Sister Maria Carola Cecchin, a Catholic nun who served in Kenya from 1905, has been celebrated by the church as the journey towards her beatification gathers pace.
The Diocese of Meru announced last week through Bishop Salesius Mugambi and the Sisters of St Joseph Cottolengo that Sister Carola will be declared Blessed on November 5.
This is after a miracle attributed to the nun, who died aboard a ship in the Red Sea as she travelled back to Italy for treatment, was recognised.
The Meru Diocese says the miracle attributed to Sister Carola happened at Gatung’a in Tharaka when a woman being attended by nurse sisters gave birth to a boy with no heartbeat.
According to Cottolengo Society of Kenya, the child was born on April 14, 2013, in a Land Rover on the way from Gatunga village to Matiri in Meru.
Thirty minutes later, and after the heartfelt prayer of one Sister Katherine addressed to Sister Carola, the newborn named Msafiri Hilary Kiama began to breathe and now, after nine years, continues to live in peace.
The Superior General of the Sisters of SGB Cottolengo, Mother Elda Pezutto, said they had received the good news with joy and urged the faithful to pray even more intensely to Sister Carola.
An explanation of the incident is that in 2013 the whole of Tharaka region had no tarmac and badly dilapidated roads.
The hardy Land Rover Defender was the only means of transport for most residents in areas that recorded high child mortality rates due to lack of maternal care.
Spread the gospel
Sister Carola was born in Italy in 1877. She left for Kenya in 1905 to serve and spread the gospel. She will become only the second person who worked in Kenya to be beatified, after Sister Irene Stefani (Nyaatha) in 2015. Sister Nyaatha had served at Gikondi Parish in Mukurwe-ini, Nyeri County.
The miracle attributed to Sister Stefani’s intervention happened in 1989 at a church in Napepe, Mozambique, where catechists from different parishes–who were isolated together with other people who had sought refuge during the civil war–prayed through Sister Irene after they ran out of water.
The baptismal fountain spouted water allowing them to use it for three-and-a-half days for drinking and bathing.
The journey to sainthood is an elaborate process, says Father Peter Githinji, who was involved in the beatification process for Sister Irene. After her veneration, the nun is now ‘Blessed Sister Maria Carola Cecchin’.
Father Githinji told The Standard that the congregation studied evidence of Sister Carola’s work and forwarded the results to the Pope who gave her the title ‘Venerable’ on November 24.
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“Her case started many years ago. People who knew her gave witness,” the priest said, adding that immediately after a miracle is reported, the postulator, who acts as the advocate, will report to the congregation, after which the Vatican will study the case.
Father Githinji said Sister Carola’s miracle had been identified, and the Pope had given a ‘Nihil Obstat’, which means there are no objections to Sister Carola’s journey to sainthood.
“That means that now people can pray through her. She did extraordinary things in an ordinary way and research on her continues. Stakeholders have been allowed to pray for miracles through her,” said Father Githinji.
Sister Carola left Italy on January 28, 1905, in a group of six Sisters. She served as a missionary in Limuru, Tuthu, Iciagaki, Mugoiri, Wambogo, Nyeri, Igoji and lastly in Tigania.
At Tuthu, a historical account being traced by the church indicates she was a favourite of colonial chief Karuri wa Gakure after she introduced his assistants to baking using wheat.
It was in Tigania that Sister Carola’s last heroic efforts and total sacrifice to the Lord were witnessed, research shows. Besides the usual discomfort and hardships, she suffered from a painful and debilitating disease.
At that time, the Superiors of the Little House in Turin had arranged for the Sisters to return home; their mission in Africa was over.
But Sister Carola stayed on to serve the local community. She sacrificed her own desire to get back home, giving up her rightful place, in order to allow the departure of other Sisters who were eager to return to Turin.
Sister Carola loved the Tigania people to the end. She would say, “Someone must be the last, and that will be me!” This as she attended to the sickly and worked for the salvation of souls.
“Supported by prayer, she accepts the sacrifices, anxieties, difficulties of language, climate and different cultural contexts,” the historical account reads in part.
On October 11, 1925, together with Sister Crescentina, she bid the mission goodbye and embarked on a journey to Turin. She passed away a few weeks later on November 13.
In a past interview with The Standard, Meru Catholic Diocese Bishop Mugambi said: “Her body was buried at sea, the Red Sea. Back then there was no means for the preservation of bodies.”
“She worked nursing sick people and spreading the gospel,” Bishop Mugambi said.