The baby was splattered with blood.
That's how Sister Mary Gallagher described the scene near Hardeeville when she and Sister Lupe Domingez Stump were called by police to intervene in a family tragedy. Two Hispanic men had been robbed and shot in front of their wives and children.
Sister Lupe and Sister Mary -- ages 72 and 68 at the time -- were waved through the flashing lights by police who knew their van. They were called because they knew Spanish, knew the community, and knew how to help people in distress.
The two men were taken to the hospital. Two hysterical women and four children, including the bloodied 8-month-old boy, went with the nuns to the St. Anthony Catholic Church rectory. The nuns gave up their home to them until the men could get back to work.
That's typical of two Sisters of Mercy who came to Jasper County in 1998, just as its Hispanic population would explode by more than 300 percent in a decade.
Nobody in the Lowcountry was prepared for the influx fueled by rampant coastal growth. The two sisters from Chicago helped churches, schools, police, courts, hospitals and businesses adapt to a new life. They bridged both the language and societal barriers, for both sides.
They became known as a relentless, one-two punch pushing for everything to be done now and never taking no for an answer. And in doing so, they touched the untouchables, and saw the unseen.
They founded a thrift store to offer cheap clothing for the poor, and income for outreach programs of their nonprofit Mercy Ministries.
They founded a food pantry that last year served 18,000 people.
Sister Lupe was the driving force behind a subdivision of 26 affordable rental homes that opened in 2008 off U.S. 321.
The little St. Anthony mission in Hardeeville had only 10 Anglos and two Hispanics when the sisters arrived. It grew to 200 families.
Now the sisters are gone.
Sister Mary died last July, and on April 20, Sister Lupe died on her 86th birthday.
Martin Sauls, the county coroner whose funeral home handled arrangements for Sister Lupe's two memorial services last week, said, "It is no exaggeration to say that two angels dropped into our midst."
'MAKE A DIFFERENCE'
Sister Lupe was one of 13 children born to immigrants from Mexico in Kewanee, Ill.
She earned a master's degree in social work and became a professor at Ball State University. She was married and had three children before going through an amicable divorce. In 1987 she became a member of the Sisters of Mercy, vowing to serve people who suffer from poverty, sickness and lack of education with a special concern for women and children.
Sister Lupe (pronounced LU-pay) felt right at home as a member of the staff of the 8th Day Center for Justice in Chicago and working in the city's inner-city with the Pilsen Resurrection Project. She also advocated for health care for the poor with Nuns on a Bus.
Her passion for social justice took her to voting places in Central America, where the small lady with white hair was pictured with guerillas with automatic weapons.
"I told her, 'Mom, please don't show us this,' " said her daughter, Susan Stump of Illinois.
Stump said the issues were always the same for her mother's "iron fist and velvet glove": immigration, poverty, hunger, education, language.
She said it overlays her mother's own life. She was from a hard-working, immigrant family with no indoor plumbing. She translated for her mother. And the Great Depression "informed her sense of security, or the lack thereof."
At Sister Lupe's funeral Mass Wednesday at St. Gregory the Great Catholic Church in Bluffton, the Rev. Monsignor Ronald Cellini said, "She challenged us to make a difference. She knew that her life at this time and this place was very important."
Sister Lupe headed the Hispanic ministry at St. Francis By the Sea Catholic Church on Hilton Head Island, and was then put in charge of it for the whole state of South Carolina.
Their ministry began with English classes two nights a week. The sisters ended up translating entire cultures to both the natives and newcomers. They never minced words with either side, even with their first and largest benefactor, the late philanthropist Dick Ennen of Bluffton. Few communities had such a powerful secret weapon as the two sisters, said Eric Esquivel of Hilton Head, chairman of the Lowcountry Immigration Coalition.
Today, people on the Mercy Ministries board say help for the poor will continue. Churches and Second Helpings are major partners. A group in Sun City Hilton Head called Mercy Ministries Ma'ams and Misters has helped raise money.
Sister Lupe was touched when the city of Hardeeville made her the grand marshal of last year's Christmas Parade. Maybe it reflected their civic service -- Sister Mary on the county school board and Sister Lupe on a city zoning board. But it made the quiet agitator, who the police had on speed dial, feel appreciated.
She had fallen recently, but even with fractured ribs, Sister Lupe worked at the thrift store until shortly before she died at her home in Sun City.
The only time the thrift store closed was for the funeral Mass.
The sign out front on U.S. 17 said: "Sr. Lupe Went to God."
Follow columnist David Lauderdale at twitter.com/ThatsLauderdale.