Kenya, officially the Republic of Kenya, is a country in Eastern Africa. It is the world’s 48th largest country by area. With a population of more than 47.6 million people in the 2019 census, Kenya is the 29th most populous country. Kenya’s capital and largest city is Nairobi, while its oldest city and first capital is the coastal city of Mombasa. As of 2020, Kenya is the third largest economy in sub-Saharan Africa after Nigeria and South Africa. Kenya is bordered by South Sudan to the northwest, Ethiopia to the north, Somalia to the east, Uganda to the west, Tanzania to the south, and the Indian Ocean to the southeast.
Kenya is a presidential representative democratic republic, in which elected officials represent the people and the president is the head of state and government. Kenya is a lower-middle-income economy. Kenya’s economy is the largest in eastern and central Africa. Agriculture is the largest sector: tea and coffee are traditional cash crops, while fresh flowers are a fast-growing export. The service industry is also a major economic driver, particularly tourism.
INDIAN COMMUNITY IN KENYA
During the railway construction era, 1900s, there was a significant influx of Indian workers, who provided the bulk of the skilled manpower required for construction.] They and most of their descendants later remained in Kenya and formed the core of several distinct Indian communities such as the Ismaili Muslim and Sikh communities.
The majority of local residents are made up of Bantus (60%) and Nilotes (30%). The largest native ethnic groups were the Kikuyu (8,148,668), Luhya (6,823,842), Kalenjin (6,358,113), Luo (5,066,966), Kamba (4,663,910), Somalis (2,780,502), Kisii (2,703,235), Mijikenda (2,488,691), Meru (1,975,869), Maasai (1,189,522), and Turkana (1,016,174). The North Eastern Province of Kenya, formerly known as NFD, is predominantly inhabited by the indigenous ethnic Somalis. Foreign-rooted populations include Somalis (from Somalia), Arabs, Asians, and Europeans.
Kenya’s various ethnic groups typically speak their mother tongues within their own communities. The two official languages, English and Swahili, are used in varying degrees of fluency for communication with other populations. English is widely spoken in commerce, schooling, and government.
The majority of Kenyans are Christian (85.5%), of whom 53.9% are Protestant and 20.6% are Roman Catholic. The Presbyterian Church of East Africa has 3 million followers in Kenya and surrounding countries. There are smaller conservative Reformed churches, the Africa Evangelical Presbyterian Church, the Independent Presbyterian Church in Kenya, and the Reformed Church of East Africa. Orthodox Christianity counts 621,200 adherents. Kenya has by far the highest number of Quakers of any country in the world, with around 146,300 members
Islam is the second-largest religion, comprising 10.9% of the population.
CATHOLIC CHURCH IN KENYA
The earliest traces of the Catholic Church in Kenya begin with the missionaries that penetrated the state in 1498, led by Vasco da Gama. Due to regional conflict, poor transportation, and a largely nomadic presence, it became more established in northern Kenya during the twentieth century.
In 1860 the Holy Ghost Missionaries arrived in the island of Zanzibar. In 1891 the first group of Holy Ghost Missionaries came to Mombasa. The La Consolata Fathers arrived in 1902 and the Mill Hill Missionaries in 1903. .b
The Catholic Church is the world’s largest Christian Church, and its largest religious grouping. There are an estimated 7.5 million baptized Catholics in Kenya, approximately 33% of the population
There are 24 Catholic dioceses in Kenya, with 4 archdioceses. Almost every parish has a school. There are well-reputed ecclesiastical universities, for eg. Hekima, Tangaza, Chiea.
Our students go to Consolata Philosophical College (by Consolata Fathers) for Philosophy and to Utume Theological College (by Salesians) for theological studies.
REDEMPTORISTS IN KENYA
On March 21, 1989 a letter was sent to the whole Congregation by twenty Redemptorists of Africa that met in February of threat year at Harare, Zimbabwe, with Fr. General and his Consultors. The General Chapter of….had made a decision to give priority to Africa. In the light of that, for the formation of new confreres and for the expansion of the presence of Redemptorists in Africa, different units were asked to take up missions or send confreres to Africa.
In 1987 Fr. A. J. Francis had come to Kenya for some apostolic works. He met archbishop of Nairobi and bishop of Meru. Both of them later wrote to the Provincial (FR Peter de Sousa) requesting to open a foundation in their dioceses.
During a meeting of Provincials in Rome in September 1987, Fr General requested Fr. Peter to consider reaching out to Korea. Then Peter mentioned the invitation from Kenya.
At the second session of the Provincial Chapter 1988, the request by Fr General and the invitation by bishops in Kenya was discussed. The chapter expressed a preference for Kenya and asked the Provincial government to make a serious study regarding our own resources and the nature of the apostolate to be undertaken.
In August 1989 Frs. Peter de Sousa and Antonio Rodrigues visited Kenya and spent three weeks going to different dioceses, visiting several parishes and institutions. They were very impressed with the works being done by the Consolata Fathers, Cotalengo Fathers, the Fidei Donum Fathers, the Franciscan Friars and many groups of religious in Meru diocese.
