It was delightful to come back home and to Nairobi after 2 years in the Overseas Training Program (OTP) in Bolivia. There we learned Spanish and then lived and worked among our Maryknoll missioners stationed in the city of Cochabamba. This took place amid the Covid-19 pandemic. Upon our departure at the end of the program the airports in Bolivia were shut down just two days after we returned to Kenya. Many thanks for the teams that have been working round the clock to come up with vaccines against this deadly virus!
Our encounter with the men residing at the Maryknoll House has been terrific and fantabulous! This House welcomes men from East Africa expressing interest in joining Maryknoll. It also houses seminarians like us who have joined Maryknoll through witness to the good work done by Maryknoll missioners in East Africa. We feel attracted towards that same mission charism of serving people in need throughout the world and following in their footsteps.
Here at the House there are four groups in different formational stages. First, the two of us who recently completed our OTP in Bolivia and are now awaiting to receive our student visas in order to proceed with the next stage of formation. We will be soon going to Chicago for theology studies at the Catholic Theological Union (CTU).
The second group has three men and their situation is slightly complicated. They ought to have gone for their spirituality year (novitiate) in the U.S. last year but unfortunately the pandemic has made it most difficult to complete their visa process. While awaiting visas these men have completed one year of theology studies at Hekima University College (the Jesuit University Seminary in Nairobi) and to date their visa status remains on hold. As an alternative they may be sent for OTP in Cochabamba, Bolivia before their taking the spirituality year in Chicago. Currently they are learning Spanish in a language center in Nairobi.
The third, is a group of seminarians who recently completed their pre-requisite philosophy studies at Tangaza University here in Nairobi and are now currently enrolled for Theology studies at Hekima College as they too await their visa process to be completed enabling them to come to Chicago.
The last group is earning the pre-requisite philosophy studies at Tangaza University in preparation to come to the U.S.
Our House is well organized. We have outdoor sports activities that include football (soccer in the U.S.) and volley ball after classes as well as indoor games like Ludo and Monopoly in the evenings. Before the pandemic hit, men in the house would volunteer in different pastoral mission activities. The outbreak of the pandemic in the house posed an enormous blow to the house curtailing many of these activities. A number of seminarians and priests in the House were infected and then quarantined. Among the seminarians only three were not infected. The silence was the order of the day as men kept quiet in their rooms with music tuned low. Mass and Liturgy of the Hours were suspended for a period of one month. We resorted to online access for Mass, classes and conference calls for chats and small talk. Nevertheless, during this time we felt so strongly the essence of the community. The negatives served the positives. The three uninfected seminarians brought food and drinks to our rooms for more than three weeks. They woke up at early dawn to prepare coffee for those who are coffee addicts. Then they brought us breakfast, lunch and dinner. The pandemic has taught us the spirit of service to humanity; that life needs urgency and love, an outpouring of service that rejuvenates hearts that have already lost hope. The experience has brought us hope and peace as we witnessed the Christ in the example of these servants, our brothers. The pandemic has taught us to always be ready to serve in the midst of danger. Where fear and ego can lead to the loss of life, the service of missionaries can be a source of salvation.
With a slight easing of the pandemic, we have now returned to normal tasks. We discharge our duties with greater cooperation. Every member is assigned a place to keep tidy. The camaraderie among us has been impressive. We also cultivate a vegetable garden planting kale, corn and other local vegetables. These outdoor activities are so important. Those who cherish farming would spend their good time feeling the feel of the soil and giving care to our mother earth. On this property we also raise poultry. This was initiated by the seminarians to produce local chicken breeds for house consumption. It is a great venture indeed!