KENYA: 150-Year-Old Congregation of The Little Sisters of St. Joseph Celebrate Recognition as Religious Institute of Pontifical Right

By Janet Kwamboka

NAIROBI, NOVEMBER 18, 2022 (CISA) – The Religious Congregation of the Little Sisters of St. Joseph (LSSJ) has held a thanksgiving Mass in celebration of their recognition as a religious institute of Pontifical Right at their provincial grounds in Karen, Nairobi, on November 17.

The Holy Mass was celebrated by Rt Rev David Kamau, auxiliary bishop of the Catholic Archdiocese of Nairobi and apostolic administrator of the Catholic Diocese of Nakuru. In his homily, Bishop Kamau said the recognition is a new chapter for the congregation as being of pontifical right is something desired by many and they should count it among their gifts.

“It is indeed with a joyful heart that we give thanks to the lord, grateful because a great wish of the sisters in the congregation has been fulfilled. Grateful because the congregation in the Vatican has accepted us as an institute of pontifical right,” said Sr Margaret Dekker, the Superior General of LSSJ.

“We are recognized as a mature independent congregation worthy of the pontifical predicate,” she added.

The Little Sisters of St. Joseph are an international congregation of religious nuns founded by Monsignor Peter Joseph Savelberg in the Catholic Diocese of Roermond, Heerlen, Netherlands, on June 21, 1872. In 1963, the congregation came to Kenya and settled in Kilgoris, Narok County.

Since its inception 150 years ago, the congregation was a religious apostolic institute of diocesan rights and focused on serving the most vulnerable people in society through; education of the poor and care of the destitute and aged.

In 2018, the congregation which celebrated its sesquicentennial anniversary in June 2021, started the process for their recognition as an institute of pontifical rights. Subsequently, their request was approved by Pope Francis on September 8, 2022.

“We thank the Superior general and her council for all the efforts they made to see that we become a congregation of pontifical rights. We are extremely happy and grateful and thank God for this wonderful gift. We pray that this will renew our commitment to God and in our services to all especially to the most vulnerable ones,” said Sr Beatrice Carsalamwa, the provincial superior of the Netherlands-Belgium region.

Today, the Little Sisters of St. Joseph (LSSJ) are present in five dioceses in Kenya; Ngong, Nyahururu, Kitui, and Nairobi and also in the Catholic Archdiocese of Arusha, Tanzania, which form the Kenya-Tanzania region.

According to can. 589, institutes of pontifical right are those erected or approved by the Holy See by a formal decree while institutes of diocesan right are those erected by diocesan bishops and which have not obtained a decree of approval from the Holy See.