THOUSANDS AT SISTER “NYAATHA’S” BEATIFICATION GRAND CEREMONY
By Francis Njuguna (May 23, 2015) NYERI-KENYA
Thousands of people, including religious and political leaders on May 23 converged at the Dedan Kimathi University of Technology, Nyeri Town, central Kenya to witness the grand beatification ceremony of Sister Irene Stefani. Sr. Stephani was a Consolata Missionary Sister who worked in the Nyeri area of Gikondi with much love, dedication and compassion.
As a nurse and a teacher of catechism, she performed with exemplary love and compassion especially to the poor and needy in the community, that the local people nicknamed her “Nyaatha” (which in Kikuyu means a merciful person). She was keen on assisting.
The apostolic decree to declare her Blessed was read by the Cardinal Polycarp Pengo of the Catholic Archdiocese of Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania, as a Papal representative, while the Archbishop of Nairobi, His Eminence John Cardinal Njue delivered the homily.
On the eve of the beatification ceremony, there was an overnight prayer vigil at Gikondi Parish, where Sr Stefani had served in the years between 1920-1930.
Blessed Sr. Irene Stefani alongside her fellow Sisters and priests had earlier on, served both the soldiers and African carriers during the First World War of 1914-1918) in both Kenya and Tanzania. She was a nurse and under the British Red Cross organization.
On the day that followed the beatification ceremony, her remains were taken from Gikondi to Christ the King Cathedral, Nyeri Town. During this occasion her relics were distributed to various churches, formation centers and other places of worship.
In the homily, Cardinal urged the Christians to emulate the Blessed Srs Irene Nyaatha.
“The today’s historic event is quite a lesson to us in terms of our faith. It’s an issue worth to be emulated by each one on matters pertaining to our faith,” stressed the Cardinal.
The ceremony was quite historic as it surfaces when the one of Maurice Cardinal Otunga is quite on course.
The Otunga’s one is currently on its way to officially entering the Roman Phase after the Diocesan Phase has already been completed and its reported handed to the Congregation for Causes of Saints in Rome.
The church has already declared Cardinal Otunga as the Servant of God, one of the major stages on the road to Sainthood.
Sr Irene Nyaatha’s beatification was also historic because it surfaced alongside the one of Archbishop Oscar Romero in El-Salvodor, Central America.
A miracle attributed to Sr Irene Nyaatha’s beatification happened in Mozambique.
Says a citation on the miracle, “The miracle attributed to the intercession of Sister Irene Stefani is the multiplication of the water of the baptismal font of the parish church of Nipepe (Diocese of Lichinga, Niassa, Mozambique), which served catechists from different parishes of the diocese, gathered for a training course together with the parish priest, Father Giuseppe Frizzi IMC.
They had remained segregated in the church of Nipepe, together with other people of the area who took refuge there, due to the belligerence between the two factions Frelimo and Renamo, who sowed destruction and death. It is about 260 people, including many children running around in the church in the hottest period of the year, January 1989.
Sister Irene's intercession was invoked and there was enough water for all the refugees in the church for three and a half days, and not just for drinking, but also to cool off from the sweat and also to wash a baby girl born on that occasion and called Irene.
There was no possibility to provide themselves with water and Catechist Bernardo gave them permission to use than the baptismal font, which they would never have dared to touch.
It is a font dug in a tree trunk, with numerous cracks, so much water was leaking. At the end of their segregation, the head of the parish, P. Frizzi, noticed that the floor was very wet around the baptistery. Astonished, he was informed by the people of what had happened.”
The now beatified Sr Irene Nyaatha was born as Aurelia Mercede Stefani in 1891 in the small village of Anfo, Italy. Stefani joined the Consolata Missionary Sisters in 1911 and became a professed member of that order in 1914 prior to the beginning of World War I. Upon entering the order, she took the name of "Irene". That same year, she was sent by Blessed Joseph Allamano to go to Kenya, where she arrived in January 1915.
Stefani served as a nurse in Kenya and became well known and well regarded among the people that she served. This earned her the nickname "Nyaatha"(Nyina wa tha), which is a name literally translated as "mother of mercy". In 1930, Stefani contracted a disease off of the patients she was treating and succumbed to this disease on 31 October 1930.
The cause of beatification commenced on 22 July 1985 and Stefani was declared a Servant of God.
On 2 April 2011, Pope Benedict XVI declared her to have lived a life of heroic virtue and named her Venerable.
On 12 June 2014, Pope Francis approved a decree that recognized a miracle attributed to Stefani's intercession which cleared the way for her beatification. It was celebrated by Cardinal Polycarp Pengo on 23 May 2015 in Nyeri, Kenya