In Summary
  • Born in Awasi in Kisumu County, she died at the age of 75, closing a controversial but influential chapter to a woman whose religious life changed at 20, when her two children died, right at the beginning of Kenya as an independent country.

The Legio Maria, an indigenous African church popular in some communities in Nyanza, is mourning one of its founders.

Ms Gaudencia Aoko, who died on December 23 at Nightingale Hospital in Kisumu had been taken ill for the most part of 2018.

Born in Awasi in Kisumu County, she died at the age of 75, closing a controversial but influential chapter to a woman whose religious life changed at 20, when her two children died, right at the beginning of Kenya as an independent country.

Her parents were Dominicus Obala and Lydia Oketch.

On Wednesday, Mr Peter Mutuku, a priest at St Peter's Manyatta Parish, confirmed the death but said the official programme for funeral preparations will be announced by Bishop Mathews Aquinas of Nyando Diocese.

According to Henry Obala, Ms Aoko’s elder brother, the Legio Maria founder was taken ill in December and she died only two weeks after she fell sick.

“We are surprised, she had been strong and going on with her businesses. The sickness did not take even two weeks before she succumbed,” said Mr Obala, who spoke to the Nation at their Watombori village in Awasi, Nyando sub-county.

Mr Obala described her sister as humble, kind-hearted and loving but was firm and a no-nonsense leader who shepherded her flock well.

"She never chose roles or work. She would ride bicycles and also crush rocks, roles perceived to be performed by boys during the past years. She was a leader and was loved because she baptised people and exorcised demons from the possessed,” said Mr Obala.

Initially married to Simeo Owiti in a traditionally ‘arranged’ marriage, she divorced him after her two children died on the same day in 1962. Her body is at Nightingale Mortuary and her burial has been set for January 19.