Kenyan Catholic Bishop Marking Episcopal Golden Jubilee Hailed as “giant of faith”

Bishop Emeritus Philip Sulumeti of Kenya's Kakamega Diocese during the procession. Credit: ACI Africa

On the occasion of his Episcopal Golden Jubilee celebration, the pioneer Bishop of Kakamega Diocese in Kenya, Bishop Philip Sulumeti, has been hailed as a “giant of faith”.

In his homily during the Eucharistic celebration to mark Bishop Sulumeti’s Episcopal Golden Jubilee held at Bukhungu Stadium of Kakamega County in Kenya on October 29, Archbishop Maurice Muhatia Makumba of Kenya’s Kisumu Archdiocese said the Kenyan Bishop had excelled in his Episcopal ministry. 

“Bishop Sulumeti is a giant of faith in the Western region because of the ministry he accomplished,” Archbishop Muhatia said, and added, “He has written history with his life and his ministry.” 

Bishop Sulumeti’s positive impact on people spanning decades “led many to ask if he is a human person,” the Kenyan Archbishop Muhatia said, recalling a conversation he had with a curious native of Western Kenya. 

Making reference to the Book of Leviticus, which provided Israelites with instructions when and how to mark the jubilee years, the Local Ordinary of Kisumu said that Bishop Sulumeti had lived up to the requirements during his Episcopal ministry.


In the Book of Leviticus, Archbishop Muhatia said, Israelites were told “first, to thank God and to understand that it is God who gives them all good and they are under the protection of the love of God the Father.” 

“Secondly, Israelites were told to set free all slaves,” the Kenyan Archbishop said and added, “Jubilee year was the time to announce freedom and justice to the society; prisoners and slaves were to be set free.”

Thirdly, he said that the Book of Leviticus instructed Israelites to return property, including land, to the original owners who would have given them up amid challenges in their respective lives.

“The Jubilee year was a time to announce freedom and justice for the society, economic freedom and justice so that there wouldn’t be anyone in the society who lived in poverty,” he explained.

In his five decades of Episcopal Ministry, Bishop Sulumeti “completely fulfilled what was needed for the children of Israel when they celebrated the jubilee year,” Archbishop Muhatia said.

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The Bishop Emeritus “followed in the footsteps of our Lord Jesus Christ, who entered the synagogue and read from the book of the prophet Isaiah about setting people free, about bringing back the blind to see, the lame to jump and walk again, the deaf to hear,” Archbishop Muhatia said during the Holy Mass that the Apostolic Nuncio in Kenya and South Sudan, Archbishop Hubertus Maria van Megen, presided over.

“Today we celebrate a man who walked from Nyanza to the end of Western preaching the Gospel, teaching the people to fulfill the first instruction of what is to be done in the Jubilee year, to acknowledge the presence of God in the life of a human being and it's He who enables human beings to rejoice in all good, that is given to us by God’s grace,” the native of Kakamega Diocese said.

Some of the ways Bishop Sulumeti fulfilled the Jubilee directives were by preaching the Word of God and facilitating the construction of places of worship, the Archbishop of Kisumu said about the 85-year-old whose retirement the Holy Father accepted in December 2014. 

He also fulfilled the directives by leading men “to the Priesthood, women and men to Religious Life, others to the Sacrament of Matrimony. He brought people closer to God. He reminded us that the world has no life without God,” said the 54-year-old Catholic Archbishop who has been at the helm of Kisumu Archdiocese since February 2022. 

Bishop Sulumeti fulfilled the second aspect of the Jubilee year requiring that people regain economic, social justice and equality in the society “by constructing learning institutions, health facilities and social amenities,” Archbishop Muhatia said, adding that Bishop Sulumeti knew that education will free boys and girls from any form of slavery. 


“When someone educates you, they free you from the shackles of slavery; they open your eyes,” he said, and added that Bishop Sulumeti built health facilities in the Diocese of Kakamega “to continue Christ’s healing work.”

“He catered for the spiritual and physical well-being of the people by building schools and leading men to the Priesthood. Priests are to look after the spiritual well-being while hospitals are to cater for the physical person,” Archbishop Muhatia said.

“The Church has truly been a giant through this giant,” the Kenyan Archbishop said about the Bishop who ordained him to the Priesthood in October 1994.

The Archbishop called on the people of God to emulate Bishop Sulumeti in the service of the Lord and be giants in realizing Christ’s mission.

Before his appointment as Local Ordinary of Kakamega in February 1978, Bishop Sulumeti had first served as the Auxiliary Bishop of Kisumu under Bishop Joannes de Reeper, a member of the St. Joseph’s Missionary Society of Mill Hill (MHM) whom he succeeded in December 1976. 

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In the Diocese of Kakamega, Bishop Sulumeti was succeeded by Bishop Joseph Obanyi Sagwe whose Episcopal Consecration took place in March 2015.

In an interview with ACI Africa after the Eucharistic celebration, Bishop Obanyi termed the celebration of his predecessor’s Episcopal Golden Jubilee as “rare history”.

“As his successor, to celebrate, to be there to witness the fifty-year celebration is history. It tells me that faith is concrete; it is what we are living,” Bishop Obanyi said on the sidelines of the October 29 event. 

He added, “Bishop Sulumeti did a great job. He was a strong personality who instilled discipline and yet with a lot of love. He is a man who has faith; he is a prayerful man. He has really made a mark and built a legacy in the Church in Kenya.” 

Meanwhile, in his speech during the October 29 celebration, the representative of the Holy Father in Kenya described  Bishop Sulumeti as “a living history of the institution of what the Church in Kenya is all about.”

“There is so much history in that man. So much knowledge, not only about the Church but also about the Kenya of long ago that we cannot imagine anymore today,” Archbishop Megen said. 

The Vatican diplomat added, “Bishop Sulumeti has always tried to apply the law; he has always tried to be objective, not about his own opinion but about what the Church teaches and what the Church desires. That was the first objective of Bishop Sulumeti.”

He further said that Bishop Sulumeti’s diligent service to the people of God in Kenya can be witnessed in how he acts with his successor. 

The Apostolic Nuncio in Kenya explained, “Bishop Sulumeti respects the new Bishop and he never interfered with his work and that can only be if you are very well aware of your service to the Church and to the country.”

“Bishop Sulumeti, thank you for that great witness to all of us,” Archbishop Megen said.