First beatification in Kenya: the Italian missionary Sr. Irene, “mother all mercy and love”

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EVENTS – On 23rd May, all eyes will be set on Dedan Kimathi University grounds in Nyeri, near the Consolata Mathari Chapel where Italian missionary Sr. Irene Stefani, of the Consolata Missionaries (MC) is buried and will be beatified. According to information gathered by Agenzia Fides, the solemn liturgy will begin at 10 am, and will be presided by the Archbishop of Nairobi, Cardinal John Njue, while the rite of beatification will be chaired by the Archbishop of Dar es Salaam (Tanzania), Cardinal Polycarp Pengo. The Bishops of Kenya and those of other African countries, along with priests, missionaries and religious women, especially the Consolata missionary sisters will be present. Even the highest authorities of the State, many of whom studied at institutions of the Consolata missionaries assured their presence. It will be the first beatification ever to be celebrated in Kenya.

“The beatification encourages us to take up the legacy of Sr. Irene, made of simplicity and evangelical missionary passion, compassion, authenticity of life, ability to understand and touch the heart of others” wrote Sr. Simona Brambilla, Superior General of the MC.

The people nicknamed her “Nyaatha”, which in the Kikuyu language means “mother all mercy and love”: a name of great esteem and respect that highlights how much her work was appreciated.

Mercede Stefani was born on August 22, 1891 in Anfo in Val Sabbia (Brescia, Italy). In 1911 she joined the Consolata Missionaries. She assumed the name of Sr. Irene when she became a novice. At this stage she committed herself totally to her formation in order to be a good Missionary Sister. On 29th January 1914 she consecrated her life to God by taking the Religious vows and on 28th December of the same year she left for Kenya, where evangelization was at the beginning and schools and health services were almost non-existent. When the First World War from Europe spread across the African countries, the missionaries offered their help in Kenya. When she was very young Sr. Irene worked in the military hospitals of Voi – Kenya and Kilwa Kiwinje, Lindi and Dar–es-Salaam in Tanzania. She took up her duties on the wounds of the critically ill, distributing medicines and food, welcoming those in need always with a smile, instilling courage and trust in God’s love. From 1920 to 1930 she worked in the Mission of Gekondi, with unconditional love: taught in school, Catechism in the parish, visited the villages. She would run to help the sick, the dying and anyone who was in need of her help. In the summer of 1930 she started feeling sick, nevertheless she opted to go to visit a sick person, suffering from the plague. She died at the age of 39, on 31st October, 1930.

Source: Agenzia Fides, May 20, 2015

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