, 09 October, 2020 / 10:00 PM
Fr. Antony Njoroge’s life can best be summarized by one of St. Augustine of Hippo’s most powerful quotes, “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.”
Fr. Njoroge had everything that life could give including a loving family and a well-paying job as a police officer but not one of these things made him complete until just over a week ago when he was ordained a Catholic Priest at the age of 41.
Born in a fairly well-to-do family to a dad who occupied a top position in the Kenyan government and uncles who worked in the police service, young Njoroge’s future was solid and as his peers proceeded to college to increase their chances of getting a job, Njoroge joined the service the moment he completed high school and quickly rose through the ranks to a well-paying position.
His mother was a staunch Catholic and an active member of various prayer groups at Kenya’s Nyeri Diocese and Njoroge accompanied her to the prayer sessions and served at Mass. It was at this point that the desire to become a Priest was planted in him.
It was only until he joined a non-Catholic secondary school, that Njoroge “backslid”, stopped attending Mass and rarely prayed the Holy Rosary.
But Officer Njoroge was no ordinary policeman while he left Kiganjo Police Training College in 1999 and proceeded to work at Shauri Moyo Police Station in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi.
“I was a very lenient officer. I always let petty offenders go unpunished,” Fr. Njoroge tells ACI Africa, recalling his experience in the forces before he eventually decided to quit and pursue his childhood dream.
“I was always the odd one among my peers,” he further recalls and adds, “When my colleagues went out on Fridays to have fun, I preferred to stay in the house all by myself. As a policeman, I always felt I was in the wrong profession.”
Njoroge had also started going to Church and was an active member of Mary Mother of God Embulbul Parish in the Catholic Diocese of Ngong. With a stable job, he started thinking of settling down with a family. And so, he started seeing a girl.
“I had a girlfriend but I guess I got her bored for constantly telling her that I wanted to become a Priest. I was in my late twenties and the desire to become a Priest was becoming a force that I would not drive away. It got me so restless,” he says.
A fifth born in a family of six, Njoroge considers himself ‘a child of old age’, with a gap of 18 years between him and his sister. He was born in 1979 and he witnessed Kenya’s extrajudicial killings of the 90s in which his father who served in the Intelligence unit of the government was murdered a year before the widely condemned killing of Kenyan politician Robert Ouko.
“My father was murdered in 1991 but the case is still in court to date, so I can’t talk about how it happened and how it affected us,” Fr. Njoroge says, adding that his mother died much later, in 2005.
Fr. Njoroge says he loved his job but still felt “empty”, until one day in 2009, he approached the Vocations Director of Kenya’s Catholic Diocese of Ngong for advice.
“I went to see Fr. Francis Mwangi, then vocations director at the diocese knowing that he would tell me that I was too old to start training for priesthood. I was 30 then and the idea of joining the seminary was just too far-fetched,” he recalls his thoughts then.
He continues, “I poured my heart to Fr. Francis. I told him about the kind of life I had lived and what I had really wanted. He told me about a Priest who had been ordained in his fifties. He told me that I was young enough to join the seminary and so I did.”
In 2010, 31-year-old Njoroge applied to join St Mary’s Major Seminary in Kenya’s Catholic Diocese of Nakuru and was admitted the same year to undergo a full year of spiritual formation, learning majorly about the lives of saints.
With over a decade of service as a police officer, it was not easy for him to adjust to studying, he tells ACI Africa.
“It wasn’t easy. At 31, I was the oldest student and I sat in class with children I had seen join primary school when I was already an officer,” he says, adding that his family and friends were also shocked to learn about his decision.
“There were mixed reactions in my family but my sisters were immensely supportive,” he says and adds, “Even then, I had the fear that I was moving from being an independent man to depending on my brothers and sisters who each had their own families to provide for. I am glad that by the grace of God, I never lacked anything throughout formation.”
And through his three years of Philosophy at St. Augustine’s Senior Seminary in Kenya’s Diocese of Bungoma and another four years of intensive Theology at St. Matthias Mulumba Senior Seminary in the Diocese of Eldoret in Western Kenya, the young seminarian went through countless challenges that put him at the risk of being ejected from formation.
“I was always in and out of hospital for one ailment or the other. While studying Philosophy, I underwent two major surgeries to treat a malignant growth on my throat that had blocked part of my system. I couldn’t eat or breath properly before the surgeries,” he narrates, adding that he was also treated for a heart condition while studying Theology.
“There is no year that I wasn’t admitted. I was always very sick. It is by God’s grace that I wasn’t told to abandon my vocation,” he says.
Njoroge beat all odds and graduated with First Class Honors from the Seminary and was sent on a year of Pastoral experience at St Mary’s Catholic Church, Kiserian of Ngong Diocese. He was ordained a Deacon in May 2019.
“Our Priestly ordination had been slated for May this year but due to COVID-19, it was moved to October 1. I am just a few days old as a Priest,” Fr. Njoroge tells ACI Africa in an interview on Tuesday, October 6.
Kenyan Bishop John Oballa Owaa ordained him a Priest alongside two others at St. Joseph the Worker Cathedral Parish of Kenya’s Ngong Diocese, an event that saw three other candidates ordained Deacons, the other new Priests and the three new Deacons members of the Franciscan Servants of Mary Queen of Love (FSMQL).
Fr. Njoroge says that his ordination to the ministerial Priesthood is the proverbial dream come true.
“The desire was always there and even though I deviated for many years, I could still feel the call within me to become a Priest. I now feel complete,” he says.
He recalls a letter that was written by his mother before she passed on in which the prayerful woman expressed her desire for him to become a Catholic Priest.
“I came across the letter during my third year of Philosophy. She had written it while on a pilgrimage in Namugongo, Uganda. She wrote, ‘God, I surrender this child to you. May he serve Jesus all his life.’ And she had different prayer intentions for all her other five children,” Fr. Njoroge narrates.
His greatest desire, he says, is to serve the Church in a life that was foreseen by his mother before she died.
“I want to spend the rest of my life serving the people of God to the best of my ability and strength. I want to seek holiness, to be a pastor, a mentor to the youths and never to judge them for the choices they make in life,” the Kenyan Cleric says.
To young people who feel stuck in deciding about their life choices and deepest inclinations of their hearts, the former police officer says, “Focus on Jesus who calls us in a special way.”
“God told Jeremiah that he knew him before he formed him in his mother’s womb. Let’s all find our bearing in the Book of Acts of the Apostles which says that in Him, I live, I move and I have my being,” Fr. Njoroge, ordained a Priest on October 1 aged 41, tells ACI Africa.
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