Vicar General of Kenya’s Kitui Diocese Appointed Bishop, Says He’ll Foster Unity, Service

Bishop-elect Joseph Mwongela, appointed by Pope Francis to head Kenya's Kitui Diocese.
Credit: KCCB

The Vicar General of the Diocese of Kitui in Kenya who has been appointed Bishop of the same diocese has told ACI Africa in an interview that he will prioritize fostering the unity of the people of God and active involvement in evangelization in his episcopal ministry.

“I want to see a united people and all those involved in the ministry of evangelization being actively involved not as passive consumers but being actively involved in the ministry,” Fr. Joseph Mwongela, the Bishop elect of Kenya’s Kitui diocese told ACI Africa Tuesday, March 17 soon after his appointment was announced.

He explained, “I would like to see the unity of the clergy, the religious, and also the lay people who have a great role to play in the building of the Church.”

The appointment was made public, Tuesday, March 17 noontime at the Vatican (2 p.m. East Africa time) and published by the Holy See Press Office.

Kitui diocese has been vacant since April 2015 following the transfer and elevation of the then Local Ordinary, Archbishop Anthony Muheria to Nyeri Archdiocese in Central Kenya.

A clergy of Kitui Diocese, Fr. Mwongela, 52, was ordained a priest on September 7, 1996.

Since his ordination, he has served in various roles in the diocese including parish ministry as Parish Priest, Diocesan Chancellor, Vocations Director, and since 2015, as Vicar General.

The Bishop-elect has studied Dogmatic Theology and holds a licentiate from the Pontifical Gregorian University and a doctorate from the Pontifical University of Saint Thomas Aquinas (Angelicum), both in Rome.

During the Tuesday evening interview with ACI Africa, the Bishop-elect expressed gratitude to Pope Francis for his confidence and trust in him despite his unworthiness.

“It is an honor that the Holy Father has entrusted me with this responsibility; it is a call to service and I am not really worth it, sincerely,” the cleric of Kitui diocese said.

He went on to acknowledge the impact of his predecessor, Archbishop Anthony Muheria in the diocese entrusted to his care saying, “I really feel unworthy to fit into his shoes but as they say, each one puts on their own shoes; I will just put on my shoes and seek to do my very best and leave the rest to God.”

“Just like in the Lord’s Prayer, Our Father, where we seek His will to be done, I wish to do the will of God,” he added.

Entrusting himself to the patronage of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Kenyan cleric asked for prayers from Christians and promised, “I will give my best and I am ready to learn what can be learnt.”

The diocese of Kitui has been under the care of Archbishop Muheria as its Apostolic Administrator.

In his congratulatory message to the Bishop-elect shared with ACI Africa, Archbishop Muheria said, “We want to congratulate Fr. Joseph Mwongela with all our hearts, encourage and tell him the Lord will work with him, the Lord will give him the grace he needs, and all of us are certainly sure that he will live up to the expectations of the Lord.”

The Archbishop termed March 17 a “great day” that the appointment of Fr. Mwongela coincided with the Feast of St. Patrick (St.Patrick’s Day), when the Church celebrates the founder of St. Patrick Missionary Society (SPS), whose members served the diocese upon its erection.

He urged Christians in Kitui diocese to support the Bishop-elect saying, “People of Kitui (diocese), let us rise up and support our new Bishop with love and prayer.”

“May the Lord walk with our new Shepherd, may the Lord support our new Shepherd, may we love our new Shepherd and as we love him, may we also thank the Holy Father, Pope Francis for this wonderful gift for his people. Thank you very much Pope Francis,” the Archbishop of Nyeri added.

A native of Kitui diocese working at the Nairobi-based Strathmore University has described the Bishop-elect as “a very deeply spiritual person in his own ways.”

“This is a person who had qualified to go to the university but he chose to go to the seminary,” Anthony Mbandi, a faithful from Kitui diocese told ACI Africa in an interview Tuesday, March 17.

Having known the Bishop-elect since 2008 while working together in Kitui diocese, Mr. Mbandi said he knows him as “a man who listens” with patient understanding.

“He is a quite engaging and very welcoming person,” Mr. Mbandi said of the Bishop-elect and added, “In fact most people will tell you that if you go to the parish and you meet with him, even after Mass, he will invite you for a cup of tea. He is a warm, kind man.”

“We will pray for him, we will work with him and hold his hand as a son of the diocese,” Mr. Mbandi added.

Located in the eastern part of Kenya, the Catholic Diocese of Kitui was erected in February 1956 by Pope Pius XII as an Apostolic Prefecture and elevated to the rank of a diocese in November 1963 by Pope St. Paul VI.

The diocese measures 30,346 square kilometres and has an estimated 22.9 percent Catholic population according to 2017 statistics.

Under the patronage of Our Lady of Africa, the diocese has 19 parishes, 82 diocesan priests. The people of God in the diocese are served by 12 Religious Orders of men and women.

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]