East Africa Spiritans Name House after American Who Lived “radical gospel of self-giving”

Fr. George Crocenzi (1923-2000), U.S.-born Spiritan who ministered in Africa for 38 years. Credit: Holy Ghost Fathers/Fr. Paul Hoang, CSSp.

Fr. George Crocenzi, a native of the U.S., who ministered in East Africa for close to four decades has been recognized by his confreres; they have named a house in Nairobi after him.

Described as the “Father of the East African Province” of the Spiritans, Fr. Crocenzi was appointed Principal Superior of Kilimanjaro District in 1966, a period that marked the beginning of intense efforts to establish the Foundation of the Spiritans in East Africa, including the recruitment and training of candidates in the Congregation. 

The native of Pittsburgh in the U.S., where he was born in 1923, is said to have lived the “radical gospel of self-giving” in his 38 years of Priestly ministry in Africa. 

In a recent meeting, members of the Union of Circumscriptions of East Africa (UCEAF) of the Congregation of the Holy Spirit under the protection of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (Spiritans/Holy Ghost Fathers/CSSp.), who had been scouting for a name for the house that has been set aside for confreres enrolling for specialized studies in Nairobi settled for Fr. George Crocenzi.

“Spiritans can now come to study in the institutions in Kenya especially in Nairobi while staying at the Crocenzi House,” the Provincial Superior of Kenya and South Sudan, Fr. Dominic Gathurithu, who participated in the UCEAF meeting in November told ACI Africa on Tuesday, December 5.


Located in Nairobi’s Langata area, some meters from St. John the Evangelist Catholic Parish, Fr. George Crocenzi House will be home to Spiritans enrolled in formation courses at Chemchemi ya Uzima Institute of the Association of Sisterhoods of Kenya (AOSK), post graduate courses at the Catholic University of Eastern Africa (CUEA), and other specialized courses such as project management, strategic planning, and accounts offered at the Christian Organizations Research and Advisory Trust of Africa (CORAT Africa).

“Currently there is one student, Fr Godfrey Maliamungu from Uganda and the Director of the House, Fr Eligius Mkulima. A Spiritan from Nigeria is coming in January 2024,” Fr. Dominic told ACI Africa.

In another interview with ACI Africa, the Provincial Superior of the Spiritans in Tanzania, Fr. Florentine Mallya, explained why they settled for the name of Fr. George Crocenzi.

“It’s the pivotal historical role which Fr. Crocenzi played in founding the East African Foundation which led to the choice of his name,” Fr. Mallya told ACI Africa December 5 about the UCEAF meeting that brings together Spiritan Superiors of Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, and Ethiopia.

Fr. George Crocenzi, he added, “is also the founder of Spiritan mission in Uganda.”

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Credit: Holy Ghost Fathers/Fr. Paul Hoang, CSSp

Ordained a Spiritan Priest on 3 June 1949, Fr. George Crocenzi was first assigned to Kilimanjaro District, starting his ministry at Umbwe’s Holy Ghost School in Tanzania. He served in various missions, including Assistant of the District Superior of Kilimanjaro before being Principal Superior in 1966.

As Superior of the Spiritan District of Kilimanjaro, Fr. Crocenzi animated the Spiritans ministering in Tanzania’s Dioceses of Moshi and Arusha, taking “care of religious discipline, relationships with the general and provincial superiors as well as with the local bishops until 1972”, according to a Spiritan report.

He is said to have “vigorously supported the idea that the time had come to start a Spiritan Foundation in East Africa that could developed into full-fledged province of the Congregation”, which was realized in 1973 as the East Africa Province, comprising Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda, the Spiritan report indicates.

“With the same vigor he came to the defense of his confreres when they were accused of closing their eyes to polygamy and other indefensible pagan practices, an accusation made without any attempt to consult the district superior about the truth of the matter,” the Spiritan report further states about Fr. George Crocinzi, who succumbed to lung cancer at Bethel park retirement home on 25 January 2000; he was 77.


Fr. Joe Herzstein recalls the early beginnings of his confrere and compatriot, saying that Fr. George Crocenzi was “what Americans call a depression baby or child.”

In a reflection ACI Africa obtained, Fr. Joe explains about Fr. Crocenzi, “He is born in a time of poverty.  Things are scarce, ordinary everyday things expensive, and you learn to count every penny or shilling.  You learn to be careful and value people and things; to appreciate the thing you have and not cry about the things you don't have.  You learn to listen to the needs of people.”

Credit: Holy Ghost Fathers/Fr. Paul Hoang, CSSp

Fr. Geore Crocenzi, he says, “was a Spiritan in touch with the lives of the poor especially widows and orphans. He lived the radical gospel of self-giving. His commitment was to the little ones, the have nots, the nobodies of life.  He did not seek honors and praise from wealthy and famous people nor from his classmates; peoples’ needs came first.”

“As Principal Superior of the district of Kilimanjaro, his great gift to us was his ability to listen to Spiritan confreres, believe in them and able to recognize when an idea is more than just an idea or dream; (he) could see the reality of it,” Fr. Joe continues.

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Alongside his confreres, Fr. George Crocenzi was “a beautiful example of pulling together, of cooperation, of faith in God and one another,” Fr. Joe says, and lists five African Spiritans, who realized the East African Province of the Spiritans: Frs. Joe Babu, Francis Mketa, Josephat Msongore, and Bishop Bernard Ngaviliau and Bishop Joseph Kilasara.

“Fr. George Crocenzi is an excellent example of good leadership,” Fr. Joe says, adding that his confrere and compatriot was “a man of prayer who had a heart for justice, committing himself to the poor and not afraid to get his feet into the mud and dirt of village life.”

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

ACI Africa was founded in 2019. We provide free, up-to-the-minute news affecting the Catholic Church in Africa, giving particular emphasis to the words of the Holy Father and happenings of the Holy See, to any person with access to the internet. ACI Africa is proud to offer free access to its news items to Catholic dioceses, parishes, and websites, in order to increase awareness of the activities of the universal Church and to foster a sense of Catholic thought and culture in the life of every Catholic.