Catholic Priests in Kenya’s Hardship Missionary Territories Share Joy of Changing Lives

Fidei Donum priests in Kenya assemble for a photo after the completion of their annual meeting at the National Marian Shrine in Subukia, Kenya. Credit: PMS Kenya

One of the greatest sources of joy in the mission to the margins is journeying with people who have never known about Christianity until they receive the Sacraments of the Catholic Church, Fr. Bonaventure Luchidio who coordinates the work of Priests working in Kenya’s hardship missionary territories has said.

Fr. Luchidio, the National Director of the Pontifical Mission Societies (PMS) of the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops (KCCB) says that Priests still find it gratifying when one person takes years to learn the Catechism and to eventually receive the Sacrament of Matrimony or any other Sacrament of the Church.

“Our Priests always share how it took them years to journey with people through Catechism and the joy it brings. I have heard stories of how it takes years of hard work for an outstation to get even one person married in Church,” Fr. Luchidio says in an interview with ACI Africa.

The PMS Kenya Director shared details of a meeting that brought together Fidei Donum Priests serving in various missionary territories classified as geographical peripheries owing to their challenges of evangelization.

In the Tuesday, September 7 interview following their weeklong meeting that ended September 3, Fr. Luchidio said that the Priests spoke broadly on the joy of serving the country’s poorest of the poor.


“Many times, we talk about the challenges that Priests encounter in places of primary evangelization. But last week, we had an opportunity to explore the other side of serving in geographical peripheries. Our Fidei Donum Priests agree that serving in challenging places in the most satisfying experience in their lives,” the Kenyan Priest told ACI Africa.

Organized under the theme, “Joy of being a gift of faith in the Church”, the meeting brought together Kenyan and expatriate Fidei Donum Priests serving in Dioceses in Kenya where there is a scarcity of members of the Clergy.

Fr. Luchidio said that the words Fidei and Donum are translated as ‘Faith’ and ‘Gift’ respectively, and explained, “A Fidei Donum Priest is therefore a gift of faith from one particular Diocese to another Diocese that needs him the most.”

One of the sessions was facilitated by Bishop Michael Odiwa of the Diocese of Homa Bay who shared his experience from ministering as a Fidei Donum Priest in Australia’s Adelaide Archdiocese.

Evangelization in Australia is hindered by the culture shock that missionaries from other countries face, the challenge of uniting the country’s natives and the citizens from Britain, and the decline in the percentage of Christians as more people prefer to be non-believers, Bishop Odiwa shared.

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“Most of us in Kenya believe that going to Australia is the best thing because it is a first world country. But we were immensely enlightened by what Bishop Odiwa shared from his own experience,” Fr. Luchidio said.

The Fidei Donum Priests who met at the National Marian Shrine in Subukia within Kenya’s Nakuru Diocese learnt that in Australia, one of the biggest challenges is uniting the aboriginals and the non-natives and being careful “not to find oneself on the wrong footing.”

“In Australia, faith matters are privatized while science is given a priority. In fact, only about 10 percent of the population is Christian. People believe in science more than they trust matters of religion,” Fr. Luchidio said.

In another session, the Priests were also reminded how to celebrate the Liturgy of the Church in the most authentic way; they were also cautioned against watering down the Sacraments, sacramental and Ministers in Liturgy.

“Our minds were refreshed about the mutable and immutable aspects of Liturgy and the things we are allowed to change for instance in the celebration of Holy Mass,” Fr. Luchidio said.


He gave the example of the Church in Malawi where, instead of the faithful beating their breasts as a sign of remorse during Holy Mass, they bow down instead. In Malawi, beating one’s chest is a show off.

In Uganda, people clap when a respectable person approaches. The same is replicated during the elevation of the body of Christs at Holy Mass, Fr. Luchidio said, and noted, “Clapping at this point makes sense in Uganda because it fits within their culture. It does not make sense for the same to be replicated at a Kenyan Diocese just because one went to Uganda and saw people clapping.”

Likewise, it is sensible for a Bishop in Kenya’s Maralal Diocese to wear a decorated hat made from an animal skin instead of a normal Mitre made from a piece of cloth. This, the PMS Kenya Director said, is to help with the enculturation of the Church within Maralal where skins are part of the people’s way of life.

The highlight of the meeting, however, was to share the joy of being a missionary in hardship missionary territories, the member of the Clergy of Kenya’s Kakamega Diocese told ACI Africa.

It is while ministering in geographical peripheries that Priests learn the true spirit of sharing with others, he said.

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“Priests in hardship areas are touched daily by the challenges that the people endure. Some Priests survive on very little just to share with those who have nothing,” he said.

When the Priests go back to their respective Dioceses and share their experiences from ministering in hardship areas, their testimonies also draw people closer to God, realizing that they are privileged to attend Holy Mass every day while others go for months without the services of a Priest.

 Additionally, it is in the geographical peripheries that Priests feel welcome the most, the PMS Kenya Director notes.

“Despite their challenges, people in hardship areas love their Priests so much. I toured a manyatta (a settlement in Kenya) in Lodwar and I witnessed this. The children show genuine enthusiasm whenever a Priest approaches and the older people see the visit as an honor too,” Fr. Luchidio told ACI Africa September 7.

He added, “There is no much joy than feeling welcome. A Priest suffers the most when they don’t feel welcome.”