NYERI, Kenya (CNS) — Kenyan officials are expecting more than 100,000 people at the May 23 beatification of Sister Irene Stefani, an Italian member of the Consolata Missionary Sisters who cared for wounded and sick soldiers in Kenya and Tanzania during World War I.
A Kenyan government official announced May 6 that the beatification would be a state function and would be accorded proper security.
Sister Irene was born Aug. 22, 1891, in Anfo, Italy, and died at Gikondi Parish in Kenya Oct. 31, 1930.
The fifth of 12 children, Sister Irene was named Aurelia Giacomina Mercede and known as Mercede. As well as facing their mother’s death when Aurelia was 16, she and four sisters lost their seven siblings to various illnesses.
When she was almost 20, she joined the congregation of Consolata Missionaries in Turin, Italy. In 1914, she took final vows and left Italy by ship for Mombasa, Kenya.
Sister Irene’s first two years in Africa were spent working on a mission farm in Nyeri, learning the local language, Kikuyu, while doing manual labor.
In response to mounting casualties during World War I, Sister Irene was among missionaries who left Nyeri in August 1916 and traveled 230 miles to Voi to work in a hospital there, after a short course in first aid.
During the war, she also cared for sick and dying soldiers in hospitals in Tanzania. While caring for patients, Sister Irene often went without food so that she could give her share of community meals to the sick.
The hospital in Kilwa Kivinje, Tanzania, had more than 1,500 patients in March 1917 when Sister Irene worked there. According to Sister Irene’s biography, “Her Life a Light,” by Consolata Sister Gian Paola Mina, “the sick were like an ever growing angry tide at which the doctor drew back. … They were all mixed up, the madmen with the dysentery cases, the wounded with the ulcer victims … all in total confusion.”
Sister Irene nursed them every day, “always with the same loving attention. They saw that she did not spurn them … She comforted them, made them comfortable, served them, washed them and covered them up, she bound their wounds as well as she was able, went humbly to get food for those who were unable to get it for themselves and was happy to return with the mess tin full and feed those who had not the strength to feed themselves,” the biography said.
On her return to Kenya after the war, she lived for a year in Nyeri and took care of postulants at the newly established Congregation of the Sisters of Immaculate Mary.
Sister Irene then took a 30-mile journey by mule to Gikondi, just north of the equator, where she taught at a new mission school. The people of Gikondi called her “Nyaatha,” an abbreviated form of “Nyina Wa Tha,” which means “mother of mercy” in Kikuyu.
She became severely ill while administering medicine to Gikondi residents who had contracted bubonic plague and died at age 39.
Join the CatholicPhilly.com family
CatholicPhilly.com works to strengthen the connections between people, families and communities every day by delivering the news people need to know about the Catholic Church, especially in the Philadelphia region, and the world in which we live.
By your donation in any amount, you and hundreds of other people become part of our mission to inform, form in the Catholic faith and inspire the thousands of readers who visit every month.
Here is how you can help:
- A $100 gift allows us to present award-winning photos of Catholic life in our neighborhoods.
- A $50 gift enables us to cover a news event in a local parish, school or Catholic institution.
- A $20 gift lets us obtain solid faith formation resources that can deepen your spirituality and knowledge of the faith.
- A small, automated monthly donation means you can support us continually and easily.
Won't you consider making a gift today?
Please join in the church's vital mission of communications by offering a gift in whatever amount that you can ― a single gift of $40, $50, $100, or more, or a monthly donation. Your gift will strengthen the fabric of our entire Catholic community and sustain CatholicPhilly.com as your trusted news source. Thank you in advance!
Make your donation by credit card here:
Or make your donation by check:
222 N. 17th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103
PREVIOUS: Pope thanks Mali’s Christians and Muslims for preserving harmony
NEXT: Papal push: Caritas leader sees ‘Francis effect’ at work on the ground
How blessed it is to live at this particular time of the beautification of Sr Stefani. It is a time that the Christian Faith is under threat from all angles! Living the faith daily you seem abnormal! Christians are continuously being persecuted by Muslim terrorists here in Kenya and throughout the world! Sr Irene beautification comes at a time when as Christians we most need strength, for our faith, from above. And, it comes in the beautification of Sr Irene who shows us we can overcome all lives challenges and live the God’s will.
SISTER IRENE PRAY FOR US TILL WE JOIN YOU IN HEAVEN. AMEN