Beatification of Italian Nun Who Served in Kenya Will “spur growth of vocations”: Priest

Venerable Servant of God Maria Carola Cecchin to be beatified on November 5 in Kenya's Meru Diocese. Credit: Meru Diocese

The planned beatification of an Italian-born Catholic Nun described as “the venerable who gave her life in Kenya” due to her dedicated service in Kenya’s Meru Diocese for two decades is expected to “spur growth of vocations”, a member of the Clergy of the Kenyan Catholic Diocese involved in the preparations for the beatification has told ACI Africa.

In the Monday, July 18 interview with ACI Africa, the beatification publicity committee Chairman, Fr. Oreste Murimi, said that the beatification of Venerable Servant of God Maria Carola Cecchin scheduled for November 5 in Kenya’s Meru Diocese will usher in a new missionary spirit.

“The celebration is expected to be a moment of warming our Christian faith, spur growth of vocations, and trigger missionary spirit,” Fr. Oreste said about the November 5 event, during which Venerable Servant of God Maria Carola Cecchin will become a Blessed.

The Kenyan Catholic Priest added, “After a highly contested political season in Kenya, which ends on 9th August, 2022 (General elections), it will be a timely celebration to reflect self-giving to serve God's people, as exemplified by the life of Sr. Maria Carola.”

Credit: Meru Diocese


He said that the beatification event is expected to be a moment to “celebrate unity as a people from one Father, not divided as we have experienced in Kenya especially (in) Meru County, from myriads of political parties with different manifestos.” 

“The manifesto of that day will be a unifying one: Triumph of Faith, Love, and Hope in the life of Sr Maria Carola,” the Beatification Publicity committee Chairperson further said.

On March 11, the leadership of Venerable Servant of God Maria Carola Cecchin’s Religious Order, Sisters of St. Joseph Cottolengo, announced her beatification, which was granted after a miracle attributed to her was recognized.

“On Monday 13 December 2021, during the Audience granted to His Eminence Cardinal Marcello Semeraro, Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, Pope Francis authorized the same Congregation to promulgate the Decree concerning the miracle attributed to the intercession of the Venerable Servant of God Maria Carola Cecchin”, the Cottolengo Society of Kenya said about their member who was born on 3 April 1877 in Cittadella (Padua).

Credit: Meru Diocese

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In a statement obtained by ACI Africa, the Superior General of the Sisters of Cottolengo, Mother Elda Pezzuto, said the Congregation learnt with great joy the news of the beatification of their member who died on 13 November 1925 aboard a ship on the Red Sea as she traveled from Kenya back to her native country of Italy for treatment.

“Pope Francis has granted the celebration of the Rite of Beatification of the Venerable Sister Maria Carola Cecchin (1877-1925), of the Congregation of the Sisters of St Joseph Cottolengo, Saturday, November 5, 2022 in Meru, Kenya,” Mother Pezzuto said about the beatification planned for the eve of the Golden Jubilee of the Cottolengo presence in Kenya

The Italy-based Superior General who was re-elected in November 2021 during the 11th General Chapter of the Sisters of St. Joseph Cottolengo added, “The celebration will be presided over by His Eminence Cardinal John Njue, Archbishop emeritus of Nairobi, who will represent the Supreme Pontiff.”

“The Superiors of the Cottolengo Family, on behalf of the Little House spread throughout the world, and in particular on African soil, express gratitude to the Holy Father for having granted to celebrate the Beatification of Sister Maria Carola in the land that she loved so much,” Mother Pezzuto further said in the statement dated March 11.

Those at the helm of the Cottolengo Family, she said, have described the granting of the beatification of Venerable Servant of God Maria Carola Cecchin who served in Kenya for two decades from 1905 as a “delicacy of Divine Providence, who gives this good news precisely on the eve of the Jubilee celebrations for the 50 years of Cottolengo presence in Kenya.”


The Sisters of St. Joseph Cottolengo are part of the communities, which St. Joseph Benedict Cottolengo founded. 

