Wednesday, November 23, 2022

How Catholic Priest “collected material” for Book on History of Catholic Church in Kenya


A member of the Clergy of Kenya’s Nairobi Archdiocese has recounted how he gathered content for his new book about the history of the Catholic Church in Kenya that Paulines Publications Africa published.

Speaking on November 19 during the official launching of his book that was published under the title, “Beyond the Century of Endeavour: History of Catholic Church in Kenya”, Fr. Lawrence Njoroge said the archives of the Holy Ghost Fathers (Spiritans) and Consolata Missionaries were instrumental in gathering content for the book.

Fr. Njoroge recalled, “20 years ago as a student, soon after my ordination, I collected material from various archives, especially from the Kenyan National Archives, from religious archives here in Kenya and in Europe.”

“The result of that effort was a book titled, ‘Century of Catholic Endeavour: Holy Ghost and Consolata Missionaries in Kenya’, which was published by Pauline Publications in 1999 and then it was reissued in 2021,” the Kenyan Catholic Priest said in reference to his initial publication.

The 1999 publication became inadequate in answering the question of the history of the Catholic Church in Kenya, he said, and in response to the gaps in the book that “many people” had expressed, he went on to say, “I took the old book and I rewrote that material.”

“I went to the two old Congregations: the Holy Ghost and the Consolata Missionaries in Kenya and I also looked for new information,” Fr. Njoroge said, and further recalled how he “sourced new information from the 26 Dioceses in the country” as well as the archives of the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops (KCCB).

The member of the Clergy of Nairobi Archdiocese who was appointed Vice Postulator of the cause for the canonization of the Servant of God Maurice Michael Cardinal Otunga in December 2019 said he sourced information from the 167 congregations of the Association of the Sisterhoods of Kenya (AOSK) and the 79 congregations of the Religious Superiors' Conference of Kenya (RSCK).

In putting together content of the 528-page book, Fr. Njoroge said that he also “got material from Opus Dei, some from the Focolari, and virtually all the sectors of the persons engaged in the apostolate in Kenya.”

“This book is filled with the spirit of the servant of God Maurice Cardinal Otunga,” Fr. Njoroge said in reference to Kenya’s first Cardinal who shepherded the people of God in Nairobi Archdiocese from October 1971 to August 1997 when he retired aged 74.

He recalled that it was the Servant of God “who sponsored the launch of the initial book at the Holy Family Cathedral. He is one who sponsored my studies at the University of Notre Dame.”

“This present book has as its center, pinnacle, and climax the process of Beatification and Canonization of the servant of God,” the Vice-Postulator of the Beatification of the Servant of God Cardinal Otunga said during the November 19 event that was held at St Mary's Msongari Grounds.

“If truth be told, that is the main reason I wrote this book, because of the person of Maurice Michael Cardinal Otunga, the Servant of God,” he said referencing the Kenyan-born Cardinal who died after suffering a cardiac arrest on 6 September 2003 at the age of 80.

The Professor of Development Studies and Ethics at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) said he conducted 32 structural interviews with people who were involved in the Kenyan apostolate “right from catechists up to the Archbishop”.

The new book details the history of the Catholic Church in Kenya from April 1498 when Vasco Da Gama arrived in Mombasa and Malindi to April 2022, the Catholic Priest who ministers at St. Augustine’s Juja Parish of Nairobi Archdiocese said.

Some of the themes the book discusses include, Christianity and Islam; Culture, Missionary Theories, Chiefs; Nationalism, Church and State; Land and Freedom; Christian Leadership Training; Some Thought on Catholic Education; and Beyond Century of Endeavour. 

In the Preface of the seven-chapter book, Archbishop Philip Subira Anyolo observes that the author “has completely re-written his previous work… which had focused on the evangelisation efforts of the Holy Ghost and Consolata Missions.”

“What makes the book exciting and easy to read is the way the author tells the story of the different belief systems including Islam, African traditions, and Christianity,” Prof. Judith Mbula Bahemuka notes in the book’s Foreword.

A reviewer of the publication has described the book as “a fairly comprehensive and definitive story of the Catholic Church in Kenya.”

Also speaking during the November 19 book launch, Fr. Joseph Healey challenged Kenyans to remember their history “repeat it, learn from it and pass it onto others.”

“Let us work hard and pray hard for the process of beatification and canonization of Servant of God Cardinal Otunga,” the member of the Maryknoll Society known for his passion for Small Christian Communities (SCCs) said, adding that the Servant of God has a “special place in Kenyan history, in the Catholic Church.”

The new book published by Paulines Publications Africa goes for KES. 2,500 (USD 25.00).

Also speaking during the book launch, the Directress of Paulines Publication Africa said the new book “celebrates the specific aim of our publishing apostolate: glory to God and salvation of people.”

“This apostolate does not only consider the church as one, holy, Catholic, indefectible, infallible, and visible society instituted by Christ, but it further demands of those who engage in the apostolate that, putting to one side their private opinions, they always incline their mind, heart and will to think, work and feel with the Church and, hence to write in conformity with her teaching; in word, they have to have a childlike heart for her who has a mother’s heart for all,” Sr. Praxides Nafula said.

Fr. Njoroge’s writings “have become a loudspeaker that extends and reinforces the same voice, bringing to all the benefits of the truth, of holiness and of the life of the Church,” Sr. Nafula added.

“This historical book, records with incontrovertible proof how much the hidden sacrifices of unseen people, in the absolute quiet of the cloisters, parish houses, homes or before the altar, have contributed to the propagation of the faith,” the member of the Institute of Daughters of St. Paul (FSP) said during the November 19 event.