Irish Catholic Nun Who Formed Catholic Priests in Kenya Eulogized as “mother figure”

Late Sr. Mary Clotilde Hegarty. Credit: Courtesy Photo

Late Sr. Mary Clotilde Hegarty, a native of Ireland who, for close to two decades, participated in the formation of Major Seminarians in Kenya, has been eulogized as a “mother figure”.

Catholic Priests and Laity who interacted with Sr. Mary at St. Mary’s Propaedeutic Molo Seminary in the Catholic Diocese of Nakuru where she was part of the formation team for 18 years expressed their fond memories of the member of the Congregation of the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word, Houston, Texas (CCVI) who died on June 8; she was to turn 97 on June 24.

Fr. Casmir Odundo, a member of the Clergy of Kenya’s Nakuru Diocese, told ACI Africa during the June 10 interview that Sr. Mary “was the mother figure in the Seminary. She was the feminine aspect in our formation.”

Fr. Odundo favorably compared the late Catholic Nun who joined CCVI in October 1946 where she made her Perpetual Profession on 15 August 1954 to the Blessed Virgin Mary. He said, “She lived the role of Mary among the disciples in the upper room during the Pentecost. Mary was always there.”

The Kenyan Catholic who was enrolled at St. Mary's Major Seminary in 2008 recalled the interest Sr. Mary had in ensuring a balanced formation of future Priests. 


“She taught us to respect women. She reminded us of our own mothers and sisters. That is important because you are forming men who will be expected to work with both men and women,” said the Priest who is currently undertaking a Master’s Degree in Church History at the Rome-based Pontifical University of the Holy Cross.

Fr. Odundo said that the Catholic Nun who taught English and Salvation History at the Seminary believed in the ability of all her students.

The Catholic Priest who was part of the last class that Sr. Mary had before she retired from active ministry to devote her life to prayer in the U.S. recalled, “In her last days in the Seminary, she brought pictures of Seminarians who had died while in formation. She put them in the library so that we can pray for them.”

He added in reference to Sr. Mary, “I think she was simply irreplaceable as it was very difficult to get her replacement after she left in 2008.”

In a message shared with ACI Africa, Fr. Thomas Nyutu recalls how Sr. Mary “salvaged” his journey to the Priesthood. 

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“We were in St. Mary's Seminary Molo in 1993 during the Nyayo era when any kind of theatre art was viewed suspiciously. The Seminary system had also been bitten by the bug and our drama team was at stake,” Fr. Nyutu says in the June 11 mesage.

The Kenyan Priest who serves as the Rector of St. Joseph Molo Minor Seminary continues, “One Valentine Shidiga and his companion, Thomas Nyutu, wrote a little play that found its way to the stage to receive a standing ovation. But the lines seemed to hit hard on the Seminary administration.”

Fr. Nyutu recalls that during the presentation, one of the Priests at the seminary “cynically laughed his heart out while the Rector adjusted his specs a thousand times in the course of the sinful scenes.”

He adds that following the presentation of the play, they were summoned to the “dreaded office”.

Fr. Nyutu recalls that in the office, one of the formators, the late Fr. James Mabele, “uttered, nay, muttered very few words under his hissing breath: ‘Young men, go and pack!’”


“And that is where the gentle iron lady of the Seminary ventured where even demons dreaded: Sr. Mary Clotilde Hergaty took offense and came to our defense,” the Kenyan Priests says in his message shared with ACI Africa. 

“I don't know what transpired behind those closed doors but this gentle soul literally milked the lion while sitting on a porcupine,” he further says, and continues, “The rest is history as this writer is now Very Rev. Fr. Thomas Nyutu, the Rector of St. Joseph Seminary and residing a stone-throw away from the house Sr. Clotilde lived in some decades ago.”

“May this gentlest soul receive her eternal reward with the many Priests that passed through her hands at St. Mary's Seminary,” Fr. Nyutu further says about the Irish-born Catholic Nun who started her teaching ministry in Kenya at St. Joseph Minor Seminary Molo in 1984 before joining the formation team at St. Mary’s Propaedeutic Molo Seminary.

For Fr. Julius Rotich, Sr. Mary was “good in her spiritual life.”

“She was motherly and a mentor. Sister was approachable and she gave us a very listening ear,” the member of the Clergy of Kenya’s Kericho Diocese told ACI Africa about the late Catholic Nun who taught him from January to December 1992 .

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On his part, the Station Manager of Radio Arise of the Catholic Diocese of Homabay recalls Sr. Mary as “a very kind and motherly person.”

“She was good to us and impacted our lives,” Fr. Joshua Mege told ACI Africa, adding that he always remembers Sr. Mary’s talks, which have “impacted on my life.”

Arthur Kassima, one of Sr. Mary’s former students, said the late Catholic Nun “had a very good heart.”

“You could tell she has a good heart by how she always acted. She loved us, always motivated us, telling us what to do and what not to do,” said Mr. Kassima, who was enrolled at St. Mary’s Propaedeutic Molo Seminary from August 1999 to January 2000.

He added, “I always felt like I had an angel. With her heart, she was just a different person, very unique. She was motherly and always ready to assist.”

The chairman of the Mary Mount Lukenya Catholic Parish of Machakos Diocese credited his “commitment” to the Church to the motivation she received from the late Catholic Nun. 

“I was in Mabanga (St. Augustine’s Major Seminary) for three years then left. Were it not for the motivation from Sister and others, maybe I wouldn’t be active in the Church. I attribute my commitment to the formation I had,” he told ACI Africa on June 11. 

The teacher at Lukenya Boys High School went on to say that Sr. Mary “was fully dedicated to the Church. She would not miss any Mass in the Seminary. It is like she had time for the Church and nothing else.”

“I can only compare her to the prophetess Anna in the Bible. I knew her when she was old and from that moment, I never saw her having other businesses besides Church activities,” said Mr. Kassima. 

The death of Sr. Mary, he said, “is a big for the Church but heaven has gained a lot. I pray that God will receive her.”

 Sr. Mary’s body is to be received at the Immaculate Conception Chapel, Houston, Texas on Tuesday, June 14. “Evening Praise and a celebration of her life” has been scheduled at the Chapel. 

She is to be laid to rest at the Villa de Matel Cemetery on Wednesday, June 15 after Holy Mass at the Immaculate Conception Chapel.

Magdalene Kahiu is a Kenyan journalist with passion in Church communication. She holds a Degree in Social Communications from the Catholic University of Eastern Africa (CUEA). Currently, she works as a journalist for ACI Africa.