- Fr. Gideon, congratulations on being elected the first East African vicar provincial for the Vicariate of Eastern Africa for the Province of St. Joseph. Can you tell us about yourself? Where are you from in Kenya and what have your assignments been?
I am from Central Kenya and I am 46 years old. I grew up along the slopes of Mount Kenya in Kirinyaga County, which is approximately a two hour drive from Nairobi. Before I joined the Order I was a high school teacher. I graduated from Egerton University in Nakuru, Kenya with a BA in Education Science and then taught Biology and Chemistry for 6 years. After hearing the call to join the Dominicans, I left my job and entered postulancy/novitiate in 2004. I studied at Tangaza College while living at our Dominican House of Studies (St. Dominic Priory) in Nairobi and was ordained to the priesthood of Jesus Christ on February 18, 2012. My first assignment was to our parish, St. Catherine of Siena as assistant pastor. Two years later in 2014, I was named the pastor of the parish and superior of our Dominican community. I have been a member of our vicariate council for four years. After serving four years as pastor and superior, on August 1, 2018 I was elected the first African vicar provincial for the Vicariate of Eastern Africa for the Province of St. Joseph.
- Can you tell us more about the parish of St. Catherine of Siena in Nairobi and the good work that you and our friars have been doing there? How large is it? What are the future plans?
I actually was the 5th pastor of St. Catherine of Siena following: Fr. Ed Gorman OP, Fr. Kieran Healy OP, Fr. Martin Ndegwa OP and Fr. John Lenkaak OP. The parish started seventeen years ago with only five families. In our registry we have about 350 registered families – though many more people come for Mass. In the recent past we had a grass thatched “makuti” church that has served its purpose well. Finally, in 2012 we began construction on a permanent church with a capacity for 1,000 people. In East Africa there is great wisdom in building for the future as we frequently run out of space by the time something is built. Construction projects also take place over a period of years – constructing small parts of the church as funds are available. Our parishioners and friars have struggled to build our church because financing such a huge project is a great challenge. We still need to raise more funds to finish it – but we are almost there! We actually started celebrating Mass in the new church on April 29, 2018 – the feast of St. Catherine of Siena. More work needs to be done on the windows and doors. We want to do more with the altar and the sanctuary to make it more beautiful. We also need to finish the adoration chapel. Finally we still need most of the church furnishings such as pews and permanent sanctuary furnishings. We currently have 2 Masses each Sunday, and since we began using the new church, more people have attended Mass. We expect to add more Masses in the near future.
- Does the Vicariate have vocations? How many priests and friars are there in formation?
Yes, the vicariate has many vocations like our province in the US. Many qualified young men come to join us, but unfortunately we turn a number away due to limited space in our postulancy and novitiate in Kisumu (Kenya). We have four novices, ten student brothers and twenty priests (15 Africans and 5 Americans).
- Do you have any future hopes and plans for the vicariate? It is quite a task you have ahead of you. Are you excited to take on this new role for the Church of East Africa, for the Order, our province and the Vicariate?
Yes, all of our friars have many hopes and dreams for the vicariate and the work of evangelization in East Africa. We have drawn up plans to become a “vice-province” by 2033. In order to achieve this goal we need to increase our personnel and establish financial stability. This goal will happen slowly as our friars live authentic Dominican lives. As the first East African vicar provincial, I expect to encounter certain difficulties that we have not encountered before, both for myself and all of the friars. Expectations are high, and I will do my best with the help of the brothers’ support and prayers to lead the vicariate according to the Constitutions of the Order, the statutes of the Province and the Acta of the Chapter. I rely on the assistance of the vicariate council to help meet the enormous challenge that lay ahead. I wish to express my gratitude to all of the brothers of the vicariate for choosing me as vicar, and I humbly ask their prayers.
I plan to express that gratitude as I visit the various communities. In this way I hope to familiarize myself better with the friars, nuns, sisters, Dominican youth and Dominican laity of our vicariate. I also hope to visit more often the priory of St. Martin de Porres in Kisumu where we have our postulants and novices. I also intend to travel to Kampala (Uganda) to visit our Dominican sisters near the Shrine of the Ugandan Martyrs and attend the 10th anniversary of the ordination to the priesthood of Fr. Charles Kato, OP. Fr. Kato is our first Ugandan Dominican priest. In January I will begin canonical visitation for each community and then begin the implementation of our vicariate’s five year plan, recently presented at the provincial chapter at Providence College.
I believe the Lord will guide us through the challenging tasks that are part of preaching the Gospel for the salvation of souls.
Fr. Gideon Muchira, OP