The Vincentian Retreat Centre
During the mission to Kenya we stayed at the Vincentian Retreat Centre in Thika, an industrial town near Nairobi. The Vincentian Congregation, who run the centre was started in Kerala, a south west frontier state of India in 1904 by Fr Varkey Kattarath based on the rules of the Order of St Vincent De Paul. This Vincentian congregation has now spread throughout the world. Their mission in East Africa began in Tanzania in 1979 with the arrival of three priests and it has grown rapidly. Now there are twenty priests and eight seminarians, training for the priesthood, who serve the region. Inspired by the mission of St Vincent De Paul, the Vincentian Congregation have a heart to serve the poor people by preaching the word of God.
What is Christian mission?
The great commission, the last message that Jesus gave to his disciples was, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28: 19 – 20) Christian mission is following this final call of Christ to share the gospel with those who do not know him and to testify to his love and power in our lives through the working of the Holy Spirit. He is telling us to proclaim to everyone that Christ is the only way to live life to the full now while looking forward to enjoying the fullness of life with God for ever.
The priests and sisters
It was a joy to see our loving priests and religious sisters serving the poor people in the villages in Kenya. It was a real eye opener for us to see how hard they are working at running schools, orphanages, rehabilitation centres and other institutions. They have experienced many problems like being burgled and suffering terrorist attacks but they continue being the hands, feet and voice of Christ bringing comfort to those in need without even considering the danger to their own lives. Please pray for our dedicated priests and sisters around the world working in situations that we cannot imagine.
Faith in Kenya
Roman Catholic missionaries first went to Kenya in 1893 and now about 82% of the population in Kenya is Christian. Nearly half of these are Protestants and about a quarter are Catholics. Islam is the second largest religion in Kenya with about 11% of the population. We were really moved by the faith of the Catholics, who were very receptive to the word of God. I want to share with you three things that I noticed particularly. When they praise God they do it so enthusiastically. They sing and dance and forget themselves when they are worshipping. It reminded me of David who danced before the Lord with all his might. (2 Samuel 6:14) It really was a divine experience to be caught up in that level of worship. I also noticed that during Eucharistic Adoration the people were focussed totally on Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament and during a Eucharistic Procession they kept spreading their clothes on the floor in front of the priests then they joined in singing and dancing as they walked in the procession. During the offertory, everyone brought their gifts in bags. Whether rich or poor they do the same. It struck me that they give out of their poverty while we give out of abundance. This reminded me of the widow’s offering in Luke 21. Seeing their faith and generosity brought tears to my eyes.
We can see Jesus in our brothers and sisters who are in need. No matter where we live we are one in Jesus Christ. Let us share our resources with them. Our mission is also to share the gospel humbly, boldly and passionately. But we cannot do it alone we need Christ’s wisdom, strength and guidance to work through us.
Anita Shibu was one of the adults who went on the mission trip to Nairobi, Kenya with Fr Soji Olikkal and the team. She shares her experience of this exciting mission.