, 18 October, 2020 / 11:26 AM
Fostering collaboration with other Church entities in Kenya in view of promoting evangelization in the East African nation is one of the objectives of the newly elected Chairman of the Religious Superiors’ Conference of Kenya (RSCK), the forum that brings together representatives of the male Religious Orders and Societies of Apostolic Life in Kenya.
“I look forward to intensify the collaboration between RSCK and other church juridical bodies and organizations such as the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops (KCCB), Association of Sisterhoods of Kenya (AOSK) and different Dioceses in Kenya more so in the work of evangelization,” Fr. Robert Karanja Ireri told ACI Africa Saturday, October 17 interview.
Fostering fraternal collaboration in our apostolate in Kenya is necessary because “we all serve the mission of Jesus Christ through his body which is the church,” Fr. Robert, a member member of the Order of St. Augustine (Augustinians) said.
He was elected alongside four others on October 14 during RSCK’s two-day Annual General Meeting that started off with the address of the Apostolic Nuncio in Kenya and South Sudan, Archbishop Bert van Megen.
The new Chairman looks forward to “more vibrant and effective” RSCK Commissions, he told ACI Africa, noting that it is through such Commissions that the 51-year-old entity “can be more effective at the grassroots.”
He acknowledged the instrumental role his predecessor played in making the dormant commissions active, promising to “build on that in order to make them more vibrant.”
Amid the new normal brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, Fr. Robert who is also the Regional Vicar of the Order of St. Augustine in Kenya is keen on journeying with representatives of different Religious Orders and Societies of Apostolic Life “as we face the short term and long-term effects” of the pandemic.
As he takes over the mantle at the 79-member forum for a three-year renewable term, the holder of a Master’s degree in Counselling Psychology said that he seeks to prioritize the work began by his predecessor, especially streamlining the RSCK documents and making the Conference’s communication channels more effective.
“I would also wish to reach out to all our members who have been not active with the hope of bringing them back to the fold and also registering new congregations which have come to Kenya,” Fr. Robert told ACI Africa October 17.
He further said that he would give priority to “strengthening the Commissions with new members and linking them with other similar Commissions in the Kenyan church.”
In his religious life and ministry, the Augustinian Cleric said that he is inspired by the founding father of his congregation, St. Augustine and Pope Francis.
“St. Augustine inspires me because of his emphasis on the grace of God in living religious life. This makes a lot of meaning because in my experience religious life becomes impossible to live any moment one loses sight of God along the journey,” Fr. Robert told ACI Africa.
Pope Francis inspires him “because of his boldness and courage in shepherding the people of God,” he said and noted in reference to Pope Francis, “He is not afraid to say what needs to be said as guided by the Holy Spirit.”
“He also inspires me for his option to the poor and the down trodden following the example of Jesus,” he further said making reference to the Holy Father.
Fr. Robert acknowledged with appreciation RSCK members who elected him saying, “Thanks a lot for trusting me to be the captain of RSCK ship for the next three years. I will count on your support to take RSCK to the next level.”
“My feeling can be captured by the famous words of St. Augustine when he was pronounced a Bishop. He said to his flock, ‘For you I am a bishop but with you I am a Christian.’ Thus, I feel humbled by members of RSCK to elect me unopposed as their Chairman despite my shortcomings as a human being,” he told ACI Africa October 17.
He urged RSCK members not to tire “serving the poor Christ and preaching both with words of mouth and actions” and reminded them of St. Mother Teresa’s words that when they are not able to do extra ordinary things, they “can do ordinary things in extra ordinary ways.”
To Christians who have to practice their faith amid the pandemic, the RSCK Chairman said, “I feel and pray for all those who are adversely affected by the restrictions we have been experiencing especially targeting our manner of worship.”
It has been a period where our faith has been tested especially when churches were closed, he recalled.
“Keep guard not to allow secular authorities and evil powers to take advantage of the situation and begin to derail the church from its core mandate, which comes from God and not from human beings,” the Kenyan Cleric said, addressing himself to the people of God in Kenya.
Making reference to St. Paul who, in his letter to the Ephesians said, ‘We need to be ready to put off our old nature and put on a new nature,’ Fr. Robert explained, “In the midst of worries and uncertainties, let us still hold on to our faith in God through Jesus Christ remembering that we are still in the world but we no longer belong to the world.”
Founded in 1969, RSCK represents and brings together male consecrated communities in Kenya through their Superiors and therefore offers “a locus to live out their charism for the good of Church in Kenya and speaking with one voice for all members.”
The Conference is made up of 79 Religious Orders and Societies of Apostolic Life based in different parts of Kenya, representing Religious Clergy and Brothers.
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