“Profound”: Catholic Priest in Kenya Recalls Cardinal Otunga’s Life of Ceaseless Prayers

Credit: Daughters of St. Paul

Michael Maurice Cardinal Otunga spent his final days, old and frail, committed to prayer in a home for the elderly people in Kenya.

This is the assurance that Kenya’s first native Catholic Bishop and Cardinal gave to Fr. Peter Kaigua Ngugi, then newly ordained, when he went to visit him.

Fr. Ngugi narrated the encounter during the commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the Servant of God who died on 6 September 2003.

“I came to Mji wa Wazee (a home for the elderly people in Nairobi) to visit Cardinal Otunga. We had a short chat because he was old and frail,” the Kenyan Priest who was appointed chairman of the Central Committee for the Course of Sainthood for Cardinal Otunga said.

“He told me one statement that I thought was very profound. He said, ‘Young man, work for the people of God for that is why you were ordained. As for me, I am old and frail, and the only pastoral work left for me to do is to pray’. That was very profound,” Fr. Ngugi said at the September 6 celebration that was held at Queen of Apostles Ruaraka Parish of Nairobi Archdiocese.


The Catholic Priest who serves as Chaplain at the University of Nairobi where he also lectures expressed optimism that death did not stop Cardinal Otunga from praying for the Church.

“I think that pastoral work, that praying for all of us did not end when he rested. It continues. He continues praying for us, the Church of Kenya and for all. And as he prays for us, we too as the people of God must continue to pray for his beatification, and eventually, canonization so that that process, which we desire so much as a Church in Kenya may be seen to term,” he said.

In his homily at the September 6 celebration, the Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Nairobi, David Kamau Ng’ang’a, hailed Cardinal Otunga as “a humble man”, “a man of great courage” and “a hero in faith”.

The Servant of God, Bishop Kamau said, also had great love for Priests. 

“He loved all of us he had ordained.  I remember he would write a card and put a token of Sh50 and send it to every Priest who was celebrating an anniversary,” the Kenyan Bishop recalled.

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He said that Cardinal Otunga’s life was “an extraordinary journey from beginning to end, with great effect both for our local Church and the universal Church.”

Cardinal Otunga loved unity, peace and reconciliation, Bishop Kamau said, adding that Priests especially in the Archdiocese of Nairobi enjoy an atmosphere of peace and cohesiveness, all thanks to the spirit of the Cardinal.

He expressed optimism that the Cardinal’s sainthood journey will proceed smoothly, adding, “We look forward to the day the Universal Church will declare him beatified, when we will know that we have someone in heaven who knows us and who is interceding for us.”

“We celebrate Michael Maurice Cardinal Otunga, our hero in faith who had the spirit of humanity and oneness to serve all,” Bishop Kamau said, and added, “We continue praying for his beatification because for sure, he is a holy man.”

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.