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  OBITUARY  

May 08 - 14, 2009

 

 Coastweek   Kenya


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Sr. Cecilia Nargis Commissariat
believed in education for girls

SISTER Cecilia and her music students entertained
Mzee jomo Kenyatta at the Mombasa State House

Coastweek -- Sr. Cecilia, born Nargis Commissariat was the daughter of a prominent Mombasa Parsi sportsperson and cricketer Burjorji Commissariat and his wife Mithibai.

Born in Mombasa, she had her schooling at the then Convent School, now 'The Star of the Sea School' in Mombasa.

After completing her high school she proceeded to England to train as a teacher.

Known to our family as Nargis aunty, she was very keen and eager to provide her services to the young and she found teaching a platform from which to do this.

She believed that education, especially of the girls, was the key for the betterment of life.

Nargis aunty was always very attracted to the gentle and loving message of her Lord Jesus and through him in the Ministry she could offer to all.

Coastweek -- Sr. Cecilia, born Nargis Commissariat.

Finishing her training in England as a teacher, she joined the Lord's Ministry and as Sr. Cecilia, began her long journey in her career as a teacher which spanned some forty years.

It was also typical of her, that she did not reveal much of her services in the field of education and the various places she worked at.

Northern Uganda was among her early posting.

However, her birth place Mombasa, always remained a very dear spot in her heart and eventually she returned to her childhood school as a teacher.

Sr. Cecilia spent the rest of her life teaching at the Convent School and she saw a great deal of changes during her time there.

The school was re-named Star of the Sea and it also underwent an expansion to cater for the children of the independent Kenya.

Sr. Cecilia worked at the Star of the Sea for more than twenty years and even after her retirement, worked in the library of the Star of the Sea.

Every morning she squeezed her tiny, fragile self, in a 'matatu' and arrived at the Star.

Were it not for the fracture of her thigh, Sr. Cecila would have remained in Mombasa.

As she required more care and nursing from the effects of her injury and surgery, she was moved to the home of her order MSOLA, in Nairobi.

It was here that Sr. Cecilia spent the last few years among her beloved sisters and fellow workers, all of whom have given so much of their lives for the betterment of those they served and do so without voicing grievances that many of them suffer, for they do it for the love of their Lord Jesus and the love for the only race on this Planet, the Human Race.

When I last visited Sr. Cecilia in Mombasa some seven years ago, one morning we took a walk from the Star of the Sea to the Old Port, to visit the house, opposite the fish market, where she grew up.

It is an indication of her dedication to her call and her love for her pupils, that as we amble along toward Fort Jesus, we kept on hearing, 'Sista, sista...'  and a young lady would rush up and  embrace her.

It happened so often that I had to ask her if I too could get a cuddle or two.

Music was Sr. Cecilia's other passion and she trained the students at the Star in this too.

Whenever President Kenyatta visited Mombasa, Sr. Cecilia and her music students entertained Mzee Kenyatta at the Mombasa State House.

His Excellency was so impressed by her music students that he donated a piano to the Star of the School, which was imported especially from England.

Sr. Cecilia leaves behind her beloved Mombasa a legacy of love and teaching, which has touched all the students who were so fortunate to have her as a teacher.

Dear 'Sista' Cecilia, we and all your students and those you touched, will miss your love, and gentleness, even though you were very 'kali' angry at times with us.

Hear our prayers for your eternal peace.

Your beloved nephews Kersi and Yazdi Rustomji and family, Your beloved niece Roshan Kharas, Your beloved Jayant and Nargis Patel and family, Your beloved members of all Rustomji family, Your beloved Leigh, Paul, and Michael.

'prema, shanti, ahinsa ...'

'love, peace, kindness ...'

'upendo, raha, latifu ...'

Kersi Rustomji, retired ex-Kenyan Mwalimu, Australia.

rustomji@austarnet.com.au

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 The MSOLA Sisters wrote from Nairobi: 

Last Missionary Headmistress of Star of the Sea Primary Passes On:

As Star of the Sea Primary School prepares to celebrate its centenary this year, her last missionary headmistress succumbed to eternal rest at a Nairobi Hospital.

At 84 years of age, Sr. Cecilia Mary Negris Commissariat- Missionary Sisters of Our Lady of Africa (MSOLA), had fractured her hip and underwent a major operation just before her death.

Cecilia passed away peacefully in Nairobi on the Feast of Our Lady of Africa- 30th April, 2009.

She was a former Headmistress of Star of the Sea Primary School, Mombasa and most of her life as a missionary was spent in Mombasa.

She will be well remembered by both Star of the Sea Primary and High schools former pupils and students for her strictness and the guardian of the school’s history.

Her funeral was at St. Austin Church, Tuesday May 5th at 10.00 am with the main celebrant of the mass being Fr. Rinny Missionary of Africa, who used to visit her regularly.

