Historical Who is Who
STEPHANI, Irene Nyaatha
Sister Irene Stefani was born and raised in a small town in Northern Italy. She had had a rather tragic childhood, losing her mother at 16 after quitting school to take care of her. In late 1911, as a 20-year old woman, she joined the Consolata Missionaries in Turin, Italy. She took her final vows two years later and boarded a ship for Mombasa, Kenya, in 1914. In Kenya, Sr Irene joined the Consolata Missionaries station in Nyeri. As World War I (1915 -1918) casualties mounted, Sister Irene and her fellow nuns joined the Red Cross as volunteers. Sr. Irene became very soon the “angel of charity,” as a medical colonel called her in the military hospitals in Kenya and Tanzania. Later she was giving herself unsparingly in the Mission of Gikondi (1920- 1930) and the people were calling her with the nickname “Nyaatha” meaning ‘Merciful Mother. Sr Irene’s work among the people of Gikondi left a rich legacy of compassion. In 1930, an epidemic of the bubonic plague hit the village. While treating the afflicted, she contracted the disease and died. She was only 39. In April 2, 2011, the beatification of Stefani was sanctioned by Pope Benedict XVI following a miracle that occurred at Nipepe in Mozambique where refugees running from conflicts and who sought refuge in a church drank water from a miraculous overflowing baptismal front.