, 01 November, 2019 / 8:19 PM
Five years after thousands of pilgrims from across the globe gathered in Kenya’s central town of Nyeri to witness the beatification of Consolata Missionary Sr. Irene Stefani Nyaatha, the first event of its kind to be held in Eastern Africa, the Archdiocese Nyeri has collaborated with Consolata Missionaries to mark the 5th anniversary of the raising of the Italian-born nun to the rank of Blessed.
The Thursday, October 31 event brought together hundreds of Catholics who gathered at Our Lady of Consolata Cathedral of the Archdiocese of Nyeri in Central Kenya.
Various speakers presented Blessed Irene Nyaatha, who arrived in Kenya in 1915 and served as a medical officer during the First World War, as an example to be emulated.
The Italian-born nun later moved to Gikondi in Central Kenya where locals recognized her love and compassion for them and nicknamed her “Nyaatha”, which means ‘Merciful Mother.” She died in Kenya in October 1930 after contracting a disease from a patient she was caring for. She was 39.
“Let all of us follow the example of Blessed Irene Nyaatha, and live not just by words but also by faith,” Archbishop Emeritus Peter Kairu of Nyeri Archdiocese said.
“If we join hands together as bishops, priests, nuns and lay people and live our faith by spreading it like Blessed Irene, corruption will end,” the retired Prelate said, referencing the recently launched Catholic-Church-driven six-month anti-corruption campaign.
In the spirit of the just concluded Extraordinary Missionary Month (EMMOCT2019), Archbishop Anthony Muheria of Nyeri reminded Christians of the significance of their baptism and signalized Blessed Nyaatha as a good role model.
“She was born on August 22, 1898 and baptized a day later August 23, 1989 when she was just a day old,” Archbishop Muheria narrated and continued in reference to Nyaatha, “in her baptism, she got the necessary energy to continue with her life until where she is today as we celebrate her as a Blessed.”
“Her baptism just like yours and mine changed her to be a new being,” the Opus Dei Prelate said and added, “this year the Church reminds us of our baptism call, ‘Baptized and sent’ so that we reflect on what happened in our hearts upon baptism. Our equality comes from baptism.”
During the event, 99-year-old Emma Wangechi received applause from the congregation for her fluent Latin recitation of Our Lord’s prayer as well as the Queen of Heaven prayer, just as she was taught by the Italian-born Consolata nun.
“Nyaatha is the one who taught us to pray ‘Our Father’ in Latin,” Wangechi recalled and added, “she was a very good Sister who would go to parishes and gather many children. She would put them together and teach them (recites Queen of Heaven in Latin).”
In an exclusive interview with ACI Africa Friday November 1, Fr. Peter Githinji who is the Postulator of the Archdiocese of Nyeri coordinating the Sainthood cause of Blessed Nyaatha said a miracle is what stands in the way for Blessed Nyaatha to be canonized as a Saint.
“We encourage people to continue praying through her (Nyaatha) intercession so that we can have the final miracle,” Fr. Githinji told ACI Africa.
“So many graces received through her intercession have been reported,” Fr. Githinji disclosed in reference to Blessed Nyaatha and possible miracles through her intercession and added, “the Church is studying them but we are encouraging people to pray so that we can get a final genuine miracle.”
He also expressed hopes that the miracle will happen in Africa saying, “She is more known here in Africa, especially here in Kikuyu land (Nyeri) where she continued her youthfulness, so probability (of a miracle) is higher and we pray through her intercession that the miracle will happen here.”
Sr. Irene Stefani Nyaatha, a Consolata nun was beatified on May 23, 2015 in Nyeri by the Pope’s delegate Polycarp Cardinal Pengo of Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania.
The miracle that opened the way for her beatification happened in the Southern Africa nation of Mozambique where in Nipepe Parish, Lichinga Diocese, 270 people hiding from the 1989 civil war invoked her name to get drinking water, which miraculously flowed and multiplied in the baptismal font.
Her sainthood journey has evolved through three successive Papal reigns. Pope St. John Paul II formally opened her sainthood cause by declaring her ‘Servant of God’.
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI declared her to have exhibited a life of heroic virtues and declared her ‘Venerable’.
Pope Francis approved a decree recognizing the Mozambique miracle thereby declaring her ‘Blessed.’
Blessed Irene Nyaatha’s canonisation cause is the second among the Consolata nuns in Africa after the 2018 beatification in Italy of Sr. Leonella Sgorbati who was murdered alongside her bodyguard in Mogadishu, Somalia in 2006.
ACI Africa was officially inaugurated on August 17, 2019 as a continental Catholic news agency at the service of the Church in Africa. Headquartered in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, this media apostolate will strive to facilitate the telling of Africa’s story by providing media coverage of Catholic events on the African continent, giving visibility to the activities of the Church across Africa where statistics show significant growth in numbers and the continent gradually becoming the axis of Catholicism. This is expected to contribute to an awareness of and appreciation for the significant role of the Church in Africa and over time, the realization of a realistic image of Africa that often receives negative media framing.
Father Don Bosco Onyalla
Editor-in-Chief, ACI Africa