Privileged “to be an integral part” of Catholic Church Growth in South Sudan: Spiritan Superior General on Anniversary

From left: Fr. Sospeter Kiarie (pioneer of Spiritans in South Sudan); Fr. Patrick Swarray (Spiritan from Sierra Leone); Fr. Kenneth Okoli (member of the Spiritan General Council); Bishop John Mbinda (Spiritan Bishop of Lodwar Diocese in Kenya); Archbishop Hubertus van Megen (Apostolic Nuncio in Kenya and South Sudan); and Bishop Christian Carlassare (Bishop of Rumbek Diocese). Credit: Fr. Luka Dor/Rumbek Diocese

It is a “privilege” for members of the Congregation of the Holy Spirit (Spiritans/Holy Ghost Fathers) to be part of the South Sudan mission as the people of God in the world’s newest country embrace and grow in Christian faith, the Superior General of the 321-year-old Religious and Missionary Order has said.

Fr. Sospeter Kiarie, the pioneer Spiritan commissioned to South Sudan, arrived in the country’s Catholic Diocese of Rumbek on 31 May 2012, just over nine months after the East-Central African nation gained independence from Sudan.

In his message on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the Spiritans in South Sudan that took place on Monday, April 29 at Good Shepherd Thon-Aduel Parish of Rumbek Diocese, Fr. Alain Mayama said, “It is our privilege as a missionary Congregation to be an integral part of the history of the founding and growth of the Church in South Sudan.”

“We give thanks to God with you today for the marvels He has accomplished throughout the last 10 years,” Fr. Alain added in his message given by Fr. Kenneth Okoli, a member of the Rome-based General Council (GC), who represented the Superior General at the celebration that the Apostolic Nuncio in Kenya and South Sudan, Archbishop Hubertus van Megen,  presided over, said.

Credit: Fr. Luka Dor/Rumbek Diocese


He acknowledged the missionary nature of the apostolate in South Sudan, which the Church accomplishes through the presence of members Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life (ICLSAL) alongside the Local Clergy and the lay faithful.

“Today, in South Sudan, we collaborate with other religious congregations in the pastoral vision of a local Church, with committed clergy and laity,” Fr. Alain, the first African Superior General said in his April 29 message addressed to “the Superiors of the Union of the Circumscriptions of East Africa (UCEAF)” and “all the Confreres working in South Sudan.”

On behalf of the Spiritan GC, the native of Congo Brazzaville extended his “warmest congratulations” to the Spiritans, who have been involved in the South Sudan mission from 2009 when UCEAF members drawn from Spiritan Superiors in Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda “visited some of the Dioceses in South Sudan with the view of opening Spiritan Mission in South Sudan.”

“It is a source of honour and pride for the Congregation to mark such an event,” Fr. Alain said.

Credit: Fr. Luka Dor/Rumbek Diocese

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The South Sudan mission “is an important common mission project of the Congregation under the responsibility of the UCEAF,” he said, and clarified, “For juridical and practical reasons, the General Council placed the Spiritan community in South Sudan under the leadership of the Province of Kenya.”

Claude François Poullart des Places, a native of France who gave up the practice of law to study for the Priesthood founded a community for youthful men with the wish to become Priests in 1703. He dedicated the community to the Holy Spirit, calling it the Congregation of the Holy Spirit. 

Some 150 years later, François Marie Paul Libermann, a converted Jew, established another religious family also in France, bearing the name, the Congregation of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

Credit: Fr. Luka Dor/Rumbek Diocese

The des Places-founded Congregation of the Holy Spirit merged with the Congregation of the Immaculate Heart of Mary that Venerable Libermann had founded, to become, in 1848, the Congregation of the Holy Spirit under the protection of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.


On 8 March 2023, a delegation of Spiritans had an audience with Pope Francis to mark the 175th anniversary of the re-founding of their Congregation that is present in some 60 countries across five continents.

In his April 29 message, Fr. Alain acknowledged with appreciation all the pioneer Spiritans to the South Sudan mission, including Kenyan-born Fr. Sospeter and Fr. Boniface Muema lsenge, Fr. John Skinnader, a native of Ireland, and Fr. Nolasco Mushi, a Tanzanian.

Credit: Fr. Luka Dor/Rumbek Diocese

He also lauded “confreres who have recently joined” the Spiritans in the three Parishes of Rumbek Diocese at Wulu, Holy Cross, and Thon-Aduel, including Fr. Patrick Swarray from Sierra Leone, Fr. Christopher Owono, who hails from Gabon, and Spiritan students living the Period of Missionary Experience (PME).

“Our Spiritan charism leads us to pay particular attention to the poor and excluded in society; this is what the pioneers did as soon as they arrived in Rumbek,” Fr. Alain said, and added, “The Congregation is rightly proud of your prophetic and energetic presence and work. In the space of few years, you have already made such a difference, in what is certainly one of the challenging missions in Africa.”

