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Newly Launched Catholic Television in Kenya to Carry EWTN Programs

Logos for EWTN and Ukweli TV Kenya.

Ukweli TV, Kenya’s newly launched Catholic television under the auspices of the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops (KCCB) is set to increase the scope of its programming for the people of God in the East African country by airing EWTN programs.

The TV’s Director, Sr. Agnes Lucy Lando told ACI Africa that the collaboration with EWTN, the largest religious media network in the world, which presents around-the-clock Catholic-themed programming would also accelerate the new TV’s progress.

“It is a big honor for us to be associated with such a respected television, which has a global reach. EWTN will be a springboard for us. Starting with them gives us a very solid foundation,” Sr. Lando told ACI Africa in an interview December 11.

The Nairobi-based Catholic TV whose name “Ukweli” means “Truth” is set to benefit from the wide EWTN networks in evangelization, she said.

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“EWTN has networks with the Vatican and other places that we do not have at the moment. These networks will really be helpful to us,” the Kenyan-born Sister said.

She added that Ukweli TV has already received a go ahead from the leadership of the world’s largest Catholic broadcaster to air its content.

In a letter shared with ACI Africa, EWTN’s Regional Manager for Africa, George Wirnkar confirmed the authorization and said that the collaboration between the two Catholic media outlets was important to the U.S.-based television network.

“The birth of Ukweli TV marks an important moment in EWTN's mission of reaching more souls and bringing the Good News to the ends of the earth,” Mr. Wirnkar told ACI Africa Tuesday, December 15.

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He added, “Today, EWTN is available in 145 countries and reaches 25million TV Homes on all continents. Through the launch of Ukweli TV, EWTN will be blessed with the increased opportunity of bringing the beauty of our worship and prayer as well as our award-winning programs to the faithful in Kenya.”

The Cameroon-based media practitioner explained that EWTN is focused on bringing as many believers as possible on board to worship together.  

“This year in particular, nothing fulfils EWTN's mission more than our growing ability to be a strong link between millions unable to worship and celebrate in unity with Holy Mother the Church that loves them dearly,” he said.

Ukweli TV officially went on air on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, December 8, in one of the biggest achievements in the Catholic Church in Kenya where Catholic Bishops have been trying to get a platform to connect with the people of God in the country for years.

Sr. Lando said the television which will have a national reach was “born out of prayers.”

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“So many people prayed for the successful launch of Ukweli TV. More than 100 Priests in Kenya offered Holy Masses for its success and in my community, the Sisters started praying the Novena of Masses ahead of its launch,” the communications Professor told ACI Africa.

Most of Ukweli TV’s milestones went down on different feasts of the Blessed Virgin Mary to whom the member of the Religious Congregation of the Sisters of Mary of Kakamega (SMK) has dedicated the media channel.

The TV Channel was started on March 25, the Solemnity of the Annunciation; it received its letter of authorization from the Communications Authority of Kenya (CAK) on September 8, the birthday of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

“It was a special birthday gift to us from Our Lady,” Sr. Lando says of the CAK authorization, adding that the license to operate from the authority came on September 15, the feast of our Lady of Sorrows.

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“We thank God for all the gifts He has granted us through Mary. We still ask for her intercession as we put up the final details,” Sr. Lando said in a communique she circulated to her networks ahead of the launch to ask for prayers and financial support toward the Catholic TV initiative.

Recalling her joy following the launch, the Ukweli TV Director told ACI Africa, “I said the Magnificat to thank the Lord for the many things He had done for Ukweli TV. We had been through so much. I particularly took up the leadership of the TV not knowing what a huge task lay ahead of me.”

She added, “It wasn’t easy. I thought of quitting many times until someone advised me to ask Mother Angelica who built EWTN from a very humble beginning to pray for me and to guide me.”

“I had always had a close relationship with Mother Angelica and being passionate about the media in my life as a Religious, I immediately sought the intercession of the EWTN founder and I felt the weight lighter,” Sr. Lando narrated.

The first activity that went on air was Holy Mass, which was presided over by the Chairman of Commission for Social Communications of KCCB, Bishop Joseph Obanyi who had been journeying with the TV long before its launch.

“In fact, Ukweli TV is Bishop Obanyi’s baby. I am only the midwife,” Sr. Lando says, adding that the Bishop of Kenya’s Kakamega Diocese has been central to the establishment of the TV.

The Sister who lectures at the Kenya-based Daystar University accepted the request by the Bishops in the country to establish Ukweli TV in March in a move that marked her second stint at Ukweli Video Productions, the mother organization of the TV.