Credit: Meru Diocese

The Saint whose Feast Day is April 30 founded the Little House of Divine Providence that includes members of the Clergy, women and men Religious, and the Laity, with the mission of taking care of many poor, sick and needy people who were welcomed in. Thus, he also founded a Congregation of Brothers, and a Community of Priests.

In the March 11 statement, the Father General of the Little House, Fr. Carmine Arice, is quoted as saying in reference to the beatification of the Cottolengo Sister, “It is an extraordinary grace that Divine Providence grants to the whole Cottolengo Family present in Africa and in the world as a renewed call to the path of holiness.”

The miracle attributed to Venerable Servant of God Maria Carola Cecchin reportedly happened at Gatung’a in Tharaka-Nithi County covered by Kenya’s Catholic Diocese of Meru, where “a woman being attended by nurse Sisters gave birth to a boy with no heartbeat,” The Standard in Kenya reported June 15.

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The Kenyan newspaper report further indicates that “the child was born on April 14, 2013, in a Land Rover on the way from Gatunga village to Matiri in Meru.”

Credit: Meru Diocese

“Thirty minutes later, and after the heartfelt prayer of one Sister Katherine addressed to Sister Carola, the newborn named Msafiri Hilary Kiama began to breathe and now, after nine years, continues to live in peace,” The Standard reported. 

In the July 18 interview with ACI Africa, Fr. Oreste highlighted the level of preparedness of the Catholic Diocese of Meru ahead of the November 5 event.

“The venue for the Beatification celebration has been agreed upon: The function will be held in Kinoru Stadium, Meru County,” the beatification publicity committee Chairman said.

He added, “The Bishop has invited all the priests and religious, parish leaders and Chief catechist from every Parish for this purpose on 1st August, 2022. They will congregate at St. Michael Retreat center, of the Catholic Diocese of Meru for Mass and Sensitization about Beatification.”

There will be reflections about the life of Venerable Servant of God Maria Carola Cecchin and her “journey to Sainthood in general”, Fr. Oreste said about the events of August 1.

“It will be a moment also to pass information to the congregants who in return will inform the Christians back in the parishes,” the member of the Clergy of Meru Diocese further said, adding that on that day, the Local Ordinary of the Kenyan Diocese, Bishop Salesius Mugambi, “will update the congregants on the ongoing  preparations through the committee established for the preparation.”

Committees involved in the preparations for the beatification are working toward the day, Fr. Oreste said, adding that Bishop Mugambi has urged the various committees “to increase the tempo of preparations because of the limited time to the celebration.”

He said he expects a “huge attendance” during the November 5 event considering that it is the “first of its kind in the Catholic Diocese of Meru, Meru county.”

The scheduled November 5 beatification of Venerable Servant of God Maria Carola Cecchin as a Blessed is to be the second beatification on the Kenyan soil, after that of Sr. Irene Stefani (Nyaatha) in May 2015. 

Born Aurelia Mercede Stafani in August 1891, the Italian-born member of the Consolata Missionary Sisters was commissioned in Kenya after taking her first vows in January 1914, arriving in the East African nation in January 1915.

She served in the military hospitals in Kenya and Tanzania during the First World War (1915-1918) where a medical colonel nicknamed her “angel of charity”. 

A couple of years later, and for a decade, Sr. Irene is said to have been giving herself unsparingly in the Catholic Mission of Gikondi in the current Archdiocese of Nyeri. There, “the people were calling her with the nickname ‘Nyaatha’ meaning ‘Merciful Mother,’” the Consolata Missionary Sisters have reported.

She died in Kenya in October 1930 after contracting a disease from a patient she was caring for. She was 39.

Credit: Meru Diocese

Sr. Nyaatha was beatified on 23 May 2015 in Nyeri by the delegate of Pope Francis, Polycarp Cardinal Pengo, then Archbishop of Dar-es-Salaam in Tanzania.

The miracle that opened the way for Sr. Nyaatha’s beatification happened in the Southern African 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 so far 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 Sr. Irene Stefani “Blessed.”

Jude Atemanke is a Cameroonian journalist with a passion for Catholic Church communication. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism and Mass Communication from the University of Buea in Cameroon. Currently, Jude serves as a journalist for ACI Africa.