In Ethiopia: Couples Evangelized, Women Empowered, Youth Exposed Despite Limited Funding

Nigerian Spiritan Father Kenneth Iwunna administering Holy Communion to a parishioner of Ethiopia’s Holy Cross Parish in Dhadim
Credit: Aid to Church in Need International (ACN)

With 5,000 Euros a year, a religious missionary ministering among Ethiopia’s Borana community has been able to have an impactful apostolate that has included giving dozens of youth the opportunity to interact with peers from other cultures in inter-diocesan pastoral programs, evangelizing couples through the Sacrament of Matrimony, empowering women to become teachers of faith, among other activities that have kept faith alive in the Horn of Africa.

In a narrative to Aid to the Church in Need International (ACN) shared with ACI Africa Thursday, November 28, Nigerian Spiritan Missionary in Ethiopia, Fr. Kenneth Iwunna has given an account of the activities he has accomplished in his ministry in Ethiopia’s  Holy Cross Parish in Dhadim, South of Ethiopia. 

“Each year, 65 to 100 young people can take part in a three-day pastoral programme that is held in another diocese,” Fr. Iwunna said and explained in reference to the youth involved in the inter-diocesan encounters, “Most of them have never been anywhere other than their own village. For them it is an important experience to get together with young people from other tribes and talk about what they know.”

“Another advantage is that they are more motivated afterwards to learn another language such as English and to go to school,” he said and added, “These days are not only of benefit to them, but to the entire community because when the young people come back, they talk about their experiences at Church and the older people are also very interested in this.”

Besides engaging the youth in encountering their peers in other diocese, the Nigerian missionary has used the funds from ACN to provide necessities that enable the Sacrament of Matrimony in a context where weddings have become expensive affair.

“The newly baptised adults are faced with the problem that they were not married in the Church. This means that they cannot receive Holy Communion,” the Nigerian cleric said and added, “Many do not have the money for the rings, the formal attire and the celebration that they must hold.”

With ACN’s support, Fr. Iwumma has narrated, they have been able “hold marriage ceremonies for several couples at a time and buy everything that they need for the celebration.” 

He adds, “It is a great relief for the couples when they are finally wed by the Church and can receive Holy Communion.”

The support from the Pontifical Foundation ACN has enabled Fr. Iwumma to reach out to women and girls in his parish who, traditionally, are prohibited from doing anything outside their homes.

The 45-year-old Spiritan missionary has succeeded in getting the women and girls out of their houses and homes as teachers of Catholic faith.

“We offer them an opportunity to become catechists and to teach,” Fr. Iwumma said referencing women in his parish and added, “We also encourage the girls to go to school. This has led to a sharp decline in very early marriages. We believe in evangelization through education.”

For the past five years, ACN has been supporting the pastoral work of the Holy Cross Parish, with annual donations of 4,800 to 5,000 euros under “Pastoral Work Strengthening Project.”

Supporting about 40 projects in Ethiopia annually, ACN funded projects worth 1.05 million euros in the country in 2018.


ACI Africa was officially inaugurated on August 17, 2019 as a continental Catholic news agency at the service of the Church in Africa. Headquartered in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, this media apostolate will strive to facilitate the telling of Africa’s story by providing media coverage of Catholic events on the African continent, giving visibility to the activities of the Church across Africa where statistics show significant growth in numbers and the continent gradually becoming the axis of Catholicism. This is expected to contribute to an awareness of and appreciation for the significant role of the Church in Africa and over time, the realization of a realistic image of Africa that often receives negative media framing.

Father Don Bosco Onyalla
Editor-in-Chief, ACI Africa
[email protected]