She first joined Ukweli Video Productions as a Producer in 2004 and worked at the Catholic media entity for six years before she was allowed to join Daystar University where she has risen through the ranks to become the University’s Director of Research and Postgraduate Studies.

Founded in 1981 by a Maryknoll Missionary, the late Fr. Richard Quinn, Ukweli Video Productions is one of the first professional Christian video production centres in Africa, which was started with the aim of evangelizing through electronic visual images.

After twenty-six years of operation, and upon the retirement of Fr. Quinn in 2008, KCCB took over the project with the aim of using it to connect with the people of God in the country.

Sr. Lando embarked on the registration process to secure Ukweli TV’s license, working through many odds to secure the authorization amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The outbreak of the pandemic, which led to closure of places of worship was one of the driving forces towards the establishment of Ukweli TV Kenya.

“The Bishops in Kenya wanted a reliable communications tool that would help them keep the shepherds connected with their flock that have been locked out of places of worship because of the pandemic. With Ukweli TV, the Church will easily accompany the sick and the elderly amid the threat of the virus,” Sr. Lando told ACI Africa.

The SMK Sister says that with Ukweli TV Kenya, the Bishops will also be able to pass important information across without feeling “pressed for time.”

“This is the Bishops’ mouthpiece. It is a tool they will use when they want to make statements on social issues without being pressed for time,” she says.

Ukweli TV whose motto is Imara katika Imani (Strong in Faith) will be guided by Christian ethos and ethics, the Kenyan scholar says, adding that all Christians will find a home at the TV regardless of their religious backgrounds.

“We shall adhere to the principles and social teachings of the Church. The Catholic Church is holistic in its approach and is also universal, embracing all,” she said.

“We will feature everything that adds value to society. Ukweli TV is not a place where we will advertise alcohol, cigarettes, and other destructive content. It won’t just be about prayers. We will create content on health, parenting, security, development and other issues that benefit society,” she said.

At the moment, Ukweli TV Kenya has an eight-member staff, all of them volunteers. Sr. Lando lauds the team members for their selfless service, for working and not asking for anything in return.

“I have journeyed with eight young men and women from March when we started putting everything in place for Ukweli TV. I haven’t paid them anything. Not even a little money for transport. They have given their all to this project,” she says.

The TV has been built on a sense of ownership from the beginning, Sr. Lando says, and clarifies, “Ukweli TV should never be associated with Sr. Lando. It has been teamwork from the beginning. It is a TV station born out of prayers, sacrifice and fasting, plus an entire fabric of the Church.”

For Sr. Lando, achieving the Bishops' dream through the Catholic TV has been riddled with many challenges.

The fact that the Catholic Nun is a university Professor with numerous responsibilities, including heading a department at one of Kenya’s top universities meant that she sacrificed her little spare time to work on the TV.

“I worked long hours in the day at the university and toiled through the night, working on Ukweli TV. There was so much work to be done including conducting research to determine the needs of the audiences, writing business plans and following up on the licensing process, which was not easy especially with the lockdown situation,” she shares.

Getting the funding to get the TV running was a challenge, the Sister says, adding that the station needed Ksh.8 million (US$80,000.00) to go on air.

“TV is very expensive to run but it is doable. We’ll need Ksh.2.5 million (US$25,000.00) every month to remain on air. I therefore call upon established Catholic media houses to support us,” she says.

Additionally, it is not easy to get suitable individuals to work at the TV station who come and walk away when their financial expectations are not met, she says.

Amid the challenges, Sr. Lando says prayer has been her biggest pillar of strength. Her community, Priests and members of the KCCB have been very supportive as well.

She is particularly grateful to outgoing KCCB General Secretary, Fr. Daniel Rono.

“He is a soft-spoken person and a man of few words, but very firm with a clear sense of direction,” Sr. Lando says of Fr. Rono, and adds, “He confidently and calmly walked with Ukweli TV Kenya from the first trip to the Communications Authority in March this year to date.”

Other Catholic Media stations supporting Ukweli TV Kenya with content are Salt &Light TV in Canada and Catholic Radio and Television Network (CRTN) in the Netherlands.

Sr. Lando calls for help from Catholics all over the country to support the new television with prayers, expertise as volunteers and with financial donations on Mpesa Pay Bill number: 5151233.

Different small Christian groups are also called upon to help with their talents, she appeals.

“We call on choir groups to give us locally produced gospel songs to be aired on TV. Other groups should also come forward and record themselves reciting the rosary or other payers. Our aim is to cover the whole country, leaving no one behind,” Sr. Lando told ACI Africa.