World Mission Sunday: Delegation to Kenya strengthens partnership with African church

Categories: Around the Diocese

Oct. 11, 2013, edition
By Kristi Anderson
For The Visitor

“Sept. 12 — I had a good night’s sleep at the Maryknoll House near Nairobi, where we arrived about 9:30 p.m. We flew above a thunderstorm about an hour before landing. The weather at the airport was beautiful. It was about 10:45 p.m. by the time we got checked out and obtained our visas. A few people and religious came with a bus to pick us up and brought us to the Maryknoll House. We were welcomed by Father Joe Healey and given rooms to clean up. My bed was like a bunk bed with a plywood base and a mattress and good clean covers.”
— from delegate LeRoy Schlangen’s travel journal

Eleven delegates from the St. Cloud Diocese traveled more than 8,000 miles to the sister diocese of Homa Bay, Kenya, where they spent 10 days learning and sharing in the daily life and culture of the native people.

After their arrival, delegates met with the diocesan exchange committee and representatives from various parishes and were paired and sent to different parishes where they spent the majority of their stay.

Kateri Mancini, the trip’s primary leader, and LeRoy Schlangen traveled to Emmaus Parish, Rongo. Mancini is the coordinator of mission education for the St. Cloud Diocese.

“This was my second delegation to the Homa Bay diocese,” Mancini said. “I’ve been blessed to be part of two delegations from Homa Bay to our diocese as well.

“This delegation was different than my 2006 trip. Part of this joy came from watching other delegates experience the wonder of the Kenyan faith, hospitality and community.”

“Sept. 13 — We had a wonderful visit while we ate. All the guests were talented and committed to making the parish a true Christian community that can service the needs of the community. The people are very poor and many live in very poor ground shelters. The countryside is hilly and the fields are small. There are too many cattle in many areas that are dry.”
— from Schlangen’s travel journal

Others delegates, like Micki Morrissey, had different experiences. She traveled to the Mabera Parish alone.

“I wasn’t afraid,” she said. “They had prepared well — they knew my interests and hobbies, like they already knew me when I arrived. The priest even had a copy of my bio in plastic on his kitchen table. They took good care of me.”

“Sept. 14 — Church bells rang at 6 a.m. We went for adoration and Benediction followed by Mass. We were back by 8 a.m. to eat breakfast prepared for us by the sisters. At 9 a.m. we went to the parish house and traveled to a dairy farm. We were shown how they raise the feed. We also saw conservation practices they have implemented.”
— from Schlangen’s travel journal

While Schlangen visited farms, Morrissey explored an all girls’ school with an enrollment of about 420.

“Each day the girls celebrated Mass at 6 a.m.,” she said. “They had beautiful songs, even without piano or organ. They were just so happy I was there and at times, my heart was overwhelmed with love. It was so special to be on the receiving end of that gift.”

“Sept. 15 – We had a beautiful English Mass at 7 a.m. with a full choir. Mass lasted about two hours. The priest did not rush and showed great respect during the consecration. It was beautiful to see the children singing and dancing. At the end, we were recognized and were called to speak. We gave the gifts the Mission Office had sent along.”
— from Schlangen’s travel journal

“In Kenya,” Mancini explained, “they don’t pass a basket. People bring their gifts of money, produce or handiworks to the front to offer them.

“The farewell liturgy at St. Paul’s Cathedral in Homa Bay was Spirit-filled,” she said, “watching Bishop Philip Anyolo receive the gifts people brought and bless each person, seeing the connection between the people and the church.”

Face life differently

“When delegates come back after a significant experience, they are changed inside,” Elizabeth Neville, director of the St. Cloud Mission Office, said.

“But what they come home to is often unchanged. They are trying to balance two very different realities — one experienced on the trip, one at home. The challenge is how to apply what they have seen and to challenge those around them to make changes, too.”

“I heard that you experience more culture shock when you get home,” Morrissey said. “In Kenya, it is a simpler lifestyle. I showered using a bucket — that made me realize how much water I use.

“Kenyans move at a slower pace that allows them to pay attention to their neighbor’s needs. We miss out on blessings from moving too fast.”

As part of the return process, delegates gather twice for a “debriefing” and to share what they are experiencing emotionally, spiritually and physically.

Telling the story

Delegates are also encouraged to share their experiences with their parish communities. Schlangen shared his travel journal. Morrissey and another parishioner, Mary Kunz, will communicate their encounters in Kenya through a parish presentation and hope to prepare an authentic Kenyan meal.

The main goal for the Mission Office with these delegations, Mancini explained, is always to deepen the relationship with Homa Bay, in whatever way possible.

“Seeing the incredible experience the delegates had,” she said, “will no doubt spread back to their communities and will definitely help our partnership grow and strengthen.”

Country: Kenya

Area: 3,003 sq. mi.

Population: 1,970,000

Catholic population: (as of 2004) 368,136 (18.7%)

Ordinary: Bishop Philip Arnold Subira Anyolo

Delegates from the St. Cloud Diocese

• Kateri Mancini, Christ Church Newman Center, St. Cloud, and diocesan coordinator of mission education

• Michelle (Micki) Morrissey and Mary Kunz, Sacred Heart Parish, Glenwood

• Mari Walker and Merry Mund, St. Michael Parish, St. Cloud, and sister parish with Blessed Sacrament, Oriang

• Jackie Higgins and Janel Heinen, Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Opole, (part of the four parish Holdingford Catholic Community) and sister parish with St. Paul’s Cathedral, Homa Bay

• Tanis Beireis, St. Louis Parish, Paynesville

• Emily Beaufeaux, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish, Isanti

• Mayuli Bales, Diocesan director of Multicultural Ministries and executive director of Casa Guadalupe, Cold Spring

• LeRoy Schlangen, St. Agnes Parish, Roscoe (clustered with Paynesville and Lake Henry) and sister parish with Emmaus Parish, Rongo