After decades of waiting, hundreds of prayers and dozens of reported miracles, the world’s Catholic faithful Saturday trooped to Nyeri to elevate Sister Irene Stefani from the title ‘venerable’ to ‘blessed’—just a miracle away from sainthood.
Two Cardinals, 28 Bishops, at least 500 priests and nearly a 100,000 faithful yesterday witnessed the colourful ceremony for the beatification of Sister Irene Stefanie “Nyaatha” who was declared Blessed by Pope Francis I.
In a short ceremony that started with commencement of Mass, Pope Francis’ Special Delegate Cardinal Polycarp Pengo read the decree that changed Sister Irene’s status. At exactly 10.55am Sister Irene ceased being Venerable to Blessed in a momentous occasion witnessed by thousands of people.
The brief edict was delivered in its original form in Latin before Nairobi Archbishop John Cardinal Njue—the main celebrant of the mass—read it in English amid ululations from the crowd. “I grant that the Venerable Servant, a professed member of the Consolata missionaries, will from now on be called Blessed according to the rules of the Canon law,” declared Pengo, the Archbishop of Dar es Salaam.
The Papal Decree is a recitation sent by the Pope that converts the subject of the beatification to Blessed. The historic moment witnessed by President Uhuru Kenyatta, Deputy President William Ruto, former President Mwai Kibaki and other dignitaries ended after 20 minutes and mass resumed.
The Papal Mass to celebrate Sr Irene’s beatification started at 10.01am, with the main ceremony starting immediately the ‘Kyrie eleison (Lord have mercy) was rendered in Latin by the 600-strong Church specially compiled for this occasion.
It is then that the local host Archbishop Peter Kairo approached Cardinal Pengo and asked “the beatification of the servant of God to proceed.”
Archbishop Kairo said: “I, the Metropolitan Archbishop of Nyeri and the bishops here present, humbly ask you to include the Venerable Service of God, Sr Irene Stefanie, a Consolata Missionary, among the Blessed. Almost all of her Missionary activity was carried out in this Archdiocese where she also died and was buried. “ Sister Linda Hill of the Consolata Sisters came forward and read a detailed biography of Sr Irene, the candidate for Beatification.
After listening to the biography of the “Servant of God”, all the people present stood up, and only Cardinal Pengo remained seated as he solemnly performed his role to proclaim: “By the power vested in me by the Holy Father, Pope Francis I, I now read the apostolic letter in which His Holiness has written the servant of God Sr Irene Stefani among the Blessed.”
“We welcoming the desire of our Brother Peter Kairo, the Archbishop of Nyeri, of many other brothers in the Episcopate and of many faithful people of Christ, and after having had the opinion of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, with our apostolic authority we grant that the Venerable Servant of God Irene Stefani (in the secular world Aurelia Jacoba Mercede), a professed Religious of the Consolata Sisters institute, a tireless messenger of Good News of Salvation, a witness of the divine charity and of the saving value of baptism, from now on will be called Blessed, and her feast, in the places.”
“According to the rules established by the Canon Law, her day will be celebrated every year, on October 31, the day of her birth into heaven. In the name of the Father, of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.”
“Given in Rome, at St Peter’s, on the 13th day of May, of the year of our Lord 2015,” the decree concluded.
The long road to beatification of Sr Irene was thus consummated and she was declared “Blessed Irene Stefani “Nyaatha.”
After that Archbishop Kairo and the Postulator from Rome, Rev Gottardo Pasqualetti, thanked Cardinal Pengo: “Your Eminence, Polycarp Pengo; the Church of Nyeri and of Kenya, the Bishops of Turin and Brescia together with Consolata missionaries and the faithful here present, cordially thank the Holy Father Francis for having proclaimed today, Blessed, the Venerable servant of God, Sr, Irene Stefani.”
The beatification rites came to an end after Consolata sisters presented a monstrance— an open and transparent receptacle of displayed holy things—carrying some relics of Sister Nyaatha to Cardinal Njue. The monstrance is similar to others used in carrying the Holy Eucharist in Catholic faith. Later on—at the end of the service—the monstrance was presented to Gikondi Catholic Parish Priest Charles Ndirangu by Nyeri Archbishop Peter Kairo.
Delegates attending the event from Rome brought the monstrance to Kenya. The mass then reverted to a regular church service, with readings taking cause. Like recitations, the readings were conducted in English, Latin and Italian.