October 28, 2013, the Feast of the Apostles Simon and Jude
Well, as hard as it is for me to believe, this will be the final post for this journey. The African Adventure, as I have come to think of it, is coming to an end.
Today was a leisurely day. Bishop Dominic, Msgr. Mike, Sr. Pauline (Bishop Dominic's Secretary) and I celebrated Mass for today's great Feast of the Apostles Simon and Jude. It was quite a blessing for Bishop Dominic and I, as Successors to the Apostles each of us in our own part of the universal Church, to celebrate, in a sense, our "Feast Day" together on this, our final day here in Kenya. After Mass, we enjoyed a delicious breakfast. After breakfast, and a little time for rest, we traveled into the city of Kitali to visit the bank for some currency exchange, the supermarket to do a little shopping (this Supermarket, by the way, was like a version of Meijer's or Walmart)----it had everything from groceries to electronics to clothes for women, men and children, to furniture. After that, we returned to St. Martin House for a nice lunch, followed by a little more time for rest. In late afternoon, we went to visit the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception here in the Diocese of Kitali, and visited their religious goods store. We met a wonderful Irish priest, a member of an Irish Missionary group (the Priests of St. Patrick) which at one time, had many priests working here. He is 88 years old and has been in Kenya as a missionary since 1955. He was telling us that he recalls when there were only four Catholic Churches in all of Kenya; now, there are eight dioceses in Kenya. That is a great summary of the growth of the Catholic Church here in Africa over the last 60 years. We then went to the Bishop's House to have a visit with Bishop Maurice Crowley, the Bishop of Kitali. He was a very personable, and laid-back Irishman (from County Cork), but he has been a missionary here in Kenya for the past 40+ years. Fifteen years ago, when the Diocese of Kitali was established, he was ordained the first Bishop of Kitali, and has been the Bishop ever since. We had a wonderful hour-long visit as he gave us many insights into the life of the Catholic Church here in this Diocese. After the visit, we returned to the St. Martin House where Bishop Dominic, Msgr. Mike and I prayed Evening Prayer together, and then we had our final delicious meal.
I have mentioned our meals consistently. I certainly had no idea what to expect in terms of food when I arrived here in Kenya. I have to say that we have been fed very well. However, the diet here is much more healthy than ours in the United States. I have only had a meal once or twice during this whole time that served any kind of dessert other than fruit. Breakfast usually consists of cereal, brown/whole wheat bread, and oftentimes a hard-boiled or fried egg. The midday meal and the evening meal have been very similar: usually boiled white rice, sometimes potatoes (either whole roasted or even french fried [which they call "chips"]), some kind of meat (which has oftentimes been goat [I know---that doesn't sound that good, but it was quite tasty], or chicken, though we have also enjoyed ham and some beef), and here and there, fish (served whole, with head/eyes/tail) or fried---and mostly Tilapia), occasionally a "pancake"-like bread, and always vegetables----spinach-like vegetable called "siwashi" (or something similar to that), cabbage, peas, carrots, and usually some kind of fruit. Every once in a while, like tonight, we have even had pasta. And of course, there are no sweets or snacks of any sort.
I get the feeling that we have been fed much more than what people are used to, or able to afford to, eat in normal circumstances. At the dinner following the final Mass we celebrated in Kainuk, I made the mistake of asking one of the Sisters a typically Western-minded question: which meal of the day (assuming there were 3 meals) is the one that is considered the "main meal". She looked at me very quizzically and said that there is really only one meal a day---late in the evening.
It's hard to believe that this Pastoral Visit has come to an end. Bishop Dominic has been the premier host: he came all the way to Nairobi to meet us, and has been with us throughout our journey through the Massai Mara, to Elderod, and then to Lodwar; he was with us all the way through every stop in Lodwar; and now he is bringing us back to Elderot and even driving us to the airport tomorrow morning. I could not be more grateful to him, and to all the people of the Diocese of Lodwar for their hospitality. "Hospitality" is a key quality for all Kenyans. They are proud of their country and their culture, and the word you hear all the time is: "Karibu", or "Welcome!" I have never been made to feel more welcome than I have for these past 10 days or so. I have missed all the faithful people of the Diocese of Kalamazoo (and all my family/friends) very much, and I very much look forward to my return. However, I realize that I am returning "home" a different person than when I came; I am returning "home" with different, broadened perspectives; I am returning "home" with a greater pride in the Catholic Church of which we are all a part, in particular the work of the Church here among the people of Turkana County, Diocese of Lodwar in the country of Kenya in this great continent of Africa; I am returning "home" inspired, enlightened, enriched, encouraged by what I have seen and experienced; I am returning "home" re-invigorated to be less focused on what is wrong, and more focused on what is good; to be less worried about what we don't have, and more thankful for all our blessings; to be less concerned with the problems that we have and more willing to build on the wonderful opportunities that we have---the privilege that is ours----in fact, the huge responsibility that has been given to us to Preach the Good News of Jesus Christ to all the world. For as Jesus has told us, in no uncertain terms: "To those to whom much has been given, much will be required." After these 10 days, visiting our sister diocese and her Shepherd, Bishop Dominic Kimengich, I feel the bond that exists between us in the faith that unites us. After these 10 days, being away from our homeland, realizing how "much has been given to us", I ask God to bless me, and all of us, to be responsible and faithful stewards, as we give thanks and praise to our God by living together as His Loving Family----as God has intended from the beginning of time.
While I have been away for this long period of time from the Church in Kalamazoo, you have been in my daily thoughts and prayers. Please pray for Msgr. Mike, Fr. John Peter and me for safety in our travels back to the United States, and our beloved Kalamazoo. And I ask that all of you make a resolution to add the Church in Lodwar, and her shepherd, Bishop Dominic, to your daily prayer intentions.
Asking God's blessings upon us all, through the intercession of Saints Simon and Jude, and as always under the Loving Protection of our dear Blessed Mother, I am
Faithfully yours in Christ,
Bishop Paul J. Bradley