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Credit: Fr. Luka Dor/Rumbek Diocese

He continued, “The entire Congregation of the Holy Spirit, throughout the world, rejoices with you today on this momentous occasion as you celebrate 10 years of the Spiritan presence in South Sudan.”

“We pray with you and for you, that your missionary commitment ... will continue to bear effective witness to God’s closeness to his people”, he said, in the footsteps of the founders of the Spiritans, des Places and Venerable Libermann.

“May the Lord bless your work and all the people you serve,” the Superior General of Spiritans implored in his April 29 message at the 10th anniversary of the presence of Spiritans in South Sudan.

Speaking during the event, the Parish Priest of Good Shepherd Thon-Aduel Parish, the venue of the celebration, thanked all who have been part of he Spiritan apostolate in Rumbek Diocese since May 2012.

This event of 10 years of the presence of Spiritans in South Sudan is a celebration of “the journey that we have made together with you,” Fr. Boniface said.

The Kenyan-born Spiritan Priest thanked the Apostolic Nuncio-led delegation for the sacrifices made to grace the celebration, the leadership of Rumbek Diocese for facilitating the apostolate of the Spiritans in the Diocese, and introduced the leadership of the Spiritans at the event.

In his message during the April 29 event, the Provincial Superior of Kenya and South Sudan recalled the visit of Fr. Alain to his confreres in the three Spiritan Parishes of Rumbek Diocese last December and thanked him for his support to the mission.

“The Superior General who was here a few months ago and has send a representative from his office in Rome has shown tremendous support and commitment to the Missions of South Sudan,” Fr. Frederick Elima Wafula said.

Superior General of the Spiritans, Fr. Alain Mayama (left) and the Provincial Superior of Kenya and South Sudan, Fr. Frederick Elima Wafula. Credit: ACI Africa

“Just as I have noted during my one week visit in all the three Spiritan communities, he (Fr. Alain) is very (much) aware of the difficult environment of Rumbek ministry,” Fr. Wafula added, highlighting the challenge of sustainability regarding personnel and finances.

He acknowledged the “huge spiritual capital in the Diocese of Rumbek”, adding that the people of God in the South Sudanese Diocese “want to know Christ ... want God in their lives” and that “they need peace and love and hope built on the Rock of Faith.”

Credit: Fr. Luka Dor/Rumbek Diocese

“As we celebrate the 10 years of our presence today, I  take it as an assurance that we are here to stay, to continue helping and supporting the work of the church in Rumbek and South Sudan,” he further said.

The Nairobi-based Spiritan Provincial Superior assured the Local Ordinary of Rumbek, Bishop Christian Carlassare and the people of God in the Diocese of offering “our best” in the mission of God.

“As mandated by the Superior General, I want to assure the Bishop and the people of Rumbek that we will try our best to offer our best to fulfill God's Mission to the most abandoned and those who need our help most,” Fr. Wafula said during the event that the Apostolic Nuncio in Kenya and South Sudan presided over, with Bishop Carlassare, Spiritan Bishop John Mbinda of Kenya's Catholic Diocese of Lodwar, and Fr. Okoli of the Spiritan GC, among the concelebrants.

Credit: Fr. Luka Dor/Rumbek Diocese

He added, “We pray that the 10 years presence of Spiritan here becomes another phase of building faith, love, peace and unity in all that we continue to do in the Diocese of Rumbek.”

In his homily, Archbishop van Megen cautioned against “egoistic tendencies” and advocated for life in the Spirit and the nurturing of the “fruits of the Spirit” as explained by St. Paul.

“Things that are exemplary for people who live in the flesh,” he said, include “immorality, impurity, sorcery, rivalry, jealousy, drinking and so on.”

St. Paul, the Vatican diplomat said, “being a human being himself, knows very well about the weaknesses of people. He knows how many times we follow our egoistic tendencies. We go for our own interests first, evil tendencies, tendencies of self indulgence.”

Credit: Fr. Luka Dor/Rumbek Diocese

He advocated for “the fruits of the Spirit”, which he said include “love and joy, patience and peace, generosity, self control, just to mention a few.”

“Just try to imagine for a moment that each and every one of us would live according to those fruits of the Holy Spirit, joy, peace, patience, kindness, righteousness. What would happen if each and every one of us would actually live like that? Then paradise would have arrived on earth,” the Nairobi-based Apostolic Nuncio, who was in Rumbek Diocese for a four-day pastoral visit said.

On his arrival on April 27, he emphasized the missionary nature of the Catholic Church that he said is universal and international. In his homily at Holy Family Cathedral of Rumbek Diocese, Archbishop van Megen recalled the theme of the first-ever Papal visit to South Sudan, and called on the people of God in the East-Central African nation to foster unity.

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

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