The Irish Augustinian Mission – Kenya
In 1989 Bishop (now Cardinal) Njue of Embu, through a missionary priest from Venice Fr. Mario, requested the Nigerian Augustinian Vice Province to run the rural parish of Ishiara (central Kenya). The reasons given were:
- The presence of Italian Contemplative Augustinian Nuns (originally from Mira Porta in Venice) who had set up a Monastery there in 1977 and had accepted local vocations.
- Spanish Misioneras Sisters who had established a girls’ secondary school there in 1986.
Fr. Tom Sexton, who had spent 10 years in Nigeria, arrived in Ishiara on September 21st 1990 to take over the parish from Fr. Mario. Over the years some other Augustinians joined him, Nigerian and Irish. Fr. John Joe O’Connor would be the other longest serving member there.
In 1994 Cardinal Otunga, on behalf of the Kenyan Episcopal Conference, requested the Prior General (Miguel Angel Orcasitas) to set up an O.S.A. formation house in Kenya. The main reason given was that the Augustinians had been the first missionaries to Kenya. The Portuguese Augustinians had been in Mombasa from 1593 to 1728. The Prior General requested the Nigerian Vice Province to take up the challenge.
Fr. Francis Aherne, an Irish Augustinian with years of experience in the African vocation and formation fields, was sent from Nigeria and arrived October 1st 1995. He chose Nairobi as the obvious centre for formation. He lived on his own in Nairobi for a few years. The Prior General and Assistant General paid regular visits to him there. He advertised for possible vocations in Kenyan Catholic magazines. He was also on the lookout for a formation house and when the Divine Word provincial told him that they had bought houses in Park Estate for philosophers, he did the same.
The first candidates were accepted in March of 1997. They studied philosophy for three years at Consolata Institute of Philosophy, not too far from their formation house. If they wished, and were considered suitable candidates, they were then sent to Jos in Nigeria for a year of Novitiate. The next stage was to build a theology house. Francis was fortunate to get a five acre plot, half way between the Catholic University of East Africa and Tangaza Seminary (where some 170 Religious Congregations send their students). St. Augustine’s Friary was built and now houses Augustinian theologians and post-graduates from Congo, Tanzania, Nigeria and Kenya.
In 1998 the Cardinal was requested for a parish within Nairobi and we were offered Baba Dogo, which we accepted. Nigerian and Irish Augustinians helped to set it up and it is still a very active parish with a primary school and a three storied clinic on the compound.
Two of the original six who had joined, James Wambugu and Jacob Ariek, were finally professed by Prior General Robert Prevost in October 2005 and ordained priests in December 2005.
At present there are 26 Kenyan Augustinian priests with a number of other indigenous at various stages of formation. There is one expatriate, David Fitzgerald. They have also since accepted parishes in Kisumu, Chuka and Eldoret.