From: Ouko joachim omolo
The News Dispatch with Omolo Beste
SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 23, 2013
As the year of faith concludes tomorrow Sunday November 24, 2013 in Kenya, there have been a lot of celebrations taking place. The Catholic University of Eastern Africa (CUEA) concluded it onThursday 21st, with a Eucharistic Celebration presided over by the Apostolic Nuncio to Kenya H.E. Archbishop Charles Daniel Balvo.
The Nuncio laid the foundation stone for the grotto of Our Lady and blessed the Statue of Mother Mary. CUEA is dedicated to the care of Mother Mary. The Nuncio also planted the tree of faith at the university, a symbol that faith in Kenya has just begun to grow.
The climax of this symbol was the thirteen candidates who became catechumens and are being prepared at the university to receive the sacraments of initiation on Easter vigil. The thirteen included eleven students, a staff member at the institution and a child of one of the staff member at the institution.
As the Apostolic Nuncio said in his homily, our faith is not only part of our life and part of the life of the church- it is indeed a gift from God which can be enriched through greater knowledge of God. As such faith requires a greater deal of understanding, particularly when we spend time in prayer we deepen our faith.
A faith which should be sustained even in times of difficulties, in our weaknesses and strength-but above all we should support one another to grow in this faith.
As we conclude the year of the faith, currently there are more than 4,000 registered churches in Kenya, belonging to an innumerable variety of denominations. They can range from very mainstream churches, to lesser-known evangelical and gospel offshoots.
Many of these denominations are recent compared Catholicism which first arrived in Kenya in 1498, when a Portuguese trader erected a cross on the coastal shore near Malindi, even though the country didn’t start to have an official Church presence until the 1900s with the construction of the railways.
By that time, there were a number of missions and Kenyan priests were starting to be ordained. The first Kenyan dioceses were established in 1953, for Nairobi, Nyeri, Kisimu and Meru. Today there are more than 26 dioceses with baptized Catholics estimated at 7.5million, comprising of 33 percent with Protestants lead at 45 percent-Indigenous beliefs at 10 percent, Muslim 10 percent and other at 2 percent.
Among the first African bishops were Caesar Gatimu and Maurice Cardinal Otunga. Gatimu was born to a Catholic family at Limuru, Kenya, in 1921. He made his first studies at St. Augustine’s Minor Seminary, Nyeri.
In 1939 Gatimu was sent to Rome to receive his philosophical and theological formation in the Urban College of Propaganda Fide, and then (after his priestly ordination in Rome on March 17, 1946) in St. Peter’s College, from which he got his doctorate in divinity in 1948. After his return to Kenya he worked in the diocese of Nyeri in various pastoral services.
In 1956 he was appointed parish priest of Kianyaga Catholic Mission and in 1959 he became one of the councellors in Nyeri Diocese. On April 21, 1961 he was appointed auxiliary bishop of Mgr. Cavallera and on May 21 of the same year was consecrated in Rome by Pope John XXIII together with thirteen other bishops from missionary countries.
On November 25, 1964 Pope Paul VI made him bishop of Nyeri, when Bishop Cavallera was transferred to the new diocese of Marsabit. He was the first Kikuyu Catholic bishop and efficiently contributed to the development of the Catholic Church in his diocese and in the central province of Kenya.
Because of his pastoral dedication and the good relationship he had with his people and the authorities of the country, it can explain why in Kenya today, Kikuyu communities are very strong in faith. In fact Kikuyu are among the communities in Kenya that have understood that the church belongs to them and not the clergy.
Catholic Women Association (CWA) among the Kikuyu communities is one of the strongest associations in Kenya today. These women alone are able to take care of the priests, cater for the ordination of newly ordained priests, religious among other church support.
Gatimu died on February 20, 1987 and was buried in the Catholic Cathedral of Nyeri, in the presence of all the bishops of Kenya and of President Moi. He worked along with the Consolata missionaries.
Cardinal Maurice Otunga who would have been a paramount chief but instead chose to serve God as a clergy. Born in January 1923, Otunga was the first Kenyan bishop. Pope Pius XII appointed him as the Bishop of Kisumu in 1956.
He had been ordained priest in October 1950 while in Rome, where he studied at the Collegio Urbaniano in 1947, returning home four years later with a Masters degree in Theology and a bright future in servant leadership.
He was appointed to Nairobi in 1969 by Pope Paul VI. In 1971 he succeeded Archbishop John Joseph McCarthy as Ordinary of Nairobi. He was made Cardinal two years later. He is credited with setting up several institutes including the Catholic University of East Africa (CUEA).
The second missionaries to come to Kenya after the Catholic were the Anglican missionaries in 1844. Over the years they translated much of the Bible into the local languages in order to help preach to the locals. Festo Habakkuk Olang’ was among its first Kenyan bishops.
Festo Olang’ was born about 1914, around the beginning of the first World War, at Ebusakami Esabalu village, Maseno, near the equator in south Bunyore of Kakamega district. He spoke Luo and Luhyia fluently.
He was ordained to priesthood in 1950 at St. Paul’s, Maseno, by Bishop Crabbe. In 1952, he became the first African rural dean for Central Nyanza and vicar of Bunyore parish through the end of 1954.
On May 15, 1955, Olang’ and Obadiah Kariuki were consecrated at Namirembe Cathedral, Kampala in Uganda by Archbishop of Canterbury, Most Rev. Dr. Geoffrey Fisher, as the first African assistant bishops in Kenya.
Olang’ presided over all of western Kenya while Rev. Kariuki took central Kenya. Olang’s duties included confirmations, visitations, counseling, and preaching, just to name a few.
In December 1960, he was appointed bishop of Maseno, which covered Nyanza province and Western province. He was enthroned in 1961 by Archbishop Beecher at St. Stephen’s church, Kisumu, which later became his pro-cathedral. He was archbishop from 1971 to 1980, the year he retired.
Among other first denominations in Kenya include the English Society of Friends and Africa lnland Mission established as a “faith mission. It began its ministry in Kenya in 1895 under the direction of Peter Cameron Scott. Others include Methodists, Presbyterians among others.
In Luo Nyanza Legio Maria was taking root. The religious movement was initiated by repeated appearances of a mystic woman to several Roman Catholic members delivering messages about the incarnation of the son of God as a black man.
These appearances are said to have begun around 1938, almost simultaneous with the beginning of Edel Quinne’s lay catholic mission to Africa. By the early 1960s the movement had assembled a good number of catechists, acolytes, and believers in a spiritual return of Jesus Christ.
The continuous expansion of this movement coupled with its belief in Simeo Ondetto as the returned Son of God led to theological tension and eventual break with lay catholic movement, Legion of Mary.
This mystic woman is the one Legio Maria adherents relate with the Fatima Secrets. She is believed to have called a number of Catholics to the new movement by visionary appearances, telling them to look forward to her son who had come to Africa. Her spiritual son, Simeo Ondetto, was then a catechist in Roman Catholic Church.
By 1980 the church numbered 248,000 adherents. Today it has spread up to Tanzania, Uganda and other parts of Eastern and Central Africa among different ethnic communities.
Government estimates at the time of the split from the Catholic Church stated that there were nearly 90,000 followers of Legio Maria. By 1968, it had become a member of the East African United Churches.
Fr Joachim Omolo Ouko, AJ
Tel +254 7350 14559/+254 722 623 578
Real change must come from ordinary people who refuse to be taken hostage by the weapons of politicians in the face of inequality, racism and oppression, but march together towards a clear and unambiguous goal.
-Anne Montgomery, RSCJ