Missioner priests from Kenya: warm welcome, fond farewell

On June 27, Father Tom Mboya arrived in the United States from the Diocese of Homa Bay, Kenya, and traveled to Sauk Centre, where he will be serving as parochial vicar.

This missioner priest from the sister diocese of Homa Bay, is here as part of a three-year commitment arranged through the partnership between the two dioceses.

Father Mboya spent his first week getting to know Father Greg Paffel, the pastor of the parishes of St. Paul and Our Lady of the Angels in Sauk Centre and St. Alexius in West Union. He also did some sightseeing in the area, learned where the bank and grocery stores were, met with parishioners and caught up on his sleep. He finished the week by celebrating Mass at the parishes.

“Father Tom will be a welcomed member of our parishes and a wonderful priest for us,” Father Paffel said. “We look forward to hearing more about the church in Kenya and sharing our faith with him as well.”

As an active missioner from Homa Bay, Father Mboya is also responsible for promoting and educating people about the diocesan partnership. To prepare him for his ministry in the U.S., he is currently participating in an enculturation program for international clergy at Conception Abbey in Conception, Missouri.

“This program is geared toward new ministers coming into the U.S. to help them get acclimated,” said Elizabeth Neville, director of the St. Cloud Mission Office. “It helps them learn how to preach, teach and minister in the American church. It includes English classes, formation, help with preaching and administrative topics.”

Father Tom Mboya was ordained to the priesthood in August 2004 by Homa Bay Bishop Philip Anyolo. After teaching for a year at St. John’s Minor Seminary in Rakwaro, he served as a parish priest at St. Francis Mawego Catholic Church from 2005-2008. He then was assigned to St. Paul of the Cross Awendo Catholic Church from 2009 until coming to the U.S. in June. He also served as the diocesan education secretary and bishop’s consulter.

Father Mboya said he enjoys making friends, reading, watching inspirational programs, playing sports and has an interest in music and drama.

Rita Clasemann, parish life coordinator at St. Mary Church in Mora and St. Kathryn Church in Ogilvie, met Father Mboya while on her first delegation to Kenya in 2006.

One week into the trip, Clasemann contracted malaria and remained under Father Mboya’s care, along with the help of a religious sister named Sister Mary Francis.

“They were so quick to respond to my needs and were very kind to me,” Clasemann said. “I’ve often said the experience made me understand what our brothers and sisters are going through all the time. I was blessed to have good care, to be near a clinic and to have access to medicine. I think it just helped me to walk a little closer to them.

“I’m very anxious to see him again,” she said. “At the same time I’m sad to say goodbye to Father John.”

Clasemann is referring to Father John Odero, a missioner priest of Homa Bay who has served the Diocese of St. Cloud for almost five years. He will be returning to Kenya in September.

Father Odero has spent most of his time in the parishes of St. Stanislaus Kostka in Bowlus, St. Edward in Elmdale, St. Mary in Upsala and St. Francis in St. Francis.

He said he has enjoyed his time here, especially adjusting to the climate and the change of seasons, working in his vegetable garden and all of the friends he has made.

“Father John always called me ‘Mama Boke,’ meaning ‘Mother of Peace,’ which certainly endeared him to me,” Clasemann said. “He was always cheerful and positive, so inclusive and welcoming to all. He represented his people in Homa Bay so very well. I will miss his greetings, his presence at all the various diocesan events, and his visits to Mora and Ogilvie.”

Author: Kristi Anderson

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

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