Mentor program helps delegation prepare for encounter in Africa

On Feb. 15, 16 delegates, including Bishop Donald Kettler, Franciscan Sister Bea Eichten, four priests and 10 lay people from around the diocese will travel to the Diocese of Homa Bay, Kenya, in Africa, where they will spend two weeks with host families in several parishes there.

“It is always a joy to take a group of people on a delegation,” said Elizabeth Neville, director of the St. Cloud Mission Office who has led several diocesan delegations overseas. “Whether it is a new connection or a rekindled friendship, it is an amazing experience to witness.”

Delegations have been traveling back and forth between the two dioceses since 1999, when they entered into a sister diocese relationship. Since then, many parishes in the Diocese of St. Cloud have started sister parish relationships with parishes in the Diocese of Homa Bay.

New to hosting this year are the parishes of SS. Peter and Paul Church in Ntimaru, which is partnered with St. Ann Church in Wadena and St. John Church in Bluffton, and St. Linus Church in Mfang’ano, which has not yet formed a sister parish relationship.

While there, Bishop Kettler will ordain six new priests for the Diocese of Homa Bay as well as two transitional deacons at St. John’s Seminary Rakwaro. Bishop Philip Anyolo, the bishop of Homa Bay, is also hosting a special celebration for all those who have dedicated themselves to consecrated life.

Mentor program

As part of their preparation, delegates have engaged in a new mentor program where current delegates are partnered with past delegates.

“It is really beneficial for both the new delegates as well as those who were on a delegation years ago,” Neville said. “It’s an opportunity to have an experienced delegate be a sounding board and a chance for them to relive their own time as a delegate. Its just another way to share their story, their faith experience.

“Journeying together in our faith is what these delegations are all about,” she said. “It makes us ask the hard questions: ‘Who am I when I am there? Am I there as a visitor? As a missioner? As a representative of the diocese, my church, the global church?’ That’s why we chose the theme, ‘Uhai tele — a fully lived life,’ so we can really think about what it means to fully live our lives as God is calling us to do.”

Once they return, mentors will follow up with the delegates as they try to re-enter their lives back in their own culture.

“It is a bit of culture shock coming back home, too,” Neville said. “Many delegates experience really deeply personal changes and it’s hard to explain that to those around them when they return.”

All-in-all, Neville said the importance of the trip is in the exchange of people.

“To talk about our partners around the world is a great thing,” she said. “It helps us recognize that we are all part of the Universal Church. When we can meet our brothers and sisters and be present with them, it makes them real to us — real people with real lives and real families. It helps us to see our similarities, to see we are all connected in the family of faith.”

Author: Kristi Anderson

Kristi Anderson is the editor of The Central Minnesota Catholic Magazine for the Diocese of St. Cloud.