(Nairobi, Kenya) “Today will be marked as a historic day in the light of Redemptorists in Kenya”, this was the opening remark of Fr. Albertus Toppo at the gathering of Friends of Redemptorists that took place on 25th January 2020 at St. Alphonsus house at Karen, Nairobi in Kenya.
The Mission Assembly in Kenya unanimously decided upon calling together all the friends of confreres for a get-together at the beginning of the year 2020. About a hundred invitations were sent to the laity in our parishes and elsewhere asking them to come for a Thanksgiving Mass on Saturday, 25th January. Many of them responded enthusiastically. On 25th the people from different walks of life gathered in our house at Karen, Nairobi. Some came along with their families. They were welcomed by eight Redemptorist priests and 14 students of Philosophy and Theology who belong to the Mission in Kenya and by Fr. Zephirin Luyila, the Coordinator of Africa-Madagascar and Fr. Ugese Henry Iorfa, a member of Vice-Province of Nigeria who is doing his studies in Kenya.
Fr. Paul Pazhangattu, the Mission Superior of Kenya, was the main celebrant of the Thanksgiving celebrant. He welcomed and thanked the ‘Friends’ who accepted our invitation and took the trouble to come for this gathering. During the homily, he compared the transformation of St. Alphonsus to that of St. Paul (it was the feast day of the conversion of St. Paul) and emphasized the need for lay participation in all aspects of our life and ministry.
At the end of the Mass, each confrere and invited guests introduced themselves. This was followed by a photo session and a delicious meal. It was a time for each one to meet one another. After the meals, we had a meeting during which Fr. Zephirin presented the history and growth of the Redemptorists. In a special way, he described how the Redemptorists began in Africa and Madagascar. He also presented the present statistics of Redemptorists in Africa and all over the world.
After that Fr. Toppo gave the history of Redemptorists in Kenya 30 years ago. It was at the invitation of Bishop Silas Njiru, Bishop of Meru, and the request of Superior General the Provincial government of Bangalore in India decided to send three confreres to Kenya. Frs. Patrick D’Souza, Joseph Gnanam, and Albertus Toppo arrived in Kenya on 14th October 1990. After scouting around the various parishes of Meru they decided to settle down at Iruma. Bishop Silas created a new parish and named it ‘Holy Redeemer’ at our request and handed it over to us on 27th April 1991.
Later a number of confreres from India came to Kenya. In 1997 we began to take vocations from Kenya. Till today nine Kenyan confreres are ordained as priests and now there are 24 candidates in various stages of formation.
Fr. Raphael Kitheka, the Prefect of Students, requested the collaboration of Friends in the formation and ministry. He exhorted the group to feel part of our family, walk together with us and when needed also challenge us. Friends can support us by way of collaboration in our works, by way of prayer and financial help. Perhaps they can sponsor studies of our students. Fr. Henry spoke of the current situation in Nigeria and the need to join hands through net-working. Fr. Paul requested some to volunteer to become part of the Commission of Shared Mission and Secretariat for Evangelization.
Friends also were asked to share their suggestions regarding how to move forward and in what ways they can collaborate with us. There was a suggestion to make ourselves known to many in the country and build bridges by involving the laity in our apostolate. The gathering came to an end by 5 pm with a vote of thanks by Fr. Titus Mutiku, a member of the Mission Council.
Fr. Paul Pazhangattu, C.Ss.R.