Blessed Sr. Irene “Nyaatha” Stefani 

“I will love charity more than myself”

Stefani was born in the little village of Anfo in 1891, the youngest of twelve children, and was baptized on August 23, 1891, under the name “Aurelia Jacoba Mercede.” Stefani was left in a sensitive position when her mother died on May 12, 1907, leaving her in charge of her siblings and assisting her father, particularly in the Christian formation of her younger sisters Marietta and Antonietta, as well as her brother Ugo, who died not long after.  On November 6, 1898, she was confirmed, and a few years later, she had her First Communion.

Stefani joined the Consolata Missionary Sisters in June 1911 and became a professed member of that order on 29 January 1914. She assumed the name “Irene” upon entrance into that order and she became a missionary.

Sr. Irene obtained the “Mandate” for the Mission of Kenya shortly after taking her first vows on January 29th, 1914. She arrived in Kenya in January of the following year.

Nyina Wa Tha (Nyaatha)

Sr. Irene served as a nurse in Kenya and became well known and well regarded among the people that she served. This earned her the nickname “Nyaatha” (Nyina wa tha), which is a name literally translated as “mother of mercy”.

With the onslaught of World War I, she served in hospitals to tend to the wounded soldiers and those others wounded in the conflict. 

On 20 August 1916, she was appointed as a Red Cross to assist the Carriers who were forced to march exhaustingly in the African terrain. During this time, she worked in military hospitals in places such as Lindi and Dar es Salaam in Tanzania.

At the conclusion of the war in 1918, Stefani returned to Nyeri where she first served as an assistant formator of the first aspirants of the incipient local congregation known as the Mary Immaculate Sisters.

Two years later, she was appointed to Our Lady of Divine Providence mission at Gikondi, remaining there until her death. There, she taught in schools and instructed parishioners in catechism while visiting the villages. At Gikhondi, she was the Superior of the Consolata Missionary Sisters for eight years.


Sickness and death

In 1930, Stefani contracted a disease from one of the patients she was treating and grew physically weak in the summer, losing a considerable amount of weight, bearing this as God’s will. On 20 October, she felt sick yet opted to visit a plague-stricken person, remaining at his bedside for several hours. She succumbed eleven days later, on 31 October 1930.[



The cause of beatification commenced on 22 July 1985 under Pope John Paul II and Stefani was declared a Servant of God; this acted as the formal beginning of the cause and it saw the accumulation of documents and testimonies in order to support the cause. On 2 April 2011, Pope Benedict XVI declared her to have lived a life of heroic virtue and declared her to be Venerable. On 12 June 2014, Pope Francis approved a decree that recognized a miracle attributed to Stefani’s intercession which cleared the way for her beatification. It was celebrated by Cardinal Polycarp Pengo on 23 May 2015 in Gikondi, Nyeri.

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