|KENYA/USA CHRISTIAN RELIEF & DEVELOPMENT, INC.|
|SHARING BISHOP MARTIN'S MESSAGE DURING HIS 2007 U.S.A VISIT.|
|The most fundamental message that I came away with from the Bishop's message to U.S Christian Communities was the vibrancy of the church in Africa. The growth of the small seed that was once planted by early missionaries under very trying conditions; opening up intractable hostile lands infested with Malaria and still remaining relentless in their pursuit to plant the faith in Africa.
Today that small seed has germinated and blossomed to a huge and vibrant church that is now ready to do its turn in evangelizing, not only upon it own people, but also others across the borders. I might say, a sort of reverse evangelization, especially in the West where vocations have dwindled significantly.
He stressed the oneness of the church in the world, likening it to the Baobab tree which is a huge African tree through which one could cut a road! He explained that, although the little leaves on the branches of the huge tree might appear insignificant, yet they were as important as the large roots and the mighty trunk, because each played a key role in the sustenance of the tree. The little leaves capture the ingredients from the sun that were necessary for the tree to produce the food it needed for existence. So while the trunk might have boasted its size the little leaves rejoiced in knowing they were an integral part of the whole tree and could not be dispensed with without jeopardizing the essence of what made the huge tree what it was. And so was the church. The poor African Church was just as important as their wealthier and better endowed western brothers and sisters and must co-exist as members of one family who needed each other in order to continue their christian lives as the one large family of God our Father.
Another recurring theme in his talks was his constant thank you to the Pastors and parishioners he visited. He recognized the sacrifices that our friends in the U.S.A like St. Therese, Succasunna, St. Jude in Bud Lake and St. Thomas the Apostle in Oak Ridge had made in inviting him and had continued to make previously in helping his "boat" to stay afloat! He paid special tribute to the long standing relationship between St. Therese of Succasunna New Jersey and St. Cecilia Kituiuni which are two parishes that have twinned through the efforts of Simon and his contact, Joe Duffy of the Catholic Charities of Paterson. He wished to continue strengthening these ties to his diocese and was fervent, in his wish that new relationships could be hatched so that in time, there would be more parishes in the U.S.A twinning with others in his diocese.
As a new Bishop, his homilies highlighted the challenges he faced in steering his diocese in the 21st Century. He remarked that, the sheer size of his sprawling Machakos Diocese made it harder for him to know his flock better and to especially "love his priests" as he would have liked to. He hoped a day would come, in the not distant future, when the pope would sanction the division of his Diocese into two to make it easier to administer more effectively. But just as he was pondering the possibility, what message was he to get from Rome, but to be told, he would now have to be in charge of yet another Diocese! The diocese of Kitui whose prelate had been re-assigned! At this news, which reached him as he was preparing to depart for this trip to the US; Bishop Martin begun to think, like in the case of Peter who fished the whole night and caught no fish; but when Jesus asked him to go back and throw in the net for a catch, Peter was a bit skeptical but the huge haul that resulted left him in wonderment, and had to call out to his friends to help him because the boat was sinking with the huge catch! Likewise, when Bishop Martin was told by the Pope's messenger, the nuncio in Kenya, he would now have to head two dioceses, with millions of Catholics, he felt as if his boat was sinking and must reach out to his friends (like in the case of Peter) to help him keep his boat afloat! And that is basically why he was making this trip which he almost cancelled in order to ruminate on the new responsibilities he had to take under his wings.
All through, the Bishop's message remained consistent and lucid; and it was that, as one Catholic Church we were to remain as one large family of God and we were to be "our brothers' & sisters' keepers" - all the time; and wherever we were.
SIMON K. MAWEU
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