A Catholic nun who works to provide care for pregnant women was found with only minor injuries after a mysterious abduction from her convent in Southeast Washington yesterday, authorities said.

The 38-year-old nun, known as Sister Liann, was hanging laundry about 6:30 a.m. behind Our Lady Queen of Peace Convent when she noticed a man and woman on the grounds, police said.

She approached them, one of the assailants threw a blanket over her head and the pair forced the nun into the back of a black van and sped off, police said.

The assailants drove the nun around and released her about 11 a.m. in the 1200 block of U Street SE, about two miles from the convent. She then walked to another Missionaries of Charity facility a block away, police said.

She suffered minor injuries, police said.

Detectives had not determined a motive. They were questioning the woman last night to learn more details. She is from India and speaks fractured English, police said.

Police and church officials said the nun's first name is Liann but declined to provide her last name.

She is a member of the Missionaries of Charity order founded in India by Mother Teresa. At Our Lady Queen of Peace Convent in the 3300 block of Wheeler Road SE, nuns run a soup kitchen and a program for pregnant homeless women, church officials said.

Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, archbishop of Washington, visited the nuns yesterday afternoon.

"A lot of prayers were answered," he said, standing outside the convent. "It just blows the mind. Thank God they didn't hurt her. What did they have in mind kidnapping her? These sisters have nothing."

McCarrick said he could not understand the crime. "It's all a mystery to me," he said.

Fellow nuns grew concerned when Sister Liann -- who had gone outside to hang laundry and tend the grounds -- did not show up for 7 a.m. Mass.

They alerted police, who swarmed the area with patrol cars, dogs, a helicopter and police recruits. Crime scene technicians and detectives sealed off the back yard and took measurements and photographs of the scene.

The nuns declined to comment, except to say through the convent's fence that they were happy their fellow sister had been released unharmed.

Neighbors and top police officials expressed outrage over the abduction.

"It's just uncalled for," said Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey. "There is no excuse for that. . . . Unfortunately, we have some criminals who prey on others."

Several residents said the neighborhood is violent and a hotbed for drug dealing. The nuns, they said, seemed to take special care with locking their gate at night and keeping a close eye on suspicious people in the area.

"It's wild," said James Kelly, 52, who lives across the street from the convent. "The nuns are here helping people out. They would do anything for you. This is just crazy."

Kenny Baker, a neighborhood advisory commissioner in the area, said the abduction was indicative of the area's crime problem.

"Who would abduct a nun -- an idiot?" he asked, adding that police needed to step up patrols in the area because crime was rampant. "What could you expect to gain from kidnapping a nun?"

"It just blows the mind," Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick said. ". . . What did they have in mind kidnapping her? These sisters have nothing."