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Centenarian who was treated by Sister Irene Stefani (Nyaatha)

As the Catholic fraternity world over join to celebrate Blessed Sister Irene Stefani’s Day today October 31st, 2023, a centenarian in Karia village, Gikondi division, Mukurwe-ini, Nyeri County has paid a tribute to the renowned Italian nun for treating her and siblings of a deadly disease, suspected to be leprosy.

Milka Wambura Itundu, 105, recalls how she and her two siblings contracted a deadly disease that mainly affected their toes, and how Nyaatha came and washed them affectionately without fearing to be infected.

“On learning about our plight Mwari (Kikuyu term for sister) Irene visited and treated us affectionately without fearing contracting the disease. She washed us with some medicines and that night I could not sleep because of the pain. She even visited us days later to ensure we got totally healed. That is how she saved this big toe,” the granny said pointing at the toe with her walking stick.

Wambura who is the only living credible witness, of the Saint- to- be Italian nun, paints Sister Stefani as having been of unmatched kindness to all irrespective of their religious affiliations stressing that though she (Wambura) was and still is an AIPCA member, Nyaatha attended to her and siblings dutifully.

“That’s why she was nicknamed Nyina wa Tha (mother of mercy). She loved and cared for everybody. I used to take some traditional vegetables to nuns at Gikondi Catholic church but not even once I found her there as she was reportedly always in villages attending to the sick,” the centenarian added.

Wambura is among several witnesses whose evidence concerning Sister Stefani was recorded by Rome ahead of the latter’s beatification 8 years ago. The other witnesses who have since passed on are John Baiye who died months after Nyaatha was beatified, Catherine Wangari, Emma Wangechi and lately Elizabeth Muthoni Nyaga.

Sister Irene Stefani was beatified on May 23, 2015 in Mathari Nyeri County in a colourful ceremony presided over by Dar es Salaam Cardinal Polycarp Pengo on behalf of pope Francis.

During the beatification celebrations at Gikondi Catholic Parish where Nyaatha served last before succumbing to bubonic plague that she contracted from a patient she was attending to, Wambura composed a song in her honour that awed the catholic faithful from all over the world that graced the occasion.

Surprisingly she effortlessly sang the same song yesterday when being interviewed by KNA despite being 8 years older.

The jovial granny asked the Nyeri County and the National Governments to consider establishing a modern hospital in Gikondi division in honour of Sister Irene Stefani emphasizing that a health facility would best keep her memories alive.

“Sister Nyaatha was so fond of assisting the sick that she paid with her life. A hospital should be put up in her remembrance,” she insisted stressing that residents were travelling long distances to seek quality medical services as there was no hospital in Gikondi division.

According to her son Kamau Itundu, a retired teacher, Wambura is very religious, peace loving, generous and always jovial and has never been hospitalized.

“In fact, her favourite food is Githeri. She also like watching Kumkum bhagya, indian soap opera on that focuses on family and love and kundali baghagya to the extent she can’t go to sleep without watching the two TV programmes.

By Kamiri Munyaka

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