The first Members arrived in Kenya in October 1989. This arrival was very much awaited and eventually appreciated by the late Michael Maurice Cardinal Otunga, the then Archbishop of Nairobi. They took charge of the Sunday School and of the Christian formation of many children and youth who benefited from the presence of the Society. Although facing many hardships, the Members eagerly tried to keep the Society’s apostolate going.
After years of presence, the Society is full of hope that its activities will keep on helping those who come in touch with it. The Society is strongly challenged by the African culture and thus needs to continue its immersion in the Kenyan life-style, keeping in mind and heart its spirituality and charism which should be safeguarded, every time, everywhere.
Some of the members teach in Government Primary and Secondary schools. Situated in the heart of Ruiru, these schools allow us to come in contact with hundreds of students, teachers and parents. We are also responsible for the running of the Preca Vocational Training Centre (PVTC). Opened in 1998, the training centre has prepared many trainees in acquiring a trade such as carpentry, electrical installation and motor-vehicle mechanics. However, upon taking into account the changes in the Kenyan and the African culture at large, from the beginning of 2010, a well-equipped computer lab opened its doors within the PVTC for those who would like to become computer literate. People from all spheres of life - Secondary School leavers, teachers, housewives, factory workers - some of whom have never had the opportunity to own, or even use a computer, join these classes to learn and master computer skills, aware of the its importance in the place of work.
The Daily Apostolate
On weekdays, our SDC Centre opens at 5:00pm. We have five organized classes: three Preparatory classes, and the Elects and Aspirants classes. After long school hours, these youths are always very eager to spend some time playing together. After half an hour of games, all children and youth enter their respective classes for the lesson. These lessons include the Catechism of the Catholic Church, prayer meetings, Bible sharing, sentences from the Voice of the Beloved and the Epistles of the Apostles, lives and maxims of the saints, and formation in the spirituality of our Society.
On Saturdays, the SDC Centre opens at 4:30pm with the normal programme of catechism classes, but with some added time for play. Sunday mornings are reserved especially for those preparing for receiving Baptism, Holy Communion and Confirmation. We have six organized classes: one for every Sacrament, one for young children, and two other for older children and youths who keep on coming for catechism although they have already received the Initiation Sacraments. All Members and Candidates, including a number of Aspirants, are involved in the teaching of these classes.
On Sunday afternoon, the SDC Centre opens at 4:00pm for an hour or so of games. Then at 5:15p.m., all children and youth pray the Rosary together with their catechists. Afterwards, the Members and Candidates, together with the Elects and Aspirants, pray the Union together.
From time to time activities like outings and trips are organized for all the members and children. These enhance friendship and serve to unite and build the group. It is very encouraging to see a large number of young people coming to our SDC centre for catechism.
We are also organizing formative meetings for the parents of all those who come to the SDC Centre, and other interested Christians. These meetings are held monthly and those who participate show a lot of interest. Once a month as well, the members go to an out-station dedicated to St. Lucia, within the parish of Ruiru, and during the Sunday Mass, they animate the Liturgy of the Word to the children.
In January 2012 the “Preca Lending Library” in the SDC Centre opened its doors for the children and youth who attend the SDC. The library contains a little over a thousand books, ranging from Primary and Secondary School textbooks, story books, National Geographic magazines, biographies, books of general knowledge, lives of saints, spiritual books and many more, all in English and Swahili. We hope and pray that the “Preca Lending Library” will be another learning source from which the children and youth benefit for their well-being.
Tumshukuru Bwana Mungu wetu!
Let us give thanks to the Lord our God!
The Kenya Missionary Experience
It all began in early 2012, we accepted the Society’s request and applied to go on a missionary experience. Preparations started back in May 2012 and on 9th August 2012, a group of five members including myself,led by Superior Tonio Caruana, left on a twenty-day missionary experience in the town of Ruiru, Kenya.
The aim of this visit was to experience daily life in Ruiru. Missionary life has its ups and downs but its greatest advantage is that it gives you the opportunity to evangalise and experience and share the Museum charisma with the people whom we were going to meet. It also enables you to experience a culture so completely different from the European one and allows you to learn both from the Maltese missionaries as well as from the indigenous people. Every day was an experience in itself. Even the most simple of activities, like attending for or teaching Museum lessons, left their mark on all involved including the Musuem members in Kenya, the children and youths we encountered as well as on ourselves.
It is evident that the Maltese members are loved and respected by everyone. A trip to the open market to buy fruit and vegetables was always eventful as the locals would shout greetings or stop to talk to the Maltese members in Ruiru. The very presence of the Musuem society in Ruiru is a blessing. The Museum in Ruiru is always bustling with activity since a large number of children from the Preparatory to the Aspirants attend daily for lessons and games. We participated by attending all the classes and even teaching some of them as well and the children always enjoyed our presence amongst them. The children’s smiles will forever be etched in my memory.
Moreover, we took part in activities organised for Aspirants and Candidates.The Kenyan candidates who had come to Malta for the celebrations of the 50th anniversary of the death of our Founder, cherished in their hearts and minds their experience with other candidates from England, Perùand Albania. Since we wