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At Episcopal Ordination, Kenya’s Newest Bishop Recalls Reaction to His Appointment News

Bishop Michael Odiwa of Kenya's Homabay Diocese, ordained a Bishop 9 February 2021

The newly ordained Bishop of Kenya's Homabay Diocese has, during his maiden speech, recounted his reaction when the news of his episcopal appointment was broken to him.

During the Tuesday, February 9 event, Bishop Michael Odiwa whose appointment as Bishop was made public last November related his initial disbelief with the words of his episcopal motto, which he composed.

“When the Apostolic Nuncio called me with the news of this appointment, I was thrown into confusion; I saw darkness; I did not know how to handle the request from the Holy Father, which meant that life as I had known it was going to change forever,” Bishop Odiwa recounted shortly after he was ordained a Bishop at Homabay High School grounds in Kenya’s Homabay Diocese.

He continued, “It came to me as an afterthought to request him (Apostolic Nuncio), the following day, for a video call so that I could confirm my doubts. We talked, and indeed, he meant what he had earlier told me.”

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Recalling that he “prayed and prayed” after the news, Bishop Odiwa highlighted the Psalm that kept lingering in his mind, “Psalm 46:10 kept coming to my mind as the prayer I needed at that time – be still and know that I am God.”

“I realized, then, that the Holy Father’s request was for me to leave my comfort in Adelaide and come back home to take care of his flock,” Bishop Odiwa who, at his appointment, was serving as assistant Parish Priest and in-charge of Italian-speaking community of the Annunciation Church Hectorville Parish in Australia, said February 9.

The Apostolic Nuncio in Kenya, Archbishop Bert van Megen had, during his homily, recalled the surprise the Bishop-elect showed at the news of his appointment as a Bishop, including the request for a video call the following day “to confirm his doubts.”

As he prayerfully digested the news of his appointment as a Bishop in his native Diocese in Kenya, Bishop Odiwa recalled, it occurred to him that “stillness and wisdom, serenity and wisdom, peace and wisdom seem to always arise together.”

“In a complex world like ours,” Bishop Odiwa further said, “faith in God helped me to see the serenity and wisdom in all that I need and in all that I do.”

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“That is how I got the courage to say Yes, and that is how I chose a motto for my episcopate: Serenity and Wisdom.”

According to Kenya’s newest Catholic Bishop, his submission to God’s will also led to a deeper understanding of the prayerful words that St. Ignatius of Loyola attributed to his conversion in the Suscipe Prayer. 

“I too have consistently marveled in wonder before this prayer that I have chosen to lumen the entirety of my episcopate,” the 58-year-old Bishop said referencing the Suscipe Prayer of the founder of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits). 

In his maiden speech as a Bishop, the native of Kenya’s Homabay Diocese went on to recommend the Ignatian Suscipe Prayer to members of the Clergy, Religious men and women and the Lay faithful who will be under his pastoral care in the Western Kenyan Diocese.

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The Ignatian Suscipe Prayer, Bishop Odiwa said, is “a mantra that should inspire our journey of faith.”

“It is my intention to make a journey with you on the wisdom inherent in this prayer,” he further said in reference to the Ignatian Suscipe Prayer.

In his first act as the Local Ordinary of Homabay Diocese, Bishop Odiwa established two new Parishes in the 7,780-square-kilometre Diocese that is under the Metropolitan Archdiocese of Kisumu.

Ordained a Clergy of Kenya's Kisii Diocese in July 1993, Bishop Odiwa was, three months later, incardinated in Homabay Diocese. 

He is an alumnus of the Rome-based Urbaniana University from where he obtained his Doctorate in Canon Law.

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The Kenyan Bishop is succeeding Archbishop Philip Anyolo who was transferred to Kenya’s Kisumu Archdiocese in November 2018 and had been serving as the Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese. 

In his homily during the episcopal ordination event, Archbishop van Megen who doubles as the Apostolic Nuncio to South Sudan had words of encouragement for the Bishop-elect.

“Dear Monsignor Michael, God has chosen you not so much because of your qualities. Maybe He has chosen you because of your awareness of not being prepared, of not being worthy, of not having the necessary skills that you think you need,” the representative of the Holy Father in Kenya said. 

“God has a plan with us and many times we ourselves we do not know about these plans,” the Nuncio went on to say, and making reference to Prophet Jeremiah, added, “Behold I formed you in your mother’s womb I knew you and before you were consecrated, I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” 

He continued, “Our ways are not God’s way and our thoughts not His own.” 

Archbishop van Megen further urged Kenya’s newest Catholic Bishop to be “accessible, be open, be a father.”

“Keep watch of the flock in which the Holy Spirit has placed you as Bishop,” the native of the Netherlands said February 9, addressing himself to the new Bishop of Kenya’s Homabay Diocese.