By Paschal Norbert
KACHELIBA, SEPTEMBER 26, 2023 (CISA)- The Comboni Missionaries in Kenya have launched the Golden Jubilee Celebrations of their presence and service in the country in an elaborate event held at the Holy Cross Parish-Kacheliba, West Pokot, in the Catholic Diocese of Kitale on September 24, 2023.
The year-long celebration that was inaugurated by Fr Andrew Wanjohi MCCJ, the Provincial Superior of Kenya, began on Sunday in Kacheliba, the first parish of the Combonis, and was preceded by the diaconate ordination of Jacob Muia Nzomo MCCJ and Joshua Mutinda Musyoki MCCJ. The auspicious occasion was presided over by Bishop Henry Juma Odonya of Kitale.
In August 1972, the Comboni Missionaries came to Kenya from Uganda and first settled in Tartar, West Pokot, before the Kenyan community was officially declared open in November of the same year. In 1973, Kacheliba and Kapenguria missions were opened as the missionaries rented a house in South B to act as a rest house and procure.
However, it was not until October 13, 1973, that an official provincial residence was opened after the first Comboni missionaries, originally assigned to Uganda, arrived in Nairobi.
In a telephone conversation with CISA, Fr Andrew Bwalya MCCJ, Director of New People Media Center, an apostolate of the Comboni Missionaries in Kenya, says “The Jubilee year was also of the parish itself, Kacheliba as a mission and parish, and will involve a Thanksgiving Mass, some presentation to the Christian communities of the parishes where we shall go. A display of various things that we do as Combonis here in Kenya. There will be a documentary eventually that we shall create and show during this visit. The first guide is Thanksgiving and missionary animation.”
The Comboni missionary from Zambia says the hallmark of their evangelization work in Kenya and especially to the people on the margins of society has been bringing the Gospel of Christ to a people that have hitherto not heard of him and human promotion.
“I think as Comboni we are known for one thing, working with the poor and the most abandoned and in places where very often many people wouldn’t like to go. We are speaking of rural areas i.e. slums. I think that’s the highlight for us. We have tried to bring the gospel to this environment and some form of development. It doesn’t mean that we don’t work in urban centres or in places where there is already development. But primarily when we speak of Comboni missionaries, we are identified with the poorest and abandoned in society,” stated Fr Bwalya.
Fr Bwalya noted that when the first missionaries arrived in West Pokot, there was a need to preach the Gospel to offer spiritual nourishment to the people. Education and provision of health were also a priority and so was human development- “empowering people to live a certain dignified life.”
“The main activity that we’ve been doing in West Pokot and in line with our charism is first evangelization, which simply means building of Christian communities, introducing the gospel values and way of life to a particular culture. We have been doing that for the last 50 years. And of course, evangelization is also seen in other contexts. It’s not just the word of God, catechesis, training of leaders and so forth, but it’s also understood as human promotion. In this line, we have built several mission schools and we sponsor several of them as well. Then we have also health centres working hand in hand with the Comboni sisters and now other sisters of the diocese that are there,” he said.
50 years since the first Comboni Missionaries arrived in Kenya, the congregation is now present in Kacheliba and Amukuriat Parishes, Kitale Diocese; Lokichar and Nakwamekwi Parishes, Lodwar Diocese; Our Lady of Consolata Cathedral, Marsabit Diocese and Holy Trinity Catholic Parish-Kariobangi, St Daniel Comboni-Utawala Mission in the Catholic Archdiocese of Nairobi.
“We have a postulancy in Ongata Rongai. Then we have the scholastic in Karen. Ongata Rongai is where we have student theologians. Those who are training to be priests who start at Tangaza. Then around Adams, we have another center for formation for those who are training to become brothers. And then we have the provincial house community in Kilimani. This is the headquarters. We used to be on Ngong Road, now we are on to Kilimani Road. And then of course we have New People Media Center. It’s part of our activity here in Kenya and it is meant for mission promotion, the spreading of the gospel through the media,” expounds Fr Bwalya, who is also the local superior of the provincial house in Kenya.