Kitui delegation visit features faith, friendship . . . and fun

| October 11, 2012 | 0 Comments

Dale Hennen, from the Office of Parish Services for the archdiocese, hugs Jacob Nzoka at the welcome picnic for delegates visiting from the Diocese of Kitui, Kenya Sept. 28 at Fort Snelling State Park. Photo courtesy of Eric Simon

Eight years into the global solidarity partnership between the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis and the Diocese of Kitui, Kenya, the two faith communities are still learning from each other, building relationships and strengthening each other’s faith.

A 10-member delegation from the Kitui diocese visited the archdiocese from Sept. 27 to Oct. 9.

“This partnership is about communion between particular churches, concrete ties in a community between two churches. That, I’m sure, will be strengthened.” said Bishop Anthony Muheria of Kitui. “That is part of our faith.”

Delegates stayed with host families from parishes around the Twin Cities for the first week and visited with people in the area that do the same work they do back home. A teacher from Kitui, for example, spent time at a school.

After home visits, the archdiocesan leadership team from the partnership met with delegates to discuss partnership and Kitui needs,” said Eric Simon, mission promotions manager for the archdiocesan Center for Mission. “A very successful day of workshops led to many specific actions and directions that will lead to an enhanced relationship where both are able to share their gifts of faith and resources.”

Sharing conversation

Anna Mwanza shared stories about her women’s group, the Catholic Women’s Association of the Diocese of Kitui — of which she is the chair — with members of the Archdiocesan Council of Catholic Women during a lunch Oct. 2 at ACCW President Rose Anne Hallgren’s home.

“We are learning from one another,” Mwanza said. “We share so many things, our strengths, our weaknesses, and get to know one another. We make friends.”

She told them about how the Kitui women keep poultry and goats for meat and to sell, grow sunflowers to make oil, and weave baskets. They also have raised funds and started building a 58-room house for women students attending a nearby university.

“They do such meaningful things,” Hallgren said.

Primary school teacher Joyce Mutwii, who works with deaf children and children with special needs in Kenya, visited with deaf students at a school in Red Wing. She said she was struck by the amount and quality of resources available to students here and the small class sizes.

“The environment is very different here. There are classes with less students; in our place we have classes with more students,” she said. “We are not able to meet the needs of each and every student because they have such varying needs.”

Patrick Kiusya, food security coordinator and deputy Caritas director for the Diocese of Kitui, and Jacob Nzoka, Liferoots project coordinator, visited several farms in the area. At one farm they got to try squash. Kiusya said he had never seen squash in Kenya, but he liked it so much he took seeds so he can try to grow it himself. “Farming is taken very seriously here,” Nzoka said.

Facing challenges

Faith formation was a topic of discussion during the visit. Bishop Muheria, in an interview with The Catholic Spirit, said faith formation in Kenya is facing many challenges, including a lack of cultural acceptance of the faith, poverty and shortage of personnel — not only priests, but sisters and catechists.

“There are church communities that will go for up to a month without Mass,” he said. “We are eager to do a lot, but we don’t, many times, have the means to do it.”

Another challenge — similar to the challenge in the United States — is having people live out the faith in their daily lives. “We know how the faith should be, our Catholic faith tells us this, but how do I live it socially, in politics, in interactions with other people, in my profession and in my family? That we need to work on,” Bishop Muheria said.

Aside from the challenges, Bishop Muheria said, the people are very prayerful, open and generous and they make a lot of sacrifices to get to Mass. “With what I have said about the challenges, I think there is a lot of very vivid expression of a living faith.”

Water also continues to be a concern for the partnership.

“Water is the biggest blessing you have here in St. Paul and Minneapolis; it is not a problem here,” Bishop Muheria said. “If you appreciate this as a God-given gift, you will be able to appreciate where there is none and you will see the value of water here more.”

There are sand dams at five sites around the Kitui diocese. The water collected is not being filtered yet, and that is one thing the partnership hopes to facilitate in the near future.

Gennaro Maffia, a chemical engineering professor at Manhattan College in Riverdale, N.Y., presented one possibility for water purification to members of the group Oct. 8.

The process involves injecting collagen into water to trap contaminants and make them easier to filter out with a basic sand or charcoal filter, Maffia said.

The collagen needed for the process could be obtained from livestock and the most likely supplier would be a meat packing plant. The substance is very inexpensive — it is usually not used and is discarded.

Members of the partnership are looking at several possibilities. “This is not something to take lightly,” Nzoka said.

“As the partnership focuses on mutual solidarity, personal relationships are sure to develop,” Simon said. “This was evident during the delegation trip as there were many hugs and tears as hosts said good-bye to the delegates. Long-lasting relationships developed between archdiocesan hosts and Kenyans during this visit and are sure to last.”

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Category: World Mission Sunday