Kenyan delegation celebrates 15 years of friendship

Categories: Around the Diocese

April 25, 2014, edition
By Kristi Anderson

An unexpected winter storm dropped unseemly amounts of snow across the state April 16. For Minnesotans, it was just another bane of seasonal activity, but for the 14 Kenyan delegates visiting the Diocese of St. Cloud, seeing, touching and even tasting the snow was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

“Now I know what is meant by ‘white as snow’ in the Bible,” said Herine Carey Achieng, one of the delegates staying with Morris and Patty Keeling of St. Joseph Parish, Waite Park. “It is so clean and beautiful.”


Delegate Herine Carey Achieng enjoys the snow during her stay in Minnesota.
Photo submitted by Patty Keeling

Achieng is from the Oriang Parish in Kenya and is the single mother of seven children, two of whom are adopted. She works in agriculture and tries to show her nearly 700 clients ways to make their land better by using fertilizer mixed with topsoil. Her biggest dream is to have a greenhouse.

The Keelings feel that God gifted them with the opportunity to host Achieng.

“It has been incredible,” Patty said. “It has truly opened our eyes to so many things. We learned so much about how they live. She was interested in things like the garbage disposal and my curling iron. It was fun to watch her giggle when we went through the car wash.

“We appreciated her openness and the way she would soak up information,” she added. “Each night when she returned to our home after the day’s planned activities, we would sit up and talk about all the things she experienced during the day — she would ask questions and I would ask her questions. She was so gracious and so interested in learning as much as she could while she was here.”

Delegates, who arrived April 9 and stayed through April 23, visited hospitals, schools, churches, jails and theaters as well as many homes and farms of local parishioners. In addition, since this year marks the 15th anniversary of the sister diocese partnership between the Diocese of Homa Bay, Kenya, and the Diocese of St. Cloud, the joint leadership teams from both dioceses gathered for a process called “honorable closure” founded by Linda Curtis who believes that every stage of life sometimes needs closure.

Delegate Mary Auma Nyadiang’a chats with Kathy Knoblach from St. Paul Parish in Sauk Centre.
Photo by Sue Schulzetenberg-Gully/The Visitor

“Celebrating our partnership with gratitude,” said Kateri Mancini, mission education coordinator for the St. Cloud Mission Office, “as well as honestly acknowledging what wasn’t so good about it and especially what might still need reconciling or healing from it, can help us to move the most freely and healthily into the next stage of our relationship.”

“We thought it would be a good way to discuss and reevaluate the last 15 years that we have been together as partners,” Mission Office director Elizabeth Neville added, “to share the gifts, blessings and joys of the relationship, the challenges and the struggles in the relationship and the things that we need to ask for forgiveness, healing and reconciliation of each other as partners.”

Delegation leader Father Abraham Ayieko shakes hands with LeRoy Schlangen of Roscoe and talks with Jim and Micki Morrissey of Glenwood.
Photo by Sue Schulzetenberg-Gully/The Visitor

Both Father LeRoy Scheierl, pastor of the parishes of St. Peter and St. Paul, St. Cloud, and Father Patrick Ochieng, pastor of St. Peter Parish, Oyugis, Kenya, are new to the partnership.

“Father Patrick and I have gotten to know each other quite well in a short time,” Father Scheierl explained. “Over the past weeks, we have had a full schedule of activities, events and opportunities for both him and Celine Atieno, our other delegate, to learn from us and we from them.

“When they both met with our students during an assembly at our school, All Saints Academy, the children were interested in how children learned in schools in Kenya. They were excited about the different animals they have in Kenya:  How tall are giraffes? How do hyenas laugh? These were just a few of their questions.”

For Father Scheierl, this was an opportunity to learn more about the missionary effort of Father Ochieng and how he operates from his main church in Oyugis, and at the same time how he coordinates his 32 outstations or small Christian communities within his parish area.

“Our delegates came to visit us at the highlight of our liturgical year,” Father Scheierl said, “so it was great to have them attend our various Holy Week services. In Kenya, there is much singing and dancing and spontaneously colorful celebration, which is somewhat of a contrast to our more solemn yet also beautifully orchestrated celebrations here at our parishes. In different ways Father Patrick enjoyed ours just as much. My hope is that we will continue this conversation and this conversion of minds and hearts as we continue to share the Good News of Christ.”

Delegate Father Christopher Wasonga talks with Father Robert Rolfes, vicar general of the St. Cloud Diocese, and a host couple.
Photo by Sue Schulzetenberg-Gully/The Visitor

In addition to those hosted by the parishes of St. Peter and St. Paul, delegates were accommodated across the diocese by the Franciscan Sisters of Little Falls and at St. Michael in St. Cloud and St. Joseph in Waite Park, the Holdingford Area Catholic Community, St. Augustine in St. Cloud, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in Isanti, St. Ann in Wadena, St. John the Baptist in Bluffton and Our Lady of Angels and St. Paul in Sauk Centre.

Delegate Zilpher Auma Oracha waves goodbye during the farewell gathering April 21 at Rosie Spainer’s farm in Spring Hill. Photo by Sue Schulzetenberg-Gully/The Visitor

“The greatest benefit of any sister relationship is expanding the boundaries of understanding of what it means to be church,” Father Scheierl said. “Jesus came to establish his body, the church in a universal way, a church which crosses all cultures and languages. A sister parish relationship helps our parishes to see this cross-culture and religious experience in very concrete ways.”