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“Give yourself to the full, exhaust yourself,” Nuncio in Kenya to Newly Ordained Deacons

Archbishop Hubertus van Megen laying hands on the candidates for ordination during Mass at the St. John the Evangelist Parish, Karen of the Archdiocese of Nairobi.

Newly ordained African Deacons have been encouraged to take up their role as servants, giving themselves fully and unconditionally to the service of the people of God and expending all their energies in the ministry of the Church.

The representative of the Holy Father in Kenya and South Sudan was among Church leaders who made the encouragement Saturday, September 26 in Nairobi, soon after ordaining 25 Deacons from six African countries.

“Give yourself to the full; don’t put any conditions; don’t put any reserves; just give everything you have and exhaust yourself till you have nothing to give anymore,” Archbishop Hubertus van Megen said.

The Archbishop encouraged the newly ordained Deacons “to jump over your own shadow, not to accept any limits” and cautioned, “as soon as you start saying I cannot do this or this is too much for me, you are already losing it.”

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Speaking to ACI Africa at St. John the Evangelist Parish, Karen of the Archdiocese of Nairobi, the venue of the ordination, the Apostolic Nuncio reiterated the Deacons’ role of service, urging them to be ready to make sacrifices.

“As young Deacons, you have to push yourself as hard as possible to get as far as possible and to be of service as much as possible even to the point that you fall asleep while standing so to say,” Archbishop van Megen said.

In his homily earlier, the 58-year-old Prelate had highlighted some of the services expected of Deacons saying, “It is the role of the Deacon to bring the sick, the paralyzed, the depressed and the dying to the altar of the Lord so that the healing power of the Eucharistic Christ might heal them and strengthen them and also the Deacons themselves.”

“Your role is to open the windows of the sanctuary so that the stench of the sheep might enter and that it maybe be purified with the sweet smell of the body of Christ,” he said during his homily.

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He added, “You will only be a good Priest in the future if you have learned how to wash feet now; if you have learned how to go around in poorly lit rooms; if you have learned how to assist people who are sick and poor; if you are not afraid of dirt and stench; if you are ready to adopt the smell of the sheep as Pope Francis says.”

The newly ordained Deacons include 22 members of the Congregation of the Holy Spirit (Spiritans) and three Ugandan-born members of the Order of the Servants of Mary, Servites. Other African countries where the Deacons come from are Angola, Gabon, Kenya, Malawi, and Tanzania.

In an interview with ACI Africa, the Provincial Superior of the Spiritans in Kenya and South Sudan, Fr. John Mbinda highlighted the need to be faithful to the vows and echoed the message of the Apostolic Nuncio encouraging service and sacrifice.

“Live the vows you took and selflessly serve the people of God entrusted to you. Sacrifice, sacrifice and sacrifice with love to serve them,” Fr. John told ACI Africa, addressing himself to the 25 newly ordained Deacons.

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The Kenyan-born Cleric encouraged the Deacons to acknowledge with appreciation people who have journeyed with them over the years while in formation.

“Never forget the sacrifice of the many people who have accompanied you and supported you in your vocation journey: your parents, guardians, friends, your fellow classmates, priests and religious, formators, donors and benefactors,” he said.

He continued in reference to those who have supported the new Deacons over the years, “Always keep them in your prayers. Make them proud by living a life of true faithfulness, honesty and integrity. This is what pleases God who has raised you to the order of Deacons.”

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Making reference to Pope Francis, Fr. John underscored the need for the Deacons to live joyful lives.

“In your ministry, always remember the words of Pope Francis, ‘I want to say one word to you and this word is joy. Wherever consecrated people are, there is always joy!’ If you are not happy you miss this very fabric of engagement with the people of God,” he said, and continued, “Our business is with the people of God; meet them with joy, share with them with joy, serve them with joy and you will experience the joy of the risen Lord in your life.”

He encouraged the Deacons to “pray hard, study hard and work hard. Let everyday be a day of renewing your engagement with God and other people.”

“Keep yourself informed by updating yourself on what is happening around you and in the world. Knowledge is power; if you know, you will be able to bring out the whole potential in you to the service of all. Allow the knowledge you have translate to hard work geared to win souls for God,” Fr. John told ACI Africa, addressing himself to the newly ordained Deacons.

The Spiritan Provincial prayed for the new Deacons saying, “May the Holy Spirit guide and accompany you in your journey of faith.”

On his part, the Rector of the Spiritan Theologate in Nairobi, Fr. Gerard Majella Nnamunga expressed his appreciation for “huge influx of vocations to priesthood and Religious life” and, in an interview with ACI Africa, called “for more responsibility in forming them into the image of Christ.”

He however expressed his concerns about the tendency, on the part of those undergoing formation, to “listen more to stories which they get on social media than what we tell them. They have a distrust of any authority. Anything perceived to curtail their presumed freedom is abhorred.”

According to the Ugandan-born Spiritan Cleric, “Social media has also created a ‘cover up’ for those in their initial formation who “communicate freely on their WhatsApp group platform but not as free when they talk to you (formator). They like to share in a group where they get the support of others but do not share openly with their formators.”

Making reference to Fr. Donald Cozzens who served as President-Rector and Professor of Pastoral Theology at Mary’s Graduate and School of Theology in Ohio, U.S., Fr. Gerard said that “a priest who grows to become a man of the Church and his own man ‘must live out his vocation under the twin banners of fidelity and integrity."

He added, “Real men are those who are integrated, emotionally mature people who have for the most part moved beyond the insidious pull of envy, and self-absorption.”

Fr. Gerard who lectures at Tangaza University College’s School of Theology explained, “There are indeed some seminarians who have lived their vocation on the twin banners of fidelity and integrity but a majority of them have not.”

In his considered view, there “is indeed an insurmountable challenge for the Church not only today but also for the days ahead. The Church has to address these challenges now.”

As a way forward, the Rector of the Nairobi-based Spiritan Theologate told ACI Africa, “As the Church in Africa grapples with the huge influx of vocations, there is need to have more well trained formators attuned to the language of the youth yet stern enough to remind them of their responsibility.”

Meanwhile, one of the newly ordained Deacons expressed his awareness of the mission entrusted to them at their diaconate ordination.

“The mission assigned to us today is the mission of the Church. As a Deacon ordained into the Spiritan family, I am now ready to go out to serve God through my fellow brothers,” Deacon Jean Maturin, a native of Gabon, told ACI Africa

He added, “I am ready to go wherever the Spirit will lead me to and be at the service of the poor and less privileged of our society.”