All around the St. Cloud Diocese, host families, sister parishes, school kids and parishioners are excited for the arrival of 15 delegates from the Diocese of Homa Bay, Kenya — a sister diocese to St. Cloud — who arrived in Minnesota Sept. 20 and will stay through Oct. 3.
Among the delegates are members of sister-parish partnerships as well as some leaders who have visited the diocese before, including Father John Odero, who served in the St. Cloud Diocese from 2012-2016, and Father Gregory Ombok, who served here from 2008-2010.
Hosting parishes for the delegates include St. Francis Xavier, Sartell; St. Anne, Kimball; Seven Dolors, Millerville; the parish cluster of St. Ann, Wadena, and St. John the Baptist, Bluffton; the cluster of St. Michael, St. Cloud, and St. Joseph, Waite Park; the cluster of Holdingford and St. Stephen and the cluster of St. Paul and Our Lady of Angels, Sauk Centre, and St. Alexius, West Union.
“We are so blessed in this diocese to be in these relationships with our partners in Homa Bay, Kenya, and Maracay, Venezuela, for all these years,” Elizabeth Neville, director of the St. Cloud Mission Office, said of the approximately 17-year partnership.
“The newfound relationships and the rekindling of longtime friendships is such a joy to witness and I am humbled to know that our office has worked so hard on helping these relationships continue to grow,” Neville said.
While in Minnesota, the delegates will enjoy lunch with Bishop Donald Kettler, visit the colleges of St. John’s University and St. Benedict, tour diocesan offices and Catholic Charities and participate in the Diocesan V Encuentro Sept. 24 and Diocesan Ministry Day Sept. 25.
Individual host parishes and families have planned special activities for the delegates in their communities such as “meet and greets,” taking in area sights and experiencing a taste of local and Minnesotan culture. Neville suggests checking parish bulletins for host parish happenings.
Shelby Vaske, religious education coordinator for St. Francis Xavier in Sartell, is excited that her parish is hosting Kenyan delegates for the first time.
The first weekend of their stay, they will enjoy St. Francis Xavier’s parish festival, Frantober Fest.
“It will be a great opportunity for the parish to meet the delegates and for the delegates to get a taste of a typical German Octoberfest-style celebration complete with brats and beer,” Vaske said.
The children in grades 1-8 will meet the two delegates Father John Odero and Fredrick Okeyo during faith formation classes and at St. Francis Xavier School. Parishioners will be hosting the delegates for meals and outings to local sporting events.
The public is invited to meet all the delegates at the annual Diocesan Barn Dance, which celebrates the partnerships the St. Cloud Diocese has with the Dioceses of Homa Bay, Kenya, and Maracay, Venezuela.
“These delegates are not just individuals with a passport to the United States,” Neville said. “They are our brothers and our sisters [who] we have the opportunity to know, to love and to journey together with from this day and always.”