OUR HISTORY, ORIGINS AND GROWTH
The Nazareth Sisters of the Annunciation trace their heritage to the First Bishop of Meru Rt. Rev. Lawrence Victor Bessone, IMC., who founded the Congregation of Women Religious on 8th December 1955, with six young women being the pioneers. In 1954 Bishop Bessone was appointed the 1 St Bishop of Meru Diocese, newly created from Nyeri Diocese. He had previously been in Kenya as a Regional Superior of the Consolata Missionaries and therefore fully acquainted with the innumerable complex and, sometimes, distressing situations in Meru. He went out with a Shepherd’s heart that he was going to Meru to seek the lost sheep. Furthermore, he was not a little surprised when the Priests and Sisters in the Diocese reported to him that there were some girls who wished to become Sisters and be consecrated to God.
RELIGION AND CULTURAL CONFLICTS
In the early beginnings, our African people had no idea of Religious Life. They never understood how a woman could remain without children in the first place, yet it was their first goal to bring forth children. The first members of the Congregation were faced with this kind of challenges and difficult decision to make. Rebecca Kirigi (Sr. Anna Maria) and Teresina Weveti (Sr. Margaret), who became the pioneers of our Congregation, had a lot of problems when they communicated their ideas of joining Religious Life. Their parents were against the idea, although they had been introduced to Christianity.
The two took courage, and they used to attend daily Mass in Kevote Parish. Sometimes their clothes were thrown out of the house and met insults of all kinds from the family. The soldiers released bullets directly to the Parish in need of the heads of these ladies who were hiding in that Parish. The Consolata Sisters used to offer them food and any other need they deserved until they were taken to Consolata Hospital Nkubu for employment where they earned Kshs 20/= per month. While at Nkubu, they met the Bishop many
times, but he was tough on them. He advised them to join the Mary Immaculate Sisters in Nyeri since he had had not thought of beginning any Congregation. They rejected his ideas since they wanted to remain in their Dicoese.
The two girls pestered the Bishop until he got tired. They were told to go home, but after three weeks they were called back, and they held a meeting with the Bishop who told them to go back completely. “Your children will become Sisters”. The two felt cut off completely. Driven by the Holy Spirit, Rebecca asked the Bishop…” Can one repay the vocation of someone?” This Question made the Bishop see the seriousness at long last. During this time there were other young women who were aspiring to join Religious Life but remained in various Parishes awaiting the decision of the Bishop.
BIRTH OF A NEW RELIGIOUS CONGREGATION
After due consultations and preparations, the time came for the aspiring women to come together for a common purpose.
On 3rd December 1955 the first two ladies Teresina Weveti and Rebecca Kirigi came to Mujwa which would be their new home for several years.
On 5th December 1955 other two from Chuka Parish came, i.e. Agnes Ciacukuru and Elizabeth Ciakieni.
On 7th December 1955 two more come i.e. Veronica Karimi from Igoji and Cecilia Muthon from Nkubu Parish.
On 8th December 1955, the six young ladies were officially admitted as the first Aspirants of the Congregation. They were entrusted to Sr. Ignazia Ghilardi a Consolata Missionary as their Formator.
These six young women became the pioneers, the co-founders of the Nazareth Sisters Congregation.
ENTRY INTO NOVITIATE
The Six Aspirants were entered canonical year of Novitiate on 25th March 1958. They were under the guidance of Sr. Giann Paula, a Consolata Missionary, who introduced them to religious formation.
FIRST RELIGIOUS PROFESSION
On 25th March 1961, the young Congregation of the Nazareth Sisters received their first five professed members with new names as follows:
Sr. Margaret Weveti (Teresina), Sr. Anna Maria Kirigi (Rebecca), Sr. Victoria Ciacukuru (Agnes), Sr. Josephine Ciakieni (Elizabeth) and Sr. Johana Muthoni (Cecilia).
One Novice, Veronica Karimi (Sr.Bernadetta) had been returned home due to health challenges, although she came back later and eventually became the first sister to die in the Congregation on 27th June 1990.
THE EARLY YEARS AND TIME OF CRISIS
In the first 20 years of existence, the Congregation there were many turbulences which saw many young women come and go. Between 1972 and 1976, there was a big storm which shook the members in the young Congregation. Many members including professed sisters, Novices and Aspirants left the Congregation. The Bishop Founder, Rt. Rev. Lawrence Victor Bessone died on 7th April 1976 and the Bishop Silas Sylvius Njiru took over the Diocese and the running of the Nazareth Sisters of the Annunciation.
There was very little growth of the Congregation during these years. The few convents that had been opened were now closed and all the sisters came back to the Motherhouse, Nkabune. These were dark days for the young Congregation, but the the spirit of the Lord was still blowing and maintaining the few members who were left.
CANONICAL ERECTION AND GROWTH
The good news came on 1st January 1980 when Bishop Silas gave a Decree of Canonical Erection to the Congregation, thus giving it a canonical status. It is after this event that the Congregation embarked on serious recruitment of new members and the Congregation started growing in membership and other aspects of development, e.g.acquiring properties and running own projects. They also opened convents in various Parishes within the Diocese and even outside the Diocese of Meru. In the next 20 years the membership had grown to nearly a hundred members working in several Dioceses, i.e. Meru, Marsabit, Isiolo, Nyahururu, Lodwar and Nairobi.
Three General Chapters were celebrated within this period: First Chapter in 1983 and second chapter in 1989 and third chapter in 1995. Together with the entire Catholic Church, the great Jubilee year 2000 was celebrated all over the world. There was great hope for the Congregation, which was not trying to establish itself within the Church and Society. On 8th December 2005, the Congregation celebrated 50 years of Foundation. It was a great occasion to evaluate the impact of the existence of the Congregation and look forward to greater growth not only in numbers but in quality of life like our Founder was fond of reminding the sisters that it is not quantity but quality.
Currently, the Congregation has a membership of nearly 200 and the Professed members are working in eight Dioceses in Kenya, one in Tanzania, one in Uganda and one in Diocese of Des Moines, USA. In December 2020, the congregation celebrated the 7th General Chapter and called on all the members to re-awaken the prophetic role and live radically the spirit of our Founder, thus going to the roots.