Tens of thousands of people gathered in Nyeri, a town in central Kenya Saturday to attend the beatification ceremony of Sister Irene “Nyaatha” Stefani, an Italian nun who worked for many years in this East African nation.
Up to 100,000 people from all over the world gathered in Nyeri to witness the ceremony at Dedan Kimathi University in which Sister Irene Stefani was declared ``Blessed Irene,'' Kenya's Daily Nation newspaper reported Saturday.
Millions more watched the beatification live on television, according to the newspaper. The ceremony was conducted by Archbishop Polycarp Pengo of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania and Archbishop John Njue of Nairobi, Kenya. President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy, William Ruto, were among many dignitaries who attended the event, as well as Stefani's relatives from Italy.
``It is important for them (relatives) to see where sister Irene lived, where she was buried and to see all the people from Kenya and how they loved her,'' said Stefania Euerini, one of Stefani's grandnieces who attended the event.
Stefani, who belonged to the Consolata Missionary Sisters, first came to Kenya in 1915 and died there in 1930 at the age of 39, according to a website dedicated to her beatification.
Beatification is the first step toward possible sainthood and it comes after official verification that a miracle happened after prayers were offered to the candidate. In the case of Stefani, a 1989 miracle in Mozambique was attributed to her.
The miracle reportedly happened when a group of about 270 people in danger of death prayed to Sister Irene ``and the little water in the baptismal font, measuring between four and six liters, was multiplied to enable them to drink and wash for four days, before help arrived from outside,'' the Daily Nation reported, citing a priest in charge of Nairobi's Consolata Shrine.
In Kenya she was nicknamed ``Nyaatha,'' which means ``mother of mercy'' in the local Kikuyu language. In Kenya she also served as a Red Cross nurse and treated East African soldiers wounded during World War I.