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A hillside spiritual enclave

Barry Silah @obel_barry

Sitting right at the top of the picturesque Kofia Mbaya hill in Marsabit county is the elegantly designed Maria Mfariji Shrine. It was officially launched in 2006 by the late Most Reverend Nicodemus Kirima, then Archbishop of Nyeri Parish, in honour of Our Lady of Consolata.

The giant prayer house is surrounded by trees, making the spot very cold and windy. From that top most spot of the county, one can see all corners of the town. To access it, one has to meander through drenched footpaths adjacent to Marsabit National Park and around one kilometre off the main road.

This religious place that is popular with pilgrims mostly from the Northern District has quite a rich bit of history. For many years, the late Bishop Carlo Cavallera IMC, at that time bishop of Nyeri, had wanted to evangelise the Northern District Frontier, but he faced a lot of resistance from the colonial government. He made a promise that if he had a breakthrough, he would build a shrine in honour of Our Lady Consolata.

Unfortunately he would retire before he realised the dream. As he handed over the diocese to his successor, Bishop Ambrose Ravasi, Cavallera looked at him straight in the eye and said, “I am leaving the diocese, but before you retire, make sure you build a shrine in honour of Our Lady Consolata.”

Bishop Ravasi kept the idea of the shrine at the back of his mind even as he went about his activities. 

He identified a place near Marsabit for the shrine, and wrote a letter to the then District Commissioner who immediately called a meeting with the committee for the allocation of plots. Unfortunately, the piece of land had already been allocated to someone else and the bishop had to look for an alternative site.

Daniel Damucha, the then parish council chairman of Marsabit Cathedral, learnt that the bishop was looking for a piece of land to build a shrine. He donated thepiece of land where the shrine stands today.

The next task was to get the resources to put up the multimillion shilling project.  Again, providence came knocking and Mr Gianfranco Folgliacco, an architect and a brother of a fellow Consolata Missionary, Fr Nicola Folgliacco, offered to do the work for free.

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