to live at her two-story home for over a year after the previous church building and its rectory were toppled by the quake.
She helped raise tens of thousands of dollars to build a parish vocational school where Haitians could learn everything from catering to electrical wiring to music, Alexandre said.
One Haitian woman at Sola's downtown home shouted in distress and anger when she heard about the killing.
"What a country this is! She did so very much for people here and this is what happens," Suzie Mathieu said, covering her face with her hands.
Sola was a member of the Congregation of the Religious of Jesus and Mary, whose website describes it as a group of women from various countries who commit themselves to serving others.
Outside the home's metal gate, a disheveled man in tattered clothes stared at the ground.
"She was the person who took care of people like me, helping with food and other things," he said. "I am very sad today."
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