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Clergy, Religious, Laity in Kenya’s Homabay Diocese Elated at New Bishop’s Appointment

Fr. Michael Otieno Odiwa, appointed by Pope Francis as Bishop of Kenya's Homabay Diocese.

Members of the Clergy, Religious men and women serving in Kenya’s Homabay Diocese and Lay faithful have expressed their jubilation at the news of the appointment of a new Bishop for the Diocese.

The appointment of Fr. Michael Otieno Odiwa as the new Local Ordinary of the Kenyan Diocese was announced Sunday, November 29. The Diocese has been vacant since November 2018 following the Papal transfer of Archbishop Philip Anyolo to Kenya’s Kisumu Archdiocese. 

“We all rejoice that our prayers have been answered,” Archbishop Anyolo who has been serving as the Apostolic Administrator of Homabay said November 29 while announcing the appointment on Radio Arise of Homabay Diocese. 

The Archbishop added, “As we rejoice, we wish that we prepare our hearts also to welcome the new Bishop, the new shepherd of the people of Homabay.” 

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The Archbishop of Kisumu who doubles as the Chairman of the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops (KCCB) went on to call on the people of God in Homabay to pray for the Bishop-elect so that “he may fit in this new appointment that is never easy at all.”

“He will need our prayers so that he may shepherd us,” added in reference to Fr. Odiwa, the Bishop-elect.

Aged 58, Fr. Odiwa was ordained a Clergy of Homabay in July 1993. The alumnus of the Rome-based Urbaniana University from where he obtained his Doctorate in Canon Law completed his formation program in Theology at St. Matthias Mulumba, Tindinyo in Kenya.

In his 27 years of Priesthood, the Bishop-elect served as the Vicar General for Homabay Diocese and as Parish Priest in various Parishes of the Diocese.

His most recent appointment was the assistant Parish Priest and in-charge of Italian speaking community of the Annunciation Church Hectorville Parish in Australia as well as the defender of Bond Tribunal of the Province of Adelaide South Australia and Northern Territories.

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Speaking to ACI Africa a day after receiving the news of Fr. Odiwa’s appointment, a section of the Clergy, Religious men and women in Homabay Diocese as well as Laity who have previously interacted with the Bishop-elect say they are elated.

“We are very happy with the appointment,” the current Vicar General of Homabay Diocese, Fr. Francis Leso told ACI Africa Monday, November 30, adding, “We have been having a good Apostolic Administrator in the name of Archbishop Anyolo but it is not the same as having our own Bishop.”

“We expect him to continue the good work that was ongoing with the Apostolic Administrator in the Diocese,” Fr. Leso said and continued, “We hope to have more vocations. Fr. Michael loves helping young people to become Priests and we hope that we will see this ongoing.”

To the Clergy of Homabay Diocese, the Vicar General said, “I expect them to cooperate with Fr. Michael. He is not a stranger and they should give him an easy time and the chance to shepherd the Diocese of Homabay.” 

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“I wish him well and pray for good health for him,” Fr. Leso told ACI Africa.

The Communications Director of Homabay Diocese, Fr. Joshua Mege said he received the news of the appointment “with a lot of joy.” 

“I pray that he will unite all Priests and that we will all see him as a symbol of unity,” Fr. Mege said, describing the Bishop-elect as a “man who unites people.”

“He is listening, peaceful and he loves the Church,” Fr. Mege who is the Director of Radio Arise where the appointment was made public further said in reference to the Bishop-elect.

The Clergy of Homabay Diocese expressed the hope that the Bishop-elect will foster collaboration with members of the Clergy and other pastoral agents in the Diocese as his immediate collaborators, fostering the evangelization ministry.

Fr. Mege sent his goodwill message to the Bishop-elect saying, “Courage to him and as Priests, we will support him,”

Sr. Mary Goretty Ochieng' described the appointment of Fr. Odiwa as an “answered prayers.”

“We have been praying for a new Bishop and God has answered our prayers,” Sr. Mary Goretty who is the Superior General of the Franciscan Sisters of Saint Joseph (Asumbi Sisters) of Homabay Diocese told ACI Africa November 30. 

She added, “We are very blessed because some Catholic Dioceses in the country have stayed longer without a Bishop and God has blessed us.” 

Making reference to the Apostolic Administrator of Homabay Diocese, Sr. Mary Goretty noted, “Much as we loved the Archbishop very much, we felt it was actually the task of administering two dioceses was too much for him.” 

In the interview, Sr. Mary Goretty called on the people of God in the Diocese to support the Bishop-elect in his episcopal ministry. 

“For the people of Homabay, God has given us a good shepherd; let us support him so that he can use the gifts God has given him for the good of the Diocese and of the Church at large,” she said and pledged, “We as Sisters will work with him and support him.”

The Superior General of the Asumbi Sisters implored, “We pray that God may bless Him and give him many years as a Shepherd. 

On his part, Fr. Richard Odhiambo said that with Fr. Odiwa’s appointment, “the Lord has remembered us. This appointment is a real blessing.”

He described the Bishop-elect as a “humble, father and prayerful person” and expressed the hope that he remains humble “when he is ordained as Bishop.”

He urged the Bishop-elect to take the new appointment as the “will of God” and become a “committed and dedicated servant of the servants of God.”

Meanwhile, Lilian Osimbo, a Lay faithful engaged in one of the projects of Homabay Diocese said, “It is with great joy and gratitude that I congratulate Bishop-elect Msgr. Michael Otieno Odiwa on his Papal appointment.”

“I have come to know him in his great work as the Vicar General of Homabay Diocese and as Parish Priest of St. Pauls Cathedral Church,” Ms. Osimbo told ACI Africa, adding, “I’m confident that he will be a faithful servant and will shepherd the people of God in the Catholic Diocese of Homabay, building on the ministry of His Grace Bishop Philip Anyolo.”

That the Bishop-elect is a native of the Homabay Diocese is a good thing, Ms. Osimbo said, explaining, “Bishop-elect Michael is well versed with pastoral needs of the faithful of this Diocese.”

“May God enlighten him as he steps in as a shepherd of this great Diocese,” she implored.

On his part, the Bishop-elect has, a couple of days after his appointment was announced, expressed his “gratitude to God and the Church and in particular to Pope Francis.”

“I humbly accept the honour and privilege accorded in appointing me to serve as the next Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Homabay,” the Bishop-elect says in an audio recording addressed to members of the Clergy, Religious men and women and Christians in Homabay Diocese.

“This is Fr. Michael Odiwa speaking to you from Adelaide South Australia,” he says in the audio shared on WhatsApp December 1.

He assures the people of God in Homabay Diocese of his “dedication to pick up the mantle from the wise and humble leadership of His Grace Philip Anyolo” and “to continue the ministry and mission of our salvation to the people and to the clergy to the greater Glory of God.”

“May God be with you all; may He keep you and bless you abundantly always,” the Bishop-elect says and implores, “Keep me in your prayers; I really need them at this time. Hope to see you soon. Bye and Blessings.”

Erected in October 1993, the 7780-square-kilometre Diocese is under the Metropolitan Archdiocese of Kisumu. 

As the third Prelate of Homabay, Bishop-elect Odiwa will be tasked with shepherding 550,700 Catholics, according to 2017 statistics.