THE INTERVIEW: Fr Fred Jenga, President of HCFM, Speaks on His Mission of Leading Families Spiritually in Today’s Society

NAIROBI, MAY 30, 2023 (CISA) On June 15, 2022, the Holy Cross Family Ministries (HCFM), an apostolate of the Congregation of Holy Cross dedicated to promoting and fostering the prayer life and spiritual well-being of families throughout the world, announced the appointment of Fr Fred Jenga, C.S.C, as its next president, taking over from Fr Willy Raymond, C.S.C., who had served for almost eight years as the president.

“It’s humbling to be appointed to head this important ministry in the Congregation that supports families. Strong families mean strong communities. I am honoured to be invited to offer leadership in this important Congregational ministry,” Fr Jenga said at the time.

CISA interviews Fr Jenga, a native of Uganda and an ardent Communication and Digital Media Specialist on his new role as president of HCFM. Leveraging on his experience leading the ministry in their digital and in-person mission outreach to enhance the prayer life of families in East Africa, Fr Jenga foresees a revival of family prayer and cultivation of useful collaborations focused on family life around the world.


CISA: How does it feel to follow in the footsteps of the founder Venerable Patrick Peyton?

Answer: A member priest of the Congregation of Holy Cross, Venerable Patrick Peyton founded Holy Cross Family Ministries (HCFM) that has grown into a worldwide organization that is present in 17 countries with 27 offices or ministry centres around the world. Given the fact that HCFM extensively uses media in its ministry, sometimes HCFM is more known than even the Congregation itself!

Father Peyton ministered to millions of people around the world; he is a pioneer of media work in the Catholic Church long before the Second Vatican Council prioritized the use of media through the document Inter Mirifica. Father Peyton was praised by Popes, presidents of countries, Cardinals and Bishops, and was in the company of influential figures in the Church, such as St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta and St. Pope John Paul II. The shoes of the man whose ministry I now lead is quite big; however, God does not make mistakes in these kinds of choices. I am in this role for a reason. I am keeping my eyes on God, who invited me to be in this role. I know Venerable Patrick Peyton and Our Blessed Mother, whom Father Peyton loved immensely, are watching over me and guiding the ministry. It is a huge responsibility.

CISA: As president of HCFM, what is your mandate?

Answer: The first responsibility is to understand the mission of the organization and communicate it to my team within HCFM and the outside world. Our core mission is to be educators in prayer. We support the spiritual well-being of families throughout the world. We are focused on keeping God in families through nurturing the practice of family prayer. “The family that prays together stays together.” When God becomes part of family life, He changes the chemistry within families. God is love, forgiveness, patience, humility, kindness and generosity. That is our core mission.

The second responsibility is to provide a vision for the organization as it embraces the present and the future. What are the key things we need to focus on as we minister to contemporary families? I have written a statement that I titled, “Honoring our Past and Re-envisioning our Future,” to guide the organization. We are also working on a strategic plan that can enable us to reach the destination where we desire to be.

The third responsibility is to animate my immediate leadership team in the U.S., and the country leaders around the world for the organization to achieve its goals. I am also involved in the mobilization of resources to advance our global mission.

CISA: How do you see HCFM in the next few years under your guidance?

Answer: Organizations go through mild-fallow seasons. When my team and I have all the pieces in place, I see a renewed missionary spirit in families around the world. I foresee a revival of family prayer, especially the Rosary, around the world. I see HCFM cultivating useful collaborations focused on family life. The world has gone through a season where faith in God was dismissed by families, and the consequences can be seen all over the world. When I was growing up, faith was an important part of our family life. The practice of faith provided structure, values, discipline and community that I have found powerfully important. The lack of this structure is a great loss to families. We need a revival of the practice of faith in families.

CISA: On moving the ministry further, with her mission of reaching out to families and youth, what are the strengths and weaknesses of HCFM that you will build on?

Answer: We have a worldwide network that is important for our organization to use for families. Our organization has been around since 1942 and we bring a lot of experience in ministering to families. We understand where families are and can adjust our ministry approaches to minister to them. We also have some friends who love our mission and are ready to support our efforts. All that puts our worldwide organization at a great advantage. One challenge I see is that we have grown complex in how we are organized with different areas of family life. That can complicate how we articulate ourselves.

CISA: What challenges do you foresee in discharging your duties?

Answer: The religious and family landscape around the world has rapidly changed in the last couple of years. Defining “family” has become layered and it is no longer as it used to be in years past. Families, too, have many distractions, such as media technologies and difficult work situations that have made family life difficult. It is no longer as it used to be. These contemporary contextual issues around family life do not make our ministry to families easy. On a personal note, our organization being in the U.S. requires me to learn a lot of the organizational culture that goes on with such organizations. Thank God I have a leadership team and a Board that understands much of this and is training me well!

CISA: What is your hope for the HCFM?

Answer: I hope to see HCFM become the leading global organization on matters of family spirituality within the Catholic Church. We have the history, the infrastructure and the resources to position ourselves this way. We can make a great contribution to Our Mother Church in this specific area and be a great support to contemporary Catholic families around the world.

CISA: Last year, the East African District of Holy Cross, was elevated to a province, a new provincial superior was appointed, an African, and now as the first African president of HCFM, what does this show about the growth of vocations and leadership in the Congregation?

Answer: My appointment as the President of Holy Cross Family Ministries is an affirmation that the Church and the Congregation of Holy Cross in the global south has become of age. We have started contributing to the rest of the Church and the Congregation in ways that were not thought of in the past. It also tells of the calibre of vocations and the nature of leadership that is being noticed in that corner of the world. In many parts of Africa and Asia, the Churches, seminaries and convents are generally full. My presence and the presence of others in leadership positions are signs of how fruitful the missionary efforts in those areas have been over the years.

Interview and editing by Paschal Norbert