Catholic Bookshops “our pulpit”: Kenyan Pauline Sisters ahead of Perpetual Profession

A poster announcing the final profession of three members of the Pious Society of the Daughters of St. Paul (FSP). Credit: Paulines Publications Africa

Not everyone who steps into a bookshop is interested in buying books.

This is what three members of the Pious Society of the Daughters of St. Paul (FSP) have observed while working at Catholic bookshops under the auspices of their Religious Order in various African countries.

While serving at the Paulines Catholic Bookshop, which is situated at the Holy Family Basilica of the Archdiocese of Nairobi in Kenya, Sr. Lucy Nasimiyu Mutenyo observed that a significant number of people who came to the bookshop were weighed down by life’s challenges and needed someone to talk to.

“I worked at our bookshop in Nairobi in 2017 and 2018 and enjoyed every moment I was there. In the two years, I had personal encounters with all sorts of people. It was interesting to observe that not everyone who came to the bookshop wanted to get books,” the Kenyan FSP member told ACI Africa on Wednesday, April 12.

Sr. Lucy Nasimiyu Mutenyo. Credit: ACI Africa


According to Sr. Lucy who is among the three Kenyan FSP members to make their perpetual profession Friday, April 14 at Consolata Shrine in Westlands, Nairobi, people step into bookshops looking for answers to all sorts of life’s challenges. 

“We see parents who come to seek advice on how to handle their wayward children, married people having problems with their spouses,” she said, and continued, “Sometimes people of other faiths come with the desire to understand Catholicism.”

“Many times, I have seen non-Catholics who came just to ask why a woman would choose to remain celibate all her life. The experience is enriching, and through these people, I also learn a lot about life,” Sr. Lucy told ACI Africa during the April 12 interview. 

For Sr. Lucy, working in a Catholic bookshop is her way to encounter the experiences of the people, to listen, and sometimes, to recommend reading materials.

“Bookshops are our pulpits,” the native of Kenya’s Catholic Diocese of Bungoma says.

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Her sentiments are shared by Sr. Elizabeth Mueni Mumbe and Sr. Jacinta Mukai Muindi who are the other two Daughters of St. Paul who are to take their final vows on April 14 in the international Religious Order that engages “communications media to spread the Gospel message and to promote the dignity of all people.”

Sr. Elizabeth Mueni Mumbe. Credit: ACI Africa

Highlighting the focus of the FSP members, Sr. Jacinta says, “Our mission is to communicate the joy of Christ through printing books and other materials, and making them available. I have understood that poverty isn't just the lack of material things. It is the hunger for the word of God as well.”

In the interview with ACI Africa, Srs. Lucy, Jacinta, and Elizabeth shared their inspiration to join the Society that Blessed James Alberione founded in Italy in 1915 with the mission “to be at the service of evangelisation through the means of social communications”, doing “the charity of the truth”.

They also shared their observations about the reading habits of Catholics in various African countries, underscoring the need to invigorate the reading culture among the people of God.


While working at the Paulines Bookshop in Uganda, for instance, Sr. Elizabeth observed the people’s laudable reading culture, especially of religious content.

“I was ever busy selling prayer and devotional books. I have worked in our bookshops in other countries, but Ugandans struck me as the most devoted readers of religious materials. I can't explain this with certainty but Ugandans also struck me as very prayerful people,” the native of Kenya’s Catholic Diocese of Kitui said. 

During her three-year experience in a bookshop, Sr. Jacinta on her part served “repeat customers”.

“I discovered that continuous reading builds a habit because I served repeat customers. Hardly new ones. I saw people who read book after book, sometimes coming with new titles written down and challenging us to order for books that we didn't have in our bookshops,” Sr. Jacinta said.

Sr. Jacinta Mukai Muindi. Credit: ACI Africa

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According to Sr. Lucy, online bookshops are phasing out printed books “and that’s not an entirely good thing.”

“With a physical book, a reader develops some sense of ownership; you own the knowledge in the book. I feel that softcopy books are distant to their readers,” Sr Lucy says.

The Kenyan Nun has also observed a poor reading culture among children and the youth who, she says, prefer to watch and listen to music instead.

Sr. Elizabeth, on her part, recommends more sensitization, especially in Catholic schools, to boost the reading culture among young people, saying, “Reading builds the whole person, including their intellect and their souls. If you do not read, you don't grow; you even get worse.”

“The more you read, the more you build your desire to read. And whatever you read affects your life. It is therefore important to carefully select materials that build your positive attitudes,” Sr. Elizabeth says.

Sr. Lucy Nasimiyu Mutenyo. Credit: Paulines Publications Africa

According to the 33-year-old FSP member, it is especially important for Catholics to read helpful content to be strongly rooted in their faith. 

She says, “There is always something new for a Catholic to read every day. This is the only way they deepen their faith. Otherwise, they risk succumbing to the waves that come their way every day.”

Meanwhile, the three Daughters of St. Paul have expressed their joy ahead of their perpetual profession on April 14, which will be presided over by Archbishop Martin Kivuva Musonde of Kenya’s Mombasa Archdiocese.

“I have dreamt and prayed for this day for years. It is now a reality. I am grateful to God to have brought me this far in my life as a religious Sister and I pray to continue being faithful to Him in everything that I do,” Sr. Jacinta who joined the Daughters of St. Paul in 2012 shares.

For Sr. Elizabeth, April 14 is a day of thanksgiving. She says, “It is the day I say a definitive Yes to my Lord. It is never easy to discern one’s call and there are always doubts. But God has always accompanied me through all the doubts I had in my vocation.”

Members of the Pious Society of the Daughters of St. Paul (FSP) at an interview with ACI Africa ahead of their final profession in Nairobi, Kenya. Credit: Paulines Publications Africa

“I always asked myself whether I was indeed making the right decision to choose Religious Life instead of becoming a lawyer or something else to lift my family out of poverty. But whenever these thoughts came to me, I always prayed and experienced immense tranquility,” Sr. Elizabeth told ACI Africa. 

She added, “The Lord always filled me with peace and assurance that I was on the right path. And he has made it happen. My final profession is a day of Thanksgiving. I am waiting for it with immense joy in my heart.”

For Sr. Lucy, her perpetual profession as a Daughter of St. Paul is “a confirmation of God’s love”.

“I am lucky to be here considering that many dropped off along the way and I wasn't the best among them. In fact, I thought of myself as the weakest. But it seems God believed in me and that’s why I am here. My final profession is therefore a confirmation of God’s love for me. I am preparing myself for it with a spirit of gratitude,” Sr. Lucy said.

The final profession comes with added responsibility, she told ACI Africa during the April 12 interview, and explained, “The expectations will grow. Not that I will be doing anything different. But I am now an adult in the Congregation.”

Agnes Aineah is a Kenyan journalist with a background in digital and newspaper reporting. She holds a Master of Arts in Digital Journalism from the Aga Khan University, Graduate School of Media and Communications and a Bachelor's Degree in Linguistics, Media and Communications from Kenya's Moi University. Agnes currently serves as a journalist for ACI Africa.