by Fr. A Esposito
The first contact that the Society of Saint Pius X had with Kenya was back in 1976 when Doctor Michael Migue contacted Econe. He simply addressed the envelope to "Archbishop Lefebvre, Econe" - and it got there! Albeit that his Grace did reply, it was only in 1980 that a first visit to Nairobi took place. Father Richard Williamson was the pioneer going to the home of Dr Migue and saying Holy Mass there. Over the years other priests visited Kenya to offer Holy Mass and to encourage the small handful of faithful. Noli timere, pusillus grex....
Fathers Delsorte, Peek and Stehlin visited at least once and then on a slightly more regular basis, Fathers Gerspacher, Ockerse and Alessio. Father Reinartz was there for a month in June/July 2002 when he was joined by Father Schmidberger. The latter had been to Kenya before. On this occasion the priests profited to preach the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius with faithful coming from Nairobi, Limuru and Mombasa. The priests also travelled to Mombasa to encourage the faithful there. Fr Reinartz had done much travelling during his month there so he was quite accustomed to travelling in the "matatu" - a combi bus where there is always room for one more passenger and we don't worry if the wheels are extremely worn down.
Our superior general, Bishop Bernard Fellay visited the country from 12th to 19th September 2002 and I joined him on the 16th, staying on until the 30th. His Lordship, as well as saying Mass at the home of Dr Migue also met some members of the "Marian Movement" saying Mass for them too.
This movement is a conservative group who have members in Uganda and Tanzania also. They are suffering at the hands of the local clergy because of their refusal to receive Communion in the hand. He met some sisters from different religious congregations and also spoke with some young men and women who seem interested in a future religious vocation. Time will tell.
The day after my arrival we went to Nakuru (two and a half hours north east of Nairobi) for two days. Travelling in the "matatu", the bishop and I sat in the front seat with the driver whilst John Maina was squashed in the back with our hand luggage and about 15 other people. It is a very common form of transport and if you want to get anywhere - just take a matatu. When in Rome, do as the Romans do.
At Nakuru we were shown a piece of property that a catholic business man wants to give to us. This property is out of town so would be ideal for a retreat house, or a house of formation or noviciate. Here too, time will tell. The Bishop celebrated Mass in the evening of our arrival, about 15 people attending. Then during supper he answered questions and discussed the Church situation till about 11pm. The questions were thought provoking and the people seem generally concerned with the situation in the Church.
The Bishop left on the 19th and the day after I travelled with John to Limuru. It is about 45 minutes outside Nairobi in the rural areas. Here too, about 15 people attended Mass and then during supper the questions and answers flowed with John translating. (My knowledge of the language is limited to "asanti sana" which means "thank you very much".) I was hosted by George and his wife, (I forget the surname). They have a beautiful little chapel in their home which just held the 15 people. I said to him that if more people come to Mass he would have to build a bigger chapel outside. To which he replied: "No, I'll extend the chapel into the lounge, getting rid of the latter. After all, it's not my house, it's Our Lord's -1 have enthroned the Sacred Heart in this house".
I returned to Nairobi on the Saturday and the next day about 30 people assisted at Holy Mass.
From Monday to Wednesday I was in Mombasa, -about 7 hours drive away from Nairobi. Here too a group of about 15 peole came to Mass. I was fortunate enough to say Mass in the local parish church, thanks to the kindness of the parish priest. Let us hope that he will come back to the Mass of his ordination.
One evening after Mass I gave a little conference with questions and answers following. I noticed here too, that they have a horror of receiving Holy Communion in the hand (and rightly so), and they suffer persecution from the clergy because of this. My last Sunday in Nairobi I confessed for one hour and forty minutes. Deo gratias. 80 people came to Mass with 65 receiving Communion. The people that I met and as a whole, the Kenyans, seem a religious people. People are always praying in the churches, with the Chapel, where the Blessed Sacrament is exposed, always full. If only all this was traditional. Please God one day it will be.