A New Church for a Mission Parish in Kenya
The mission Parish of St. Charles Lwanga in the Apostolic Vicariate of Isiolo in northeast Kenya is in a majority Muslim area where Catholics are a small minority of only 5%. The parish was established in 2005 – the same year that then apostolic vicar Bishop Luigi Locati was murdered during a time of local inter-tribal unrest. There are constant tensions in the region between farmers and herders, and there is also a degree of hostility and rejection among the Muslim population towards the Christian one.
Despite this, the Parish of St. Charles Lwanga is a very lively one. Every Sunday, over 700 Catholic faithful attend Holy Mass, and most of them are children or young people. The number of people seeking baptism is growing year on year. The priests of the parish have come up with a number of creative ways of conveying the faith and rooting it in the hearts of the people. Every Sunday, there is a competition for the best retelling of Bible stories, and from Friday to Sunday, there are catechetical sessions and workshops to address some of the cultural customs, traditions and preconceptions that are harmful to the people’s development and contrary to the Gospel message of Jesus Christ.
During the week, the priests also make visits to the families, wherever they happen to be, along with their herds of livestock. It is important for these Catholics to know their faith well and be strong in it, since as a religious minority they face considerable resistance and hostility. Some Muslims have even tried to draw Christians away from their faith by offering material incentives. For example, they promise to give a camel to anyone who will renounce the Christian faith.
The parish has four outstations, and one of them, St. Peter in Chechelesi, is developing so dynamically that it will be established as an independent parish. It is a township in which many former nomadic peoples have settled, since there is a well. For some time, it has been a dream of the local people to build a church of their own. They have organized Harambees – big fundraising gatherings – but have not managed to raise a great deal. Given that 90% of the people in this drought affected region are extremely poor and live on less than a dollar a day, this is hardly surprising.
Now, thanks to the generosity of ACN’s benefactors, it has been possible to make their dream a reality. The new church has been consecrated by the bishop, and the event was marked with great joy and a great celebration. You helped initially with a donation of $33,800, and followed this up with a further $22,500 for the final completion work.
Needless to say, the people of the new parish of St. Peter in Chechelesi are overjoyed to have a church where they can now fittingly worship, and they are full of gratitude to God and the ACN benefactors who helped make this possible.
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