Pilgrims Share Stories of Conversion and Healing at National Marian Shrine in Kenya

Parishioners of St. Austin's Catholic Church of Kenya's Archdiocese of Nairobi pause to reflect on a Station of the Cross at the Subukia Shrine in the Diocese of Nakuru. Credit: ACI Africa

The steep hill, marked with the Stations of the Cross, leads to a spring of water believed to offer miraculous healing to those who visit Subukia National Marian Shrine in Kenya’s Catholic Diocese of Nakuru.

Lydia Auma is at the tail end of hundreds of pilgrims panting as they scale the hill, praying. She joined other fellow pilgrims from St Austin’s Parish of the Archdiocese of Nairobi on their journey to the Marian Shrine that is widely known as the Village of Mary, Mother of God.

Lydia is here to thank the Blessed Virgin Mary for getting her family back after a 25-year separation from her husband. She believes that reuniting with her husband is an answer to prayers she offered at the Marian Shrine that is some 40km from Nakuru town. 

Credit: ACI Africa

“I left my marriage 25 years ago. Being separated from my husband was very painful. I kept praying, asking God to reunite me with my husband. This was the main prayer item whenever I came here,” Lydia tells ACI Africa during the September 23 pilgrimage.


“Last month, I was reunited with my husband and children, and I am here to thank God and the Blessed Virgin Mary for bringing my family back. I now have a home. My heart is full,” she says.

“Subukia is very close to my heart,” she shares, adding that she never misses an opportunity to visit the Marian Shrine.

Credit: ACI Africa

Lydia was in the company of some 760 members of St. Austin’s Parish, who made their pilgrimage to the Marian Shrine on Saturday, September 23, a fortnight before the October 7 National Prayer Day scheduled to take place at the National Marian Shrine belonging to the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops (KCCB).

Those present shared testimonies of healing, forgiveness, and reconciliation in their families after visiting the Shrine, making a good confession and offering their prayer intentions at the grotto of Mary.

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Another pilgrim, Danston Asala, walked the entire Way of the Cross hunched over, carrying what seemed to be a heavy load on his back.

Danston Asala climbing the hill leading to the water spring at the Subukia National Shrine in Kenya's Catholic Diocese of Nakuru. Credit: ACI Africa

“This is my third time here. I like coming to Subukia Shrine for prayers. The load on my back contains jerry cans. I need to bring with me as much water as possible to share with my neighbors because I testify of its healing,” Asala told ACI Africa.

He added, “I was suffering from stubborn boils when I came here in 2019. Today, I thank God for healing me. I also came here to pray for reconciliation in my family that is experiencing a lot of divisions.”

Fr. George Omondi, the Priest in charge of St Austin’s Msongari Parish said that the pilgrimage was held ahead of the annual National Prayer Day to allow the hundreds of parishioners “to benefit fully from the services offered at the shrine”, including the Sacrament of Penance and access to the spring.


Fr. George Omondi, the Parish Priest of St Austins Msongari in the Archdiocese of Nairobi poses for a photo in front of a spring at the Marian Shrine in the Diocese of Nakuru. Credit: ACI Africa

“This pilgrimage has become part and parcel of the Parish. It is an annual program coming a few weeks before the National Prayer Day here in Subukia,” said the Kenyan members of the Congregation of the Holy Spirit under the protection of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (CSSp.), also known as the Spiritans or Holy Ghost Fathers.

Fr. Omondi explained, “The Parish realized that not many people benefit from the national pilgrimage. In the past, we were allowed to bring only 50 people from the Parish. This time, the number went up to 100. But still, it is very little compared to the number of those willing to attend.”

Credit: ACI Africa

“Our parish pilgrimage allows all those willing to attend to come and to do everything including confessions and the Way of the Cross. There is also less congestion, allowing them to fetch water from the shrine without any difficulty,” he added.

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Fr. Omondi said that the pilgrimage, which was organized on the theme, “Journeying Together as a Reconciled Family” was an opportunity for the pilgrims to pray for unity in their families.

Credit: ACI Africa

The National Prayer Day theme also allowed the pilgrims to pray for unity in Kenya which, Fr. Omondi said, had come from a turbulent electioneering period.

“This theme is inspired by where we are coming from as a nation, all the way from last year’s national elections which were very divisive and the chaos we’ve been having in the country. We need to work together and walk together to achieve the purpose of this country,” Fr. Omondi said.

Credit: ACI Africa

He added, “The family as an institution is also experiencing similar challenges of division, misunderstanding and unforgiveness, and they need to hear the message of forgiveness and reconciliation to build communities. We need to walk together as a reconciled nation starting from our roots, from our families.”

“The theme of our National Prayer Day also fits within that of the synod highlighting the need for communion, participation and mission,” the Kenyan Spiritan Priest told ACI Africa at the Subukia National Marian Shrine on September 23.

Credit: ACI Africa

He said that a lot of work went into the organization of the pilgrimage that was spearheaded by members of a committee, who he said worked tirelessly to organize the hundreds of pilgrims into groups for the journey.

Credit: ACI Africa

Each pilgrim contributing less than US$5 for the 194km journey by road, travel costs were subsidized by the Parish office as well as donations from those who did not manage to go and wanted to sponsor others for the pilgrimage.

The pilgrimage initiative has been recording spiritual benefits from pilgrims every year, the Parish Priest of St. Austin’s Msongari told ACI Africa, and added, “People who come to this place go back and give testimonies of the healing that happens here.”

Agnes Aineah is a Kenyan journalist with a background in digital and newspaper reporting. She holds a Master of Arts in Digital Journalism from the Aga Khan University, Graduate School of Media and Communications and a Bachelor's Degree in Linguistics, Media and Communications from Kenya's Moi University. Agnes currently serves as a journalist for ACI Africa.