A Kenyan-born nun who died in Zambia, hours after renewing her vows in the Congregation of the Sisters of St. John the Baptist (Baptistines) for the fourth time, is being eulogized as a cheerful and prayerful person.
Sr. Caroline Gatwiri Kiambi, 37, died Monday, October 5 at the University Teaching Hospital in Zambia’s capital, Lusaka, the leadership of the Baptistines in Zambia Province announced, specifying the time of death as having been “around 22:30 hours” local time.
The sudden and unexpected death was caused by an acute hemorrhage of the pancreas, the Superior General of the Sisters of St. John the Baptist in Zambia Province, Sr. Judith Anne told ACI Africa, Wednesday, October 7.
“She took her vows during Mass in the morning (Monday, October 5). Later, the Sisters threw a party for her,” Sr. Judith told ACI Africa, recalling the events before Sr. Caroline’s unexpected death.
Making reference to Sr. Caroline, the Provincial of the Baptistines in Zambia continued, “She bid the sisters goodnight around 21hours and went to her room but close to an hour later, she called one of her Sisters saying she wasn’t feeling well.”
“Upon rushing to her room, the sister found that Sr. Caroline had thrown up. Surprised by this change, they took her to hospital but there she was too weak and was confirmed dead,” Sr. Judith told ACI Africa October 7.
She recalled meeting Sr. Caroline on Sunday saying, “She was glowing, beaming with a big smile” and eulogized her as a “cheerful, hardworking and very welcoming.”
“Her hug was very different; she spread out her hands and gave you a nice big hug,” Sr. Judith went on to recall, adding that Sr. Caroline who worked as a bursar in the Lusaka-based Elena Sapio Convent School was “very honest.”
“We made her school bursar as she could say no to her fellow nuns when need be,” Sr. Judith said.
Recalling the late Sister’s relationship with members of the Nazarene Convent where she stayed, Sr. Judith said, “The superior of the community is much younger than Sr. Caroline in age but she was so respectful. She would politely ask for anything.”
Born in Kenya’s Diocese of Meru in June 1983, Sr. Caroline joined the Zambia-based congregation in May 2012. She took her first vows in the Congregation in October 2016.
She had served as a Sunday School teacher and Choir member in her local Holy Redeemer Catholic Church Iruma of Meru Diocese before joining the Baptistines in Zambia.
Fr. Cornelius Mukubi who spoke to Sr. Caroline hours before her death will always treasure their last conversation, the Kenyan-born member of the Society of African Missions (SMA) who is currently in Nairobi told ACI Africa.
“I will cherish the last conversation we had when she said, ‘I’m praying for you.’ This will forever remain with me,” he said Wednesday, October 7, and added, “She was very happy when we spoke; she was filled with the joy that comes out of a celebration.”
Fr. Cornelius who met Sr. Caroline when he was ministering in Zambia went on to recall his last phone conversation with the late Sister a few hours before she met her death, “We had to cut our conversation as she had to go for supper. She promised to call afterwards.”
“Sadly, I fell asleep and only got her missed calls in the morning,” he said and continued, “I was informed of the death in the morning and I could not believe it.”
He eulogized Sr. Caroline as “very prayerful and one of the people who could give herself totally to something.”
“She was a young sister, not finally professed, but the dedication and maturity in her was amazing,” Fr. Cornelius recalled, adding, “Sr. Caroline has gone to be with the Saints and the Angels, I strongly believe that, and she is in the safest place.”
James Kiambi remembers her younger sister as one who was “deeply in love with the Church” from a young age, he told ACI Africa and recalled, “Every Sunday, she was among the dancers in our Church.”
“She was so loving, hardworking and determined to get what she wanted,” James said, adding, “When she wanted to become a Sister, she visited several communities until she found what she liked best.”
Sr. Caroline’s death “is a shock to everyone including the community in Meru,” James told ACI Africa Wednesday, October 7 and added, “Sr. Caroline, we loved you, but God loved you the most.”
Sr. Ruth Marjory Mushamba remembers Sr. Caroline as a “friendly and straightforward person who wore a smile at all times.”
“Sister Caro was a God-fearing person who used to put God first,” Sr. Ruth, also a member of the Baptistine told ACI Africa and added, “The last encounter I had with her really touched me as she said, ‘Sr. Ruth, we are here to obey if we want to live our religious life happily.’”
She remembers Sr. Caroline’s humility saying, “She used to call me Big Sister though she was older than I.”
“Sr. Caro my sister! Your death has broken me into pieces. You were a friend, a sister and you always encouraged me. May the heavenly angels escort you to meet Jesus whom you served here on earth,” added Sr. Ruth.
She implored, “May our Founder St. Alfonso Maria Fusco, our patron St. John the Baptist, our patroness mother Mary intercede for you until you meet our saviour, Jesus. Go well my sister you have run your race. Rest in Peace.”
For Sr. Anastacia Miti, another member of the Baptistines, the death of Sr. Caroline is “really hard to believe.”
“Sr. Carol loved her religious life. Simplicity is what defined her; she never accumulated things but lived a simple life with only a few things from the very day she came to join Religious Life. She loved prayer, she was very hardworking, courageous and responsible,” Sr. Anastacia told ACI Africa.
She added, “Indeed life is like a flower, which blossoms in the morning and withers in the evening. May Sr. Caroline rest in Peace.”
The late Sr. Caroline is expected to be laid to rest Friday, October 9 in Chingola, which is located in Zambia’s Copperbelt Province within the Diocese of Ndola.