Four Stages in the canonization process in the Catholic Church
- Servant of God is the first of the four steps in the canonization process.
- Venerable, is being declared upon a decree of heroism or martyrdom by the honored after thorough investigation in his or her life by the relevant offices in the Catholic Church.
- Blessed; after a miracle which has been evaluated by the Church with the help of professional and technical teams to verify its validity, the venerable is raided to the statues of a Blessed. Hence the ceremony of Beatification, which is only declared by the Pope, from then on the blessed begins to appear in the church calendar throughout the world.
- Saint; After more scrutiny and acknowledgement of another miracle by the office of Congregation for the Causes of Saints, the blessed is announced as a saint by the Pope and the event of sainthood is conducted by him or a delegate. Sainthood completes the process of canonization.
In the 2nd, 3rd and 4th stages, miracles are expected to be done for people with sicknesses or any other extraordinary deeds done by God through the intersession of the Servant of God, Venerable, or Blessed. These stages may take a short or a long time or even a century or beyond. No doubt Venerable Sr. Irene has passed the first two stages before becoming a Blessed in May. Such a miracle took place in Mozambique and was verified by the Church and the technical team.
Tribunal of investigating the life of Sr.Irene
Following the canonical procedures, the Vatican through the office of Causes of Saints raised the status of Sister Irene to that of the Servant of God in the early 1980’s. Soon after, Vatican directed two tribunals to be set up to inquire about her life. The tribunal in Turin, Italy was established to focus on her life based on her writings while the tribunal in Nyeri, Kenya was to focus on her heroic virtues as demonstrated by her life in Nyeri, particularly Gikondi Parish.
Rev. Fr. Pasqualetti and Sister Gian Paola were sent officially in Kenya to bring this message to the late Bishop Gatimu. Very soon, the tribunal of Nyeri was established and Fr. Mino Vaccari was appointed as Chairman and Rev. Fr. Prof. Donatus Mathenge was appointed as the secretary (Notarius) to the tribunal. When Bishop Gatimu concluded the tribunal work and signed, the report was packaged and addressed to the office of causes of the Saints in 1986. As it is expected, Bishop Gatimu was supposed to take the documents to Vatican, and just when he was about to start his journey a malady overtook him leading to his death on 20th February 1987. After Easter of the same year, the Notarious, Fr. D. Mathenge, was given the task of taking the documents to the Vatican.
The day of Beatification
Until recently Beatifications were done in Rome by the Holy Father but now the Church has decided that the Beatifications will be done in the Diocese where the Blessed had lived and died. Therefore we have the honor of having Cardinal Polycarp Pengo, the Archbishop of Dar Salaam, Tanzania who will read out the Apostolic Letter of Beatification and Cardinal John Njue, Archbishop of Nairobi, who will preside at the celebration of Holy Mass of Beatification. Archbishop Peter Kairo will preside at the Mass of Thanksgiving. The three main events are therefore: On 22nd May 2015 there will be a vigil/kesha at Gikondi parish for the purpose of Spiritual preparation by Christians. The 23rd is the big day of Beatification at Dedan Kimathi University grounds. Then on Sunday the 24th, the blessed remains of Blessed Irene will be brought in a big procession from Mathari church to the Cathedral of Nyeri where they will be placed in a new tomb which will be a point of reference as a shrine in future years.
The impact of Her Heroic life and culture or virtues to the youth today
The heroic virtues of Sr. Irene are relevant to the society today especially to the youth who are the leaders of today and tomorrow regardless of their religious affiliations.
The Beatification of Sr. Irene Stefani and, hence, the recognition of her virtuous life shall be outstanding as an immeasurable contribution to the development of the history, culture, and value system of Nyeri, and Kenya at large.