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Kenyans Pay Glowing Tribute to American Missionary, Founder of First Audiovisual Centre

The late Fr. Richard Quinn, MM who passed on January, 27, 2020. He is the founder of Ukweli Video Productions.

Members of the clergy, religious and the laity who interacted with the American Missionary Fr. Richard Quinn, known in Kenya for founding the first audiovisual production centre, the  Ukweli Video Productions, have paid glowing tributes to him following his death on Monday, January 27 at the age of 93.

A member of the Maryknoll Society, Fr. Quinn has been described as a mentor, a father, and a generous man of God who left an indelible mark on many people he encountered.

“Fr. Quinn loved the Church and served it with commitment. He helped so many people who were in need, a real Father. I am one (an) evident example of the generosity of a man I came to call my Father. My vocation was inspired by him. He did good, and I wanted to do the same,” Bishop Joseph Obanyi of Kenya’s Kakamega Diocese told ACI Africa Tuesday, January 28.

Bishop Obanyi recalled his first encounter with Fr. Quinn in his native diocese saying, “I knew Fr. Quinn from when I was 8 years old back in Kisii. He had just constructed the first Pastoral Centre, both in Kenya and the entire East and Central Africa. It is still called Viongozi Centre. It is here that Fr. Quinn began his ministry after coming from Tanzania. It is here that he trained many lay people in the pastoral ministry in accordance with Christifideles Laici of Vatican II. Many of those who went through the leadership training are very strong witnesses of the Gospel.”

It is at the “Viongozi” (leadership) Centre, the 53-year-old Kenyan Prelate recalled, that the late Maryknoll Father “showed great interest in communications and media,” an interest that saw him spend a year studying media and communication in America, “when he went for his sabbatical leave in 1979.”

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Two years later, Fr. Quinn founded the Ukweli Video Productions, tapping “into talents of young people, promoting cultural values in imparting the gospel message, bringing alive biblical stories and putting them in the African context,” Bishop Obanyi recounted to ACI Africa.

Producing audiovisual “of high quality and of enduring relevance,” Bishop Obanyi recounted, Fr. Quinn “delved into the burning questions of Catholicism against the background of mushrooming sects and new age movements, thereby giving birth to the Catholic Answers series which are still relevant today. I was privileged to participate in some of these sessions back then as a seminarian and deacon.”

Fr. Dick Quinn, as he was popularly called in Kenya, “loved Africa and spent all his active priestly life there,” the Kenyan Prelate said.

The Kenyan Bishop continued, “Fr. Quinn was a great priest. I will miss him. As Chairman of the Commission for Social Communications at KCCB, I realise the challenge of keeping the great legacy of Fr. Quinn alive, especially the renowned Ukweli Video Productions as our commitment.”

“I pray that God welcomes his faithful servant in his Kingdom,” Bishop Obanyi told ACI Africa.

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A Kenyan nun who served at Ukweli Video Productions under the leadership of Fr. Quinn remembers him as “a great mind and heart in the field of Social Communication, Media and Evangelization who greatly influenced my choice of the Social Communication apostolate.”

Sr. Agnes Lucy Lando, a Professor at the Kenya-based Daystar University’s School of Communication further ACI Africa that although Fr. Quinn is physically dead, “he lives in the many social communication projects he initiated.”

Mourning the death his confrere, Fr. Joseph Healey, an expert on Small Christian Communities (SCCs) recognized Fr. Quinn’s support for SCCs as a new way of being Church in Africa.

“Occasionally, we would use the SCCs Model of Church during the monthly meetings of the St. John Paul II Evangelizers in Nairobi,” Fr. Healey recalled through a Facebook post and added in reference to Fr. Quinn, “He always encouraged SCC members to use the "Bible" and to be evangelizers/missionaries/proclaimers of the Word of God.”

Former Ukweli Video Productions staff have fond memories of Fr. Quinn and are planning a Memorial Mass in Nairobi in his honor.

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One of them, renowned filmmaker and TV producer Sheila Mulinya shared her memories about Fr. Quinn with ACI Africa Tuesday, January 28.

“Father employed me and others when we barely had any experience. He kept telling me that bosses who employ based on experience most times shut out the best resource. The discipline, time consciousness and professionalism that defined him guides my practice to date,” Ms. Mulinya recounted.

“Fr. Quinn’s unrelenting encouragement, support and love for education,” Ms. Mulinya who worked at Ukweli Video Productions for six years remembers, helped her “steadily rise from a Diploma, Bachelor’s, Masters to a PhD in Mass Communication” that she is currently pursuing.

She added, “My interaction with him left me a better journalist, Christian and Communicator. I will forever be grateful for knowing him. I’ll forever carry his legacy.”

On his part, Amos Ochieng, a former Senior Editor at Ukweli Video Production told ACI Africa Wednesday, January 29, “I am what I am today because of him or simply because I met him in life. I am certain I would have been something different.” 

Mr. Ochieng added, “Our story dates way back to 1980 and later in 1982 when he baptized me and my sister Lilian. He was a faithful visitor to our humble house in Kabete. He sat on the bench, which was our seat for many years. In the millennium year and beyond, he became the faithful presider of the New Year Holy Mass in my house for all our family members. He never failed to come.” 

He continued to recall his memories of Fr. Quinn, “He was a priest and a counselor. In his old age, I would take him to places he wished to go since he was no longer allowed to drive. I drove him to Kisii to celebrate his 60th Anniversary in Priesthood. Him who drove me to places when we went to film, was delighted to be driven to places in his old age.”

“Fr. Quinn knew my parents before I was born, then when my father passed on through a road accident while returning to Kisii where he stayed with Fr. Quinn, the Maryknoll priest buried him and immediately began taking care of me spiritually, emotionally and financially throughout my life,” Felista Vuyanzi shared with ACI Africa Tuesday, January 29.

“He taught me what I know now at Ukweli Video Productions to earn my living and my family’s. I thank him for his good deeds; he will be rewarded in heaven. Fr. Quinn, I will always remember you. Rest in peace,” Ms. Vuyanzi added.

A native of Passaic, New Jersey, Richard Quinn was ordained a priest of the Maryknoll Society in June 1954. He was appointed to the East African nation of Tanzania where he ministered till 1971.

He returned to the U.S. to study Theology and returned to Africa soon after, having been appointed in Kenya, where he ministered till 2015.

In May 2015, Fr. Quinn granted an interview to Ms. Mulinya who recalled, in the news report published in Kenya’s Daily Nation, that in April 2015, Fr. Quinn had “had a backward fall off a stool and fractured two ribs, affecting his right lung … He has been re-called to the US by his superiors.”

In the interview, Fr. Quinn is quoted as saying in reference to his superior’s decision, “I was deeply hurt as it was my wish to spend my last days, die and be buried in Kenya.”

Fr. Quinn is expected to be laid to rest in New York Monday, February 3.