, 14 September, 2020 / 10:00 PM
Kenyans from all walks of life have paid tribute to the late Bishop Linus Okok Okwach, the emeritus and founding Bishop of Kenya’s Homabay Diocese, terming the Prelate who died Saturday, September 12 as a true example of faith with deeds, an educationist and an epitome of humility.
Archbishop Philip Anyolo who is the Apostolic Administrator of Homa Bay Diocese announced the death of Bishop Okok in a communique obtained by ACI Africa dated September 13.
“We regret to announce to you the demise of our founding Bishop, the Rt. Rev. Linus Okok Okwach, Bishop Emeritus of the Catholic Diocese of Homa Bay. We pray for the consolation of the Church fraternity, his family, relatives and friends during this trying moment,” said Archbishop Anyolo who is the Local Ordinary of Kisumu Archdiocese and doubles as the Chairman of the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops (KCCB).
A message that was later sent by KCCB General Secretary, Fr. Daniel Rono, revealed that Bishop Okok had been unwell “for some time” before his demise. He died at St. Monica’s hospital, Kisumu in western Kenya.
“Bishop Linus has been ailing for some time. Other details will be communicated in due course. Let us pray for the repose of his soul and keep his family, relatives and friends in prayers. Our deepest condolences to the Diocese of Homa Bay and Archdiocese of Kisumu,” said Fr. Rono.
Born in 1952, the late Bishop was ordained a Priest in 1980, appointed Bishop of Homa Bay Diocese in October 1993 and ordained Bishop in December 1993.
After serving as Bishop of Homabay Diocese for some nine years, Bishop Okok resigned in February 2002 at the age of 49.
To Fr. Charles Odira of Homa Bay Diocese who was ordained a Priest by the late Prelate, the Bishop was the epitome of humility.
“Bishop Okok ordained me to priesthood in 2000 and I met him on many other occasions. Every time I met him, Bishop struck me as the humblest person I had ever met in life,” Fr. Charles told ACI Africa.
“When he was Bishop of Homa Bay, he lived in a very humble structure because the diocese was just beginning. It was a structure that had three rooms, one was his office, the other where he slept and the other where he ate his meals. He stayed in the room until he left the Diocese,” the Cleric, a native of Homa Bay, shared.
According to Fr. Charles, Bishop Okok lived in a humble structure at the present-day Homa Bay Pro-Cathedral while he supervised the construction of the Bishop's house, which he never got to live in himself.
After his resignation in 2002, the founding Bishop of the Kenyan diocese proceeded to the Metropolitan Archdiocese of Kisumu, where he helped with the activities of the Archdiocese, including priestly ordinations.
Daniel Nyamuti who goes to Mbita Parish in Homa Bay recalled his last moments with the Bishop who expressed concern about security in the Remba and Ringiti islands of Lake Victoria, saying that authorities were not doing enough to calm the situation.
“The Bishop decried the laxity of the church and government officers in taming the inhuman handling of the residents of Remba and Ringiti islands by intruders. He emphasized that we must continue to coexist as a family and church regardless of one's religion,” Daniel recalled.
Bishop Okok also spoke to the parishioner about the place of Catholic youth in the church and was “greatly concerned at the laxity of youth to be part of the church affairs”.
The Prelate who has been named after a school in Homabay has been acclaimed as a great educationist and “a wise counselor”.
“I happened to know about Bishop Linus Okok when my sister was admitted at Bishop Linus Okok Girls School in Kabondo,” Berry O. Barack wrote in a Facebook post, and added, “I read about his rich history. I was convinced he was a dedicated man of Christ. He was an educationist and a wise counselor too. He wrote his rich history. May Almighty accept his soul.”
Kenya’s opposition leader Raila Odinga on Sunday, September 13 eulogized Bishop Okok as a true example of faith with deeds.
“In Life, Linus Okok, Bishop Emeritus was a true example of faith with deeds. His death is a big blow to the Catholic Church, our country and the people of Homa Bay who continued to rely on him for guidance on both spiritual and earthly needs. May Almighty God accept his soul,” Odinga said.
In the September 13 communique, Archbishop Anyolo said that funeral arrangements of the late Prelate would be communicated at a later time.
ACI Africa was officially inaugurated on August 17, 2019 as a continental Catholic news agency at the service of the Church in Africa. Headquartered in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, this media apostolate will strive to facilitate the telling of Africa’s story by providing media coverage of Catholic events on the African continent, giving visibility to the activities of the Church across Africa where statistics show significant growth in numbers and the continent gradually becoming the axis of Catholicism. This is expected to contribute to an awareness of and appreciation for the significant role of the Church in Africa and over time, the realization of a realistic image of Africa that often receives negative media framing.
Father Don Bosco Onyalla
Editor-in-Chief, ACI Africa