They also met groups of lay people, priests and religious. They realized that there was a shortage of priests as chaplains and for pastoral care.
CHOICE FOR MERU
Meru is one of the four oldest dioceses of Kenya (1953). It is situated in the Central Region of Kenya. Frs. Peter and Antonio realized that there was a tremendous need for priests in Meru as there were large numbers of Catholics without pastors. There was also a great need for retreats to youth, religious, priests and groups of laity.
The EPC, after going through a report presented by Peter and Antonio decided to send three confreres to Kenya in July 1990 to start our mission in Kenya. The lot fell on Frs Patrick Romeo, Joseph Gnanam and Albertus Toppo.
On 17 June 1990, during the celebration of the Golden Jubilee of the Province of Bangalore, the three missioners were publicly and solemnly missioned in Holy Ghost Church, Bangalore in the presence of a large number of confreres and laity.
LANDING IN KENYA
On 14 October 1990, around 8.00 pm, the missioners landed at Jomo-Kenyatta International Airport in Kenya. The first experience arriving in Kenya itself was very ‘missionary’. In the words of the chronicler, “To our great surprise, there was no one to receive us, from the diocese of Meru. We were not allowed to go out of the airport, because we needed the original copy of the Entry Permit. Anyway, we managed to get the tourist visa and came out of the airport. It was late night, a strange land, different continent and a new world.”
To their luck in the flight they had met a sister and four novices belonging to Missionaries of Charity. Our missioners spent the first night in Africa in the sacristy of the convent. The next day at night they reached the Bishop’s House in Meru.
From next day onwards the fathers were taken to different parishes and sub-stations of Meru diocese. The future bishop of Meru, then a parish priest at Igoji took the fathers to Iruma, a sub-station of Igoji. There was a Priest’s residence next to the church, built in 1984 but due to shortage of priests it was not made a parish. Our missioners liked the place, which was only three and half km from the main road. But there was no water and electricity.
On 14 January 1991 the bishop officially requested the Redemptorists to take up the new parish of Iruma (formerly known as Holy Family Prayer House, Iruma). Bishop gave us a choice to choose a name for the parish. Our fathers decided on Holy Redeemer to signify Redemptorist presence. Though March 15 was fixed for the inauguration of the new parish late it was changed to 27 April.
OUR FIRST FOUNDATION IN KENYA
On Saturday, 17 April 1991 the first foundation of Redemptorists began in Kenya, in the diocese of Meru, after six months of the arrival of the missioners from India. The chronicler writes: “The inaugural function and the blessing service, presided by the Rt. Rev. Msgr. Silas N. Njiru, the bishop of Meru was really solemn and grand. The whole compound, and the road leading to Iruma from Keria Market, ie. The tarmac main road to Embu-Meru, was filled with welcome banners, arches and colorful flags. From early morning, people started coming in groups from different Prayer Houses and from the different parts of the Diocese of Meru and Nairobi, to take part in this function. Many priests and religious also came and made the function very colorful.”
During the function, the missioners also experienced the mystery of incarnation becoming real. They were publicly given local African names, to signify that they were very much welcomed and have been accepted wholeheartedly as one among them. They were no longer considered as foreigners or aliens, but very much part of the local people in Iruma parish.
Fr. Patrick was given the name as, “Murithi”, which means, a Shepherd, a pastor of the flock. This was very suitable and expressed very much his office as Parish Priest. Fr. Toppo was named, “Mugambi” which means, a counsellor, who gives advice and guides people in their problems. This was also suitable because Toppo was very much involved with the youth and the Y.C.S. group. Fr. Gnanam was named as, “Mutwiri”, which means, a person who gathers grass, or foodstuff for his cattle or his flock. This was also very fitting for a Redemptorist missioner who goes around preaching the Word of God to the most abandoned, who are hungering for God.
In 1996 we began to search for a plot of land in Nairobi. At the invitation of Apostles of Jesus Fathers two of our confreres went to see a plot in Langatta Road. The plot was very expensive- 2.1 million per acre.
In January 1997 Fr Provincial and Vicar (Gino and Xavier Sanjivi) inspected the land of Dominican sisters at Karen and decided to buy 4 acres of land at a price of 2 million per acre. On March 19 and advance of Ksh.8,00,000 was paid to the sisters. On 11th August 1997the documents for the land was signed and the balance amount was paid. On 22nd we received the Title Deed.
On 17 June 2009 a new block was added to our house in Karen. It is named St. Clements. Now we have three blocks, St. Alphonsus, St. Gerards and St. Clements. The construction works of all the three blocks were supervised by Fr. Patrick.
A beautiful chapel was constructed near to two blocks of buildings in 2011 and it was blessed by Joao Pedro, General Consultor, on 28 August 2011 in the presence of Superiors of COREAM who had come for Conference of Redemptorists of Africa-Madagascar.
A great loss for the Redemptorists and particularly for Kenya Mission took place on 21 March 2009. Fr. Patrick D’Souza, one of the pioneers of the Mission, suddenly passed on due to heart attack at 7.30 pm in our house at Iruma. On 28 March he was laid to rest in the diocesan cemetery at ….
