As has been our norm as the CLM in Kenya, we had our monthly formation meeting this June. This time around we were hosted by the MCCJ in their provincial house, organized by our director, Fr. Maciek MCCJ. The main lesson was the Catholic Social Teaching. During this weekend-long meeting, we had a chance to participate in the World Refugee Day celebrations organized by the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) Kenya in Nairobi. It was an amazing experience, being able to meet our brothers and sisters refugees from various countries who showcased their talents and capabilities.
One of the highlights of our formation was the chance to not only meet but learn from the Bishop-elect of Rumbek Diocese in South Sudan, Fr. Christian Carlassare MCCJ. Having been aware of his recent attack, we as CLM-Kenya were really glad to see him recovered and even accompany us to the celebrations of World Refugee Day. He shared with us more on the Catholic social teaching and also examples of challenges faced during mission work. His sharing was very helpful to us all especially it being that we are soon having some of the members finalize on their formation by the end of the year. We also got a chance to learn from the Provincial Superior of the MCCJ in Kenya, Fr. Austin Radull MCCJ. They both shared their vocational journeys with us and various challenges encountered in the process.
It is said that growth is the only sign of life, and we as CLM-Kenya are proud to say that we are improving in terms of membership and formation. Other than there being some of us who are almost done with formation, we have been blessed with new membership over time regardless of the COVID 19 pandemic. Our financial projects are still progressing well, and we are hoping to establish a new mission for the lay in West Pokot County. God willing, we will be in a position to host our fellow CLM members from other countries for mission work in the near future.
We continue this series with Fr. Daniel Villaverde, a Comboni Missionary.
For 20 years, Fr. Daniel worked in northern Kenya with nomadic populations such as the Turkana. He talks about this and other tribes, the difficult terrain and the growing (and perhaps unstoppable) influence of Western values on the new urban Kenyan generations.
(Interview in Spanish).
When we last met in March this year, none of us thought we would not be in a position to meet over the next six months. We had made plans to meet again within the same month, and induct some potential new members from Kariobangi in Nairobi and Nyeri. As CLM-Kenya, we were excited to go over possible charity activities that we would be a part of. However, not only were our plans derailed with the onset of the corona virus pandemic in Kenya, so was our formation. We also knew we were not the only ones, so many more countries had been affected, some more than others. Still, we tried conducting our meetings online hoping for a day that we would finally meet again.
The departure of Fr. Claudio, MCCJ from Kenya back to Italy came as bitter sweet news to us. He has been very instrumental in our formation from the very beginning of the group’s formation. How could he leave without us celebrating him and bidding him farewell with our physical presence? We therefore decided to meet on the 29th August not only to wish him well as he prepared to leave our beloved country after serving for many years, but to also meet as a group to plan out our future.
During the meeting, we strived to adhere to the safety guidelines issued by our government as we shared our experiences over the last six months. The pandemic had certainly affected each and every one of us. But all in all, we were grateful that by the grace of God we had been able to move forward. What a joy it was to see each other again face to face. For a moment, we all forgot the fears and challenges brought about by the pandemic.
In the short amount of time we had, we were able to discuss matters pertaining to the group such as financial aspects, our honey project, online presence and future plans on how our formation would progress. The missionary zeal within the group has not faded in the least. In fact, the challenges faced seem to ignite a deeper desire to serve the Lord as missionaries in our country and beyond. We plan on continuing our formation classes, albeit for a single day in a month, so as to try and make up for the time lost. We keep hoping for a time when we can resume our usual lengthened formation. In the meantime, we will try to make the best of the chances we get. As Fr. Claudio embarks on another phase of his missionary life, we pray that the Lord blesses and stays with him always.
The candidates of the Comboni Lay Missionaries, Kenya met in an assembly from 10th to 12th January, 2020 at St. Daniel Comboni Parish, Utawala in Nairobi. The attendance of the members was great and the moderator of the assembly was our formator Rev. Fr. Maciek Zielinski. This was our first assembly since the group was created in 2017. It therefore meant that there was much to be discussed and evaluated.
The assembly started with the evaluation of the year 2019 to determine our progress as a group and take corrective measures where necessary.
