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Six Kenyan Catholic Dioceses in Urgent Need of Help as International Funding Plunges

Fr. James Kinoti serving at St. Catherine of Alexandria Tarasaa Parish in Kenya’s Catholic Diocese of Malindi. Credit: Fr. James Kinoti

Kenyan Catholic Dioceses experiencing primary evangelization are among those in urgent need of help owing to the plunge in funding from the Pontifical Society for the Propagation of Faith Universal Fund, a body charged with the duty to assist needy churches across the globe.

In a Thursday, August 12 interview with ACI Africa, the National Director of Pontifical Mission Societies (PMS) of the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops (KCCB), Fr. Bonaventure Luchidio, clarified that although many Catholic Dioceses in the country will grapple with managing meagre resources, churches in “geographical peripheries” will suffer the most.

Top on the list of Catholic Dioceses that are already struggling to survive are Lodwar, Marsabit, Maralal, Malindi, Garissa and the Apostolic Vicariate of Isiolo.

Fr. Luchidio says, in reference to the Episcopal Sees, “All these are places experiencing primary evangelization. In some of the places, people are still being taught how to perform the sign of the cross.”

The Dioceses, Fr. Luchidio says, are in deep need of necessities such as food for the Priests and women and men Religious as well as donations to the poor locals who rely on the support of the local church.

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“The Dioceses have written to us telling us they lack the most basic items to survive themselves, let alone the support of the local Christians who depend solely on the church,” Fr. Luchidio says, and adds, “People in these hardship places are very poor and many go for days without meals. In these places, the Church is the only support structure that exists.”

He says that though the government has some facilities in hardship places, getting people to work in the places with such harsh conditions as drought and terrorism is not easy. It is only the Religious who are willing to take their missionaries to such geographical peripheries, the member of the Clergy of Kenya’s Kakamega Diocese says.

“I have been to Parishes in the Catholic Diocese of Lodwar where churches are in deplorable conditions. In some places, the church is made from sticks and the altar is made from jerry cans,” Fr. Luchidio says.

He expresses regret that the Diocese of Lodwar may receive way less funding compared to what it receives from the PMS office every year.

“I met the Apostolic Administrator of Lodwar a few days ago and he said that he spends about KES1.5 million (US$14,000.00) every month to run the Diocese. This money goes to food for the Priests, car repairs and other areas including mission work,” the Nairobi-based Priest says.

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“From the PMS office, the Diocese of Lodwar gets up to US$ 35,000.00 to help with the running of its activities and US$ 20,000.00 to support the work of the Seminarians. This year, however, the office may not even raise half this amount,” the PMS official says, and adds, “What this means is that the Diocese may be forced to cut down on expenses. Some operations and offices within the Diocese will even be shut down completely.”

Other Dioceses in areas of primary evangelization are also grappling with retrogressive cultures and witchcraft, religious extremism as well as Christian minority issues on top of poverty and lack of development.

There are Parishes in the Catholic Diocese of Malindi, for instance, where the Church has stalled owing to witchcraft, cattle rustling and other forms of banditry.

In the Catholic Diocese of Garissa where the dominant religion is Islam, Christianity is only struggling to find root. Fr. Luchidio says that the vast Diocese is served by only 34 Religious including Priests, Religious Sisters, Brothers and the Bishop himself.

In Marsabit Diocese, missionaries deal with insecurity, bad roads and the inhospitably hot climate as well as issues of radicalism, Fr. Luchidio says.

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The Biggest challenge, however, is funding, the Kenyan Priest tells ACI Africa, adding that the drop in the collections by the international PMS kitty has terribly impacted Mission Dioceses, which Fr. Luchidio defines as those established less than 200 years ago and are still in need of support.

In 2019, the Pontifical Society for the Propagation of Faith Universal Fund raised US$89,191,743.25 from all the churches globally.

The money was distributed as Ordinary and Extraordinary Subsidies for all projects from the 1,200 Dioceses under PMS that were received by the International Secretariat in Rome. 

Owing to COVID-19 outbreak and the subsequent lengthy suspension of church activities, the figure dropped to US$64,398,266.67 in the year 2020.

This is the amount that the international PMS office is planning to share out for the Ordinary Subsidy to the 1,200 Dioceses and 2,646 projects registered as proposals for Extraordinary Subsidy, Fr. Luchidio says. 

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In his appeal for donations to support Mission work earlier this week, Fr. Luchidio said, “Truly speaking, very needy Dioceses in Kenya and other places will suffer because they are not able to sustain their annual budgets with these sharp decline of funds from the universal kitty. This is the sad reality that we have to live with.”

He says that Kenyans have always been exemplary in supporting mission work and urges them to join the other PMS countries to support needy Catholic Dioceses.

In his interview with ACI Africa, Fr. Luchidio also clarified that all Catholic Dioceses in Kenya have some form of hardship and can be classified into either geographical peripheries or existential peripheries.

“At face value, for instance, the Archdiocese of Nairobi seems more endowed with resources compared with other Dioceses. This is not entirely true,” the Priest says, and explains, “Sometimes, we look at the centre and forget about the periphery. The Archdiocese may appear to be self-sufficient yet it has many needy Parishes in far-flung areas that it takes care of as well many informal settlements that have big populations of poor people.”

“In many cases, Dioceses that appear to be self-sufficient have very few people who give and many who are needy,” Fr. Luchidio further observes.

He says that for the longest time, Catholics in Kenya have never understood the extent of need in the mission to the peripheries.

“Do people understand the need?” he poses, and adds, “No one has brought up the desperate situation as concrete as it actually is in Dioceses established in hardship areas, both geographically and existentially. I have seen the generosity portrayed by Kenyans on social media when coming through for the bereaved, the sick and children who can't afford education. I know that if they understand the situation of their Priests in hardship areas, they will do everything they can to help.”

Donations to support missionaries in hardship areas can be channeled through KCCB-PMS RESTRICTED FUND, ACCOUNT NUMBER 1178590927, NCBA BANK MALL BRANCH WESTLANDS.

There is also the option of sending contributions using the MPESA PAYBILL NUMBER 880100 to ACCOUNT NUMBER 1178590927.

Still, there is the option of contributing through the Church kitty during the Holy Mass for World Mission Sunday to be held on October 24 in all the Catholic Churches worldwide, Fr. Luchidio said, while announcing the launch of the “Missionary Rosary Marathon” to support evangelization in the peripheries.