On 23 March 2017 Fr. Provincial, Raphael and Toppo went to see the bishop of Nakuru regarding the possibility of having a parish in his diocese. A new parish was created by Bp Maurice M. Makumba, bishop of Nakuru diocese. It was handed over to us on 10 September 2017. Fr. Augustine was appointed as the first parish priest, Toppo and Titus as members of the community.
FORMATION AND ORDINATION
In 1997 we decided to recruit local vocation. In July that year the first Vocation Camp was conducted at Iruma. In 1998 we had the first batch of candidates (Moses, Christopher, Augustine and Raphael). Out of four, two are ordained as the first Kenyan Redemptorist priests (Fr. Raphael Kitheka, from the diocese of Machakos, and Fr. Augustine Mugambi, from our own parish in Iruma) in January .
In October two students came from India, Br. Dominic Savio and Br. Anto, to do theology in Zimbabwe.
Br. Boniface Waimani and Br. Joseph Ouma made their final profession in India and were ordained as deacons in India in 2009. In December 2009 they were ordained as priests in their own respective parishes.
On 18 September 2010 three of our confreres, Gerald Mugendi, Nicholas Kamundi and Joseph Wabwire, ordained as deacons in Nairobi. They were ordained as priests on 7 May 2011 in our parish at Iruma. In July 2011 they went to India for Pastoral Year course.
The next batch of students, Cornel Omondi and Titus Mutiku had their novitiate in South Africa. Cornel was ordained a priest on 26 August and Titus was ordained a priest on 2 September 2017.
Lewis Mutiso and Isaac Wanyoike made their Final Profession on 4 August 2018.on 22 February Lewis was ordained a priest and Isaac was ordained on 22 August 2020.
Francis Sila and Dominic Warukenya made their Final Profession on 18 July 2020 at Karen and they were ordained as priests on 13 February 2021in our parish at Iruma.
Now we have ten Kenyan nationalities as Redemptorist priests. In fact it should have been 13. Three confreres left us and were incardinated in different dioceses.
Fr. Augustine Mugambi did a licentiate in Moral Theology in Rome in 2012. Fr. Nicholas did a Formation Course in India in 2016.
Apart from parish apostolate, our fathers were very busy preaching retreats to various groups of students, laity, religious, and priests. In February 2010, under the initiative of Fr George Mathew we began to conduct parish missions in Kiswahili. Four priests and ten students of theology, philosophy, and Orientation Year were part of the mission team.
The first Mission Assembly of Redemptorists in Kenya took place on 9 May 2011 at our house in Karen in the presence of Fr Provincial (Arulanandam) and Vicar (Xavier Sanjivi). The following members were present: Richard David, Toppo, George Mathew, Joseph Horo, Raphael Kambela, Sarath M, Boniface, Christopher P., Joseph Wabwire, Gerald Mugendi, Nicholals Kamundi, and Arockia Seelan.
The second Mission Assembly was held on 16 August 2012 at Karen, in the presence of the Provincial Consultor, Fr. Xavier Sanjivi.
Good news from Kenya Mission
Life is Kenya is full of surprises! Though there is widespread Covid 19 pandemic all around we have good reasons to thank God for his abundant blessings during the past eight months.
The members in the Mission were active with retreats for religious and priests and various pastoral ministries and formation till lock-down declared by the government in the month of March, 2020. Since then, though the churches were closed, SCC groups in the parishes were active. Since the seminaries were closed students were sent home for three months (April-June).
Ordination and Formation
The year 2020 is a blessing for Kenya mission due to a number of ordinations and professions. On 23rd February Lewis Mutiso was ordained a priest while Wanyoike Isaac was ordained a deacon at Hekima College, Nairobi.
On 18th July two of our brothers, Francis Sila and Dominic Warukenya made their Final Commitment in our house at Karen, Nairobi while two of our novices made their First Commitment in Harare, Zimbabwe.
On 25th July six young men joined in our Orientation Year at Iruma, Meru.
Another golden leaf in the annals of Kenya Mission was the ordination of Wanyoike Isaac as priest and ordinations of Francis Sila and Dominic Warukenya as deacons. This took place on 22nd August in our house at Karen, Nairobi. His Eminence John Cardianl Njue, the archbishop of Nairobi was the ordaining minister.
Our study house in Karen is full now. Altogether there are 19 students this year doing Philosophy and Theology. There are 7 for First Year of philosophy, 4 for Second Year, 3 for Third Year and 5 for First Year theology. Classes began on line from August.
The government has relaxed the restrictions imposed on churches. So now, we have Masses with certain regulations. Also, requests for retreats are coming in. So we are back to active ministry once again.
With the help of the provincial government, we are building up our infrastructures at different levels. We are buying two and a quarter of land at Kinungi for our future developments. At Karen, we have installed solar panels for hot water, constructed two-room quarters for workers, and soon we will begin to dig a bore-well for water.
The future seems to be bright. We hope the mission will grow in the coming years as it will come part of a new Region and province of the Conference of Africa-Madagascar.