Pope Francis sends Rwanda cardinal to preside beatification fete in Kenya

Githinji beatification Carola

Nyeri Catholic postulator Peter Githinji speaking in Nyeri town on October 27, 2022. He said that the beatification of Sister Maria Carola will be second of its kind in Kenya after Irene Stefani's in 2015 in Nyeri. It will take place on November 5, 2022 at Kinoru stadium in Meru.

Photo credit: Joseph Kanyi I Nation Media Group

The head of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis, has sent his representative to preside over a beatification ceremony for Sister Maria Carola, a nun who served among the poor in Kenya over 100 years ago.

Fr Peter Githinji, the postulator in charge of causes of saints, beatification and canonisation at the Archdiocese of Nyeri, announced that Pope Francis had delegated Antoine Cardinal Kambanda of Kigali, Rwanda, to preside over the ceremony slated to take place on November 5 in Kinoru, Meru County.

Speaking to Nation.Africa on Thursday, Fr Githinji said the ceremony will be the second such a fete to take place in Kenya.

“The event will become the second one of its kind to be held in the country. We are glad that it will also take place under the Archdiocese of Nyeri. The Pope has sent Antoine Cardinal Kambanda to preside over the ceremony,” Fr Githinji said at Our Lady of Consolata Cathedral in Nyeri town.

This follows the beatification of Blessed Sister Irene Stefani Nyaatha on May 23, 2015. Some of her remains were moved to Our Lady of Divine Providence Catholic Parish in Gikondi, where they were placed in a shiny golden vessel. Other remains were interred at Our Lady of Consolata Cathedral in Nyeri town, while some were ferried to Vatican City in Rome.

Blessed Maria Carola

A portrait of Blessed Maria Carola.

Photo credit: Joseph Kanyi I Nation Media Group

Sister Carola, who was from the Congregation of the Sisters of St Joseph Cottolengo, will be beatified after a miracle attributed to her was verified.

The miracle entails the revival of a boy who had been born without a heartbeat inside a Land Rover that was stuck in a muddy road in the middle of the night.

As a nurse and a nun watched for 30 minutes desperately, they observed the child, who was unresponsive, and decided to concentrate on saving the mother who was also in a critical condition.

During this process, Sister Catherine Kathomi continued praying to Sister Carola, calling upon her intervention to save the child and the mother as it rained heavily.

Shortly after, Sister Kathomi said she had seen the child make some movement and called the nurse and from there, the child was taken care of.

Today, Hilary Msafiri Kiama is a bubbly nine-year-old boy and a Grade Five pupil at Ucweni Primary School in Tharaka North.

The events of the night of April 14, 2013 on the Marimanti-Matiri road were reported and the process of canonisation started, where the faithful were asked to pray through her intercession.

For the event to be proved as a miracle, a delegation of 13 people consisting of medics and other investigators travelled to Gaciongo village on a fact-finding mission.

Lady of Consolata Cathedral Nyeri

Nyeri Catholic postulator Peter Githinji  stands in front of a sarcophagus of Blessed Irene Stefani at Our Lady of Consolata Cathedral in Nyeri on October 27, 2022. Her memorial will be held on October 29, 2022.

Photo credit: Joseph Kanyi I Nation Media Group

They checked the boy, interviewed the sister and the nurse who attended the mother and son and they declared that it was a miracle.

Fondly described as “mother and sister of the poor”, Sister Carola, born in 1877 in Italy, arrived in Kenya in 1905 and left in 1925. She died in the Red Sea aboard a steamship.

In her missionary life in Kenya, Sister Carola worked in Limuru, Mugoiri, Wambogo, Nyeri, Tuthu, Icagaki, Igoji in Nyeri and the Tigania parish in Meru. She became ill and was set to return home together with a group of other missionaries.

“Beatification entails rolling down a canvas banner that has her cottage. The presiding cardinal will issue a decree from the Pope and announce the day that she will always be remembered annually. After the event, Sister Carola will become a step away from sainthood,” Fr Githinji said.

“Unlike the first beatification, this time we don’t have a first degree relic (remains of the human anatomy) of Sister Carola. We will therefore use the second degree relic (something she used during her missionary work). This is because her remains were thrown in the Red Sea during the return voyage to Turin in Italy.”

Sister Irene’s beatification was presided over by papal delegate Polycarp Cardinal Pengo.

Sister Irene, from the Consolata Sisters, started her missionary work in Gikondi village in 1915, where she earned the name Nyaatha, which means “merciful” in Kikuyu.

The Catholic Church’s world headquarters, Rome, started documenting her life’s work in 1985 and her remains were preserved in a brown marble sarcophagus and installed in the wall next to the exit of the Mathari Central Chapel in Nyeri.

Memorial celebrations for Sister Irene will be held at Our Lady of Consolata Cathedral Nyeri this Saturday and will be presided over by Archbishop Anthony Muheria.