New Vicar Provincial for Eastern African Vicariate
November 8, 2018
Fr. Gideon Muchira, O.P. was recently elected vicar provinicial for the Dominican Vicariate of Eastern Africa. He is the first native-born East African friar to be elected to this important position. He recently sat down for an interview:
Fr. Gideon, congratulations on being elected the first East African vicar provincial for the Vicariate of Eastern Africa for the Province of St. Joseph. Can you tell us about yourself? Where are you from in Kenya and what have your assignments been?
I am from Central Kenya and I am 46 years old. I grew up along the slopes of Mount Kenya in Kirinyaga County, which is approximately a two hour drive from Nairobi. Before I joined the Order I was a highschool teacher. I graduated from Egerton University in Nakuru, Kenya with a BA in Education Science and then taught Biology and Chemistry for 6 years. After hearing the call to join the Dominicans, I left my job and entered postulancy/novitiate in 2004. I studied at Tangaza College while living at our Dominican House of Studies (St. Dominic Priory) in Nairobi and was ordained to the priesthood of Jesus Christ on February 18, 2012. My first assignment was to our parish, St. Catherine of Siena as assistant pastor. Two years later in 2014, I was named the pastor of the parish and superior of our Dominican community. I have been a member of our vicariate council for four years. After serving four years as pastor and superior, on August 1, 2018 I was elected the first African vicar provincial for the Vicariate of Eastern Africa for the Province of St. Joseph.
2. Can you tell us more about the parish of St. Catherine of Siena in Nairobi and the good work that you and our friars have been doing there? How large is it? What are the future plans?
I actually was the 5th pastor of St. Catherine of Siena following: Fr. Ed Gorman OP, Fr. Kielen Healy OP, Fr. Martin Ndegwa OP and Fr. John Lenkaak OP. The parish started seventeen years ago with only five families. In our registry we have about 350 registered families – though many more people come for Mass. In recent past, we had a grass thatched “makuti” church that has served its purpose well. Finally, in 2012 we started constructing a permanent church with a capacity for 1,000 people. In East Africa, there is great wisdom in building for the future as we frequently run out of space by the time something is built. Construction projects also take place over a period of years – constructing small parts of the church as funds are available. Our parishioners and friars have struggled to build our church because financing such a huge project is a great challenge. We still need to raise more funds to finish it – but we are almost there! We actually started celebrating Mass in the new church on April 29, 2018 – the feast of St. Catherine of Siena. More work still needs to be done on the windows and doors. We still want to do more with the altar and the sanctuary to make it more beautiful. We also have an adoration chapel that needs to be finished. Finally we still need most of the church furnishings such as pews and permanent sanctuary furnishings. We currently have 2 Masses each Sunday, but since we have started using the new church, more people have been coming each week. We expect to be adding more Masses very soon.
3. Does the Vicariate have vocations? How many priests and friars are there in formation?
Yes, the vicariate has many vocations like our province in the US. Many qualified young men come knocking to join us, but unfortunately we turn a number away due to limited space in our postulancy and novitiate in Kisumu, Kenya. We have four novices, ten student brothers and twenty priests (15 Africans and 5 Americans).
4. Do you have any future hopes and plans for the vicariate? It is quite a task you have ahead of you. Are you excited to take on this new role for the Church of East Africa, for the Order, our province and the vicariate?
Yes, all our friars have many hopes and dreams for the vicariate and the work of evangelization in East Africa. We have drawn up plans to become a “vice-province” by 2033. In order to achieve that, we need to expand, grow in personnel and establish financial stability. This will happen slowly as our friars live authentic Dominican lives in our vicariate. As a kind of pioneer, being our first East African vicar provincial, the transition and change will certainly be difficult, both for me and our friars. I understand expectations from everyone are high. I will do my best with everyone’s support and prayers. The challenge ahead is enormous. I was humbled by the choice of our friars and I humbly ask your prayers for the work which lies ahead for all of us.
My initial plans are to visit all of our communities to better familiarise myself with the friars, nuns, sisters, Dominican youth and Dominican laity of our vicariate. In fact, I write this letter to you from our priory of St. Martin de Porres in Kisumu, Kenya where we have our postulants, novices and a vibrant senior community of friars. Soon I will be heading to Kampala, Uganda to visit our Dominican sisters near the Shrine of the Ugandan Martyrs and then attend the 10 year anniversary of the ordination to the priesthood of Fr. Charles Kato OP, our first Ugandan Dominican priest. In January I will start canonical visitation for each community and then begin the implementation of our vicariate’s five year plan which was recently presented at our provincial chapter at Providence College.
Finally, I am grateful to our friars for their support and prayers. I believe the Lord will see me through this challenging task with many blessings for the salvation of souls!