Here in Mombasa we shall have a Mass for her on 23rd May, 2009, at 5.30 pm, celebrated by Archbishop Boniface Lele at the Holy Ghost Cathedral. All are welcome.

Sr. Cecilia also known as Nergis Commissariat was born in Mombasa on April 27th, 1925 to Mr. Burjorji and Mrs. Mitha Commissariat of the Parsee Community.

Nergis was educated at the then White Sisters Convent School in Mombasa, - now Star of the Sea - where she completed her secondary education after which she went to England for further studies.

It was at that time that she chose to become a Catholic while remaining very much rooted in the Zoroastrian faith.

She was baptized on the 10th July 1946 at the age of 21 and later on joined the Sisters as a Postulant in Heston in 1949.

She made her first vows in Holmwood in 1951 after a year of fusion in Algiers in French with other Novices from different countries.

Her first nomination was to Uganda, Virika Fort Portal where she taught for one year in a Primary school, then to Kinyamasika TTC from 1953 to 1956 in the same town.

The year 1956 saw her back in England, in Coloma College in Kent for two years Teacher Training.

During that period, in 1957, she engaged herself definitively in the MSOLA Congregation.

From 1959 to 1962 she was nominated to Bwanda, Uganda, as a junior secondary school Teacher.

From there she returned to Kenya as Head Mistress of Star of the Sea Primary School from 1963 to 1976.

This school is celebrating its centenary this year.

Cecilia was a musician.

She led school choirs and at music festivals they often won prizes.

Her school choir once sung for President Mzee Kenyata.

He was so pleased that he offered a piano to the school.

That piano remained Sr. Cecilia’s pride.

From the year 1980 to 1990 she was a full time teacher at Star of the Sea Secondary.

After her retirement in 1991, she remained much attached to secondary school until 1998, having different responsibilities there: library and piano lessons while being involved in Social and Pastoral Activities.

Those so many years in Star of the Sea Secondary made her know many people. 

Until today, a good number of them have not forgotten her: former pupils, parents, friends of all Creeds, colors, age, culture, nephews, grand nephews, nieces.

Many were still in touch with her although dispersed all over the Planet Earth.

From 1998 when the MSOLA left Mombasa, the Little Sisters of the Poor welcomed Sr Cecilia in their home in Mombasa.

From there, she continued different activities like: home visits, not being afraid to use common transport like ‘matatus’ in spite of her already venerable age.

28th Oct. 2004 was an unfortunate day for Sr. Cecilia "Nergis" as she fell and fractured her hip.

It was to be the beginning of a new life where all activities were left behind.

That is when she came to our MSOLA house in Nairobi.

Those were difficult years during which she became more and more dependant.

In spite of the pain she endured there were days when she would be very happy and relaxed, going out on the veranda to admire nature, the neighbour’s children playing, enjoying some readings, photographs etc.

On April 27th, the day of her 84th birthday, she was taken to Nairobi hospital where she underwent a major operation.

And on April 30th, feast of Our Lady of Africa, the patron of our Congregation, Cecilia went to her Lord peacefully.

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 Lily Apiyo [Star of the Sea High School student 1997-2000] wrote: 

I am one of the people who was lucky to have shared some time with Sr. Cecilia Commissariat as a student at Star of the Sea High School, 1997 - 2000, when I joined form one.

I first met Sr. Cecilia on the second day of my high school life at Star of the Sea when we had a session with her in the school library to be taught the School History and the School Song:

The star of the Sea shines bright in the sky, so bright ...’

The other days I would see her around the school either supervising the cleaning of Our Lady Star of the Sea’s statue, picking out some paper from the flowerbeds or calling the student nearby to pick and throw away some dirt from the compound.

This she would do on her way to the library where she stayed while in the school with the piano.

Sr. Cecilia loved music and would not stand a musical mistake.

During the school music festivals she was the one who conducted a selection of the school choir members; her scrutiny session was one of the most terrified moments for the members of the school choir.

Her strict and yet fragile look would make even the best singer loose her voice.

Luckily I was among those who passed her tests and joined the school choir the same year I joined, we won from the district level to the nationals and were among the schools that were selected to perform to the then President Daniel Toroitich Arap Moi at the Nakuru State House.

We considered her the school’s icon and this reminds me of a time while in school that a student jokily said that should Sr. Cecilia die because of her old age, her death would cause a closure of the school for all to attend her burial.

As a former student and a Catholic, I celebrate her life; for being faithful to the school’s legacy and keeping the intentions of our founders, and that of our faith, burning bright in the sky.

Despite her age and body weakening she was so active and always present in the school and at its functions until when her health started deteriorating in 2004 when she couldn’t move around and remained at the Little Sisters of the Poor Home in Tudor before she was transferred to Nairobi.

May she Rest in Peace.

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