We then embarked on selecting new leaders who will oversee the group activities during this year. The chairman of the group is Onyango Martin, an IT expert, the group secretary is Angeline Njeri, a teacher by profession and the treasurer is Beatrice Imali, a medical nurse.
Later, the group started preparing the CLM Kenya Charter to guide the group’s activities and overall involvement in the missionary work of the Comboni Family. We are still in the process of drafting the group’s charter.
Overall, the first assembly was a success. We give all the glory to God.
It is said that experience is the best teacher and for us as candidates undergoing formation to become Comboni Lay Missionaries, this was and is part of our learning process. The experience had been planned months prior with the selection of two candidates (Beatrice Imali, a nurse, and Angeline Njeri, a teacher) as the first of the group to experience missionary life and work in mission territories. The experience was to be led by our formator, Fr. Maciek Zielinski. The journey from Nairobi to Amakuriat Mission in West Pokot County started on the night of 2nd December 2019 with a slight detour to Kacheliba Parish for breakfast and little rest the next morning. We arrived at the Mission at around 1:30pm to a warm welcome from the entire community (both MCCJ and CMS) and the Provincial Superior of the MCCJ in the Kenyan Province, Fr. Austin Radol.
After a goodnight’s rest, we embarked on our duties the following day as scheduled in the MCCJ Amakuriat Community’s calendar prior to our arrival. Beatrice started work at the dispensary in the mission ran by an amazing and hardworking Sr. Gabriella. Angeline embarked on a journey of youth formation and pastoral work in Amakuriat and other outstations within the Parish. The missionary experience meant to last for about three weeks had already began. This was later followed by the sharing of meals and hearty laughter with the community later in the day. Even on our first days there, we knew that the experience would be a wonderful one.
Josephine (joined us later) conducting youth formation at Kaakow, an outstation of Amakuriat Parish
It was important to not only be fully engaged in the work of the Comboni Family in Amakuriat Parish but to also observe and interact with the people and try to learn as much as we could about them. The intricate workings of a society and it’s culture serve as a great teacher to an aspiring missionary. In our engagements with them, we not only were able to pick few words here and there, but also got to experience their enriching faith and community as a people. The Mass was celebrated with joyful singing and it felt like everybody knew everybody.
Nevertheless, there never lacks challenges that one observes even on a day to day basis. Due to limited health facilities, the dispensary is always having patients streaming in. Some patients so sick that Sr. Gabriella has to rush them to Moroto, Uganda. The heaviness of the workload could be seen in the face of Beatrice, who though tired always expresses the joy she feels in serving the sick.
Youth formation not only enables you to engage with the youth, but also opens one’s eyes to the need for youth sensitization on personal growth and development, especially through education and spirituality. However, the society has still yielded great young men and women who have and are still working towards the betterment of themselves as individuals and as a community. This can be clearly seen by the youthful young men and women working in the dispensary, the youth and young children in schools and the various professionals within the schools and churches. The work of the Comboni Missionaries in this area can be clearly seen and continues to grow daily. But even then, a lot remains to be done. It is as the Lord put it, “The harvest is great but the laborers are few”. This puts into perspective the need for Comboni Lay Missionaries in not only Amakuriat Parish but in other missionary territories here in Kenya and the world as a whole.
Our formator, Fr. Maciek, has always insisted that it is important to also experience community life, albeit even for short periods at a time before basic formation is completed. In our short stay, we were able to see the beauty of harmonious living among community members, and the joy it brings to the mission. We felt at home and social interactions between us and the MCCJ and CMS community in Amakuriat were something we will live to treasure. We even got to celebrate Fr. Maciek’s and Beatrice’s birthdays, and our first international CLM Feast Day with the community!
With the end of the experience drawing near, we knew that this was an experience we would relate to our colleagues once back in Nairobi. There is guaranteed nostalgia, and the desire to serve as Comboni Lay Missionaries has only been strengthened by this experience. We hope that our experience also inspires other CLM candidates to keep discerning and aspiring to engage in such rewarding and blessed work. We hope to be back someday. Until then, to the amazing West Pokot community, Keriama! (See you again).
By Angeline Njeri
Comboni Lay Missionaries, Kenya
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