Sr.Irene Stefani was born in 1891, the period around when Britain opened fertile highlands of Kenya to white settlers. She had 12 siblings, 7 of whom would die in their infancy. Her mother passed away when she was only 16, and ostensibly a young Irene was left with the task of taking care of her younger 4 siblings. On 29th January 1914 she consecrated her life to God by taking the Religious vows and on 28th December of the same year she left for Kenya. She would heed to every call in the night to serve the sick and baptise those in the blink of death. She would naturally speak to people she encountered, about God with joy and conviction. On 20th October 1930, she opted to visit a sick teacher who previously had spoken badly about her and her way of teaching. 10 days later, Sr.Irene died at the age of 39 after inhaling this teacher’s breath which probably caused her infection.
That’s Sister Irene for you. Her love and mercy transcended races, continents and people who disliked her work. Its on that note that this weekend, the entire world, catholic or non catholic zoom their lenses to a typical sleepy village of Gikondi, in Mukurweini, Nyeri County to witness a historical moment of their lives. Gikondi, will be trending globally as a mammoth of Christians congregate for a night vigil to commence the beatification process of Sister Irene. She died in this very village but not before walking miles, far and beyond, in her boots of glory to spend much of her time in sick peoples’ bed sides. People of Gikondi had nick named her Nyaatha, meaning Nyina wa Tha (Mother of mercy and love), for her rare sense of mercy. Sorry for telling you what you already know.
Sister Irene was phenomenal. She had a big heart. A merciful heart that touched legions far away from her country and family. Close to a century later, her deeds still captures the world’s headlines. Her rich impact still trembles the world’s sophistication and contemporary life. To me that’s beautiful and humbling. Thank God, social media was not invented then, and if it was, she wouldn’t care a thing. Her heart bled for the people. She cared less about basking in her glory. She was empathetic, noble and compassionate. Picture this, while your agemates, join campus and others venture into businesses while some start up families, Stefani harboured a different dream. A dream of carrying the emotional burden of people in a different continent, poorer and uncivilised, then.
Unlike Sr.Stefani, our lives are spent on social media where we exhibit any new dress, car or house. That flight trip that was 100% footed by your employer is flaunted on instagram for days. Our generation is obsessed with frivolous gratification of our naive excitement. We pose this demeanor of living large which is all but a life lived in denial. We live for others, while we auction our minds to them. We are too feeble to stand naysayers. We parade our spouses sent from heaven, our beautiful kids and the last escapade to the coastal beaches or hiking in Hell’s Gate just to make news. We badly crave to be worshiped or perceived in awe.
If Sister Irene was to resurrect today, she would be overwhelmed by the self – centered mentality in us. We no longer hear of good samaritan stories anymore. Do we ever raise an alarm when a neighbour’s house is broken into? When families lose their son or daughter whom they struggled to school, in a University attack, do we sympathise with them? Do such news bother us or what we only care about, is our very close relatives? Why is it hard for school going kids to come up with a list of role models? Sister Irene would be defeated by news of Presidents clinging onto power as their countries bleed with riots and melee. Would she come to terms with news of people killing comrades for the mere reason of them belonging from another country.
Its all waste of national resources and our time if we’ll spend an entire weekend glued to the TV screens or rather blazing the sweltering sun to witness this historical moment if it’ll not turnaround our lives. Beatification of Sister Irene should serve a purpose to us. It should trigger a sense of self interrogation and evaluation. We should have a moment with ourselves, mirroring our past mistakes, achievements and pondering on times we’ve set aside(if any) to help the disadvantaged communities around us. How many times, have you given way in traffic voluntarily? Or assisted a grandma carry her luggage home? When was the last time you were involved in your church’s development project or do you always look away when such announcements arise.
Your life’s footsteps will be judged harshly or otherwise when you pass away.Sooner or later. What will your eulogy read? Will tales of your generosity and kindness be told? Will humans who are not necessary your relatives or close friends be overcome by emotions by the reality of you being no more? Will you have touched lives by the time you meet your death? Or will your family be left with the burden of filling the voids and gaps of your pale or dull life as they bury you six feets under? We have no business being alive if we don’t make faces smile, give a hand and create time for loved ones. We have no business being alive if we don’t aid in wiping tears of a society.
“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.”
― Leo Buscaglia