Sustaining “fragile missions” among Key Priorities of Kenya’s Pioneer Missionary Order

Delegates, observers, and functionaries of the Provincial Chapter of the Spiritans in Kenya and South Sudan at the Resurrection Garden, Nairobi, on 30 November 2023. Credit: ACI Africa

Members of the Congregation of the Holy Spirit under the protection of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (Spiritans/Holy Ghost Fathers/CSSp.) in Kenya, the country’s pioneer Religious and Missionary Order, have emphasized the need to sustain “fragile missions” in their six-day Provincial Chapter, which concluded on Friday, December 1.

Established to prioritize first evangelization contexts, marginalized individuals and groups, and “places where the Church has difficulty in finding workers,” the Spiritans pioneered Catholic evangelization in Kenya. The first missionaries arrived in the coastal town of Mombasa in 1889.

In their deliberations at the Resurrection Garden of the Archdiocese of Nairobi in Kenya, the 22 delegates, who represented Spiritans ministering in 21 missions of the Province, 18 in Kenya and three in South Sudan as well as Kenyan Spiritans in various regions of the world mandated the two-nation Provincial Administration to facilitate financial support to Spiritan missions with limited means “until such a time when they can sustain themselves”.

They also underscored the need for the Provincial Administration to prioritize animation programs in Spiritan missions in the two East African countries by visiting members in their respective missions in line with the Rule of Life of the 320-year-old Congregation, which stipulates that such visits be realized “regularly at least once in each year”.

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In the six-day Chapter that was organized under the theme, “Availability for the Service of the Gospel; Attentive to the Signs of the Time”, the need to strengthen present Spiritan communities and missions in Kenya and South Sudan before opening new ones was discussed by the Chapter delegates, who also called upon the Provincial Administration to identify and empower members keen on taking up “other ministries” in view of diversifying Spiritan apostolate in the Province.

To foster the sustainability of Spiritan missions in Kenya and South Sudan, the Chapter delegates said that they want their young confreres to be equipped with skills in project and finance management before completing their initial formation.

The success of Spiritan missions in Kenya and South Sudan, the delegates said, can receive a significant boost by the readiness of all members to serve in contexts of first evangelization, the fostering of dialogue with Spiritans in initial formation to “prepare them adequately for mission”, and the “twinning” of needy missions with those that are financially stable.

To address the challenge of personnel in the long-term, the need to financially empower the office of the Vocations Director was emphasized, with the delegates also underlining the need for the office bearer to diversify the intake of candidates to “guarantee regional diversity of the Province”.

In the six-day Chapter that was officially opened on Sunday, November 26 by the Moderator, Fr. Kenneth Okoli, the delegates expressed their commitment to promoting Lay Spiritan Associates (LSAs).

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The need to mentor LSAs to enhance their active participation in the Spiritan life and mission was emphasized by the delegates, who also called for identification and promotion of the talents and skills of LSAs and, accordingly, their engagement at mission and Provincial levels.

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The delegates also mandated the Provincial Administration to ensure that the Vocation Director and the Youth Chaplains take initiatives to realize a coordinated approach to youth ministry in the Province, to foster the awareness of the Spiritan spirituality and Charism among young people in Spiritan missions.

In the six-day Chapter that had the Rome-based Superior General, Fr. Alain Mayama, and his First Assistant, Fr. Jeff Duaime, in attendance, the delegates also called upon all members in the Province to embrace, advocate, and practice child protection skills and establish offices of the same in their respective missions.

In his closing remarks on December 1, Fr. Mayama thanked the delegates for fostering an atmosphere of openness during their six-day deliberations, and assured members of the Province of Kenya and South Sudan of the commitment of the General Council (GC) to support and accompany them in their Chapter decisions.


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The first African of the 25 Superiors General of the 320-year-old Congregation underscored the need for unity in the Spiritan identity in the Province, and cautioned against tendencies to unite on the basis of “tribe and friendship”.

“My brothers, your requirement is to renew your identity as Spiritans, as a family… to renew the face of the Congregation,” native of Congo-Brazzaville said, adding that “bringing something new” to the Spiritan apostolate “calls for mutual respect.”

Superior General of the Spiritans, Fr. Alain Mayama (left) and Fr. Fred Wafula, CSSp. at the Resurrection Garden on 30 November 2023, Feast of St. Andrew. Credit: ACI Africa

“We have to safeguard the heritage of the Congregation,” he said, and exhorted, “Respect each other; live unity in the Province; it’s needed.”

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The Spiritan Superior General who was elected to the office on 18 October 2021 during the General Chapter that was held at Bagamoyo in Tanzania’s Catholic Diocese of Morogoro said that the Province of Kenya and South Sudan is having a “Kairos moment”.

“Let’s renew the Province of Kenya (and South Sudan). I know you can do it. I believe it from the bottom of my heart … But this is possible through a belief in a common vision, unity, and mutual respect,” the 52-year-old Spiritan Superior General who began his missionary life in Cameroon as a formator told Spiritan delegates in Nairobi on December 1.

He urged Spiritans ministering in Kenya and South Sudan to embrace leadership as service.

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In his closing remarks, Fr. Jeff reiterated the message of the Superior General about “the Kairos moment”, and added, “God is calling us to something new … We have great gifts to offer… Let’s allow the spirit of renewal.”

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“Let’s leave behind the old ways of doing things … Let’s not allow differences to overshadow” the great opportunities of our time, the First Assistant of the Superior General said during the closing session of the six-day Spiritan Chapter on December 1.

The challenges the Spiritans in Kenya and South Sudan might be experiencing, including lack of adequate personnel and limited financial means are not unique to you, the U.S.-born Spiritan said, and added, “Think of our founders… they had obstacles, but did a lot despite those difficulties, and maybe because of those obstacles.”

“God is accomplishing a lot in you,” Fr. Jeff said, and urged Spiritans in Kenya and South Sudan to embrace the Synodal process, taking time “to listen to one another” and to be transformed in three the Ls: “Listen, Learn, and Love” and share the experiences."

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On his part, the Provincial Superior of Kenya and South Sudan, Fr. Dominic Gathurithu, thanked the Superior General and his Assistant for participating in the Chapter.

“Your presence was enriching, and your contributions were uplifting,” Fr. Dominic said during the last session of the weeklong Chapter, and added, “All of us shall strive to promote unity, and what you have outlined and emphasized.”

ACI Africa’s Editor-in-Chief, Fr. Don Bosco Onyalla, is a member of the Spiritans.

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