Editor’s Note: Barb Fraze, CNS international editor, and Nancy Wiechec, CNS visual media manager, are visiting Kenya with 10 members of U.S. diocesan mission offices. Their trip is being funded by the Pontifical Mission Societies in the United States.
NAIROBI, Kenya — In 1908, as the Vatican declared that the United States was no longer a missionary church, three missionary orders were in the process of reintroducing the faith in Kenya.
Both countries now have missionary outreach to other countries and, in mid-February, mission directors from the U.S. and Kenya are meeting to compare and contrast their challenges and successes. The Kenyan visit, sponsored by the Pontifical Mission Societies in the United States and Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers, includes 10 members of U.S. diocesan mission offices. While in Kenya, they will visit projects started by U.S. missionaries and turned over to the local church, as well as meet church officials and laypeople and visit parishes — urban and rural.
Today, the group’s first full day in Kenya, Bishop Anthony Muheria of Kitui thanked U.S. Catholics for their help and told the Americans that Kenyan church leaders now ask themselves, “How do we continue with the same momentum that our missionary brothers and sisters” have left them, their legacy: education and schools, hospitals and hygiene, and church building and parishes.
He spoke of the church’s priorities — catechesis in parishes and schools; inculturation — including getting people to carry over Christian values in all parts of their lives; organizing evangelization; and encouraging the self-reliance of the people. But he also spoke of the great gifts Kenyan Catholics offered the church: joy, generosity and the gift of time for God.
The joy is palpable, uplifting, he said. And, when he sits with his people, no one gets edgy or looks at their watches.
“They are poor, but their generosity is noticeable,” he said, adding, “They are not giving extra … they are giving what they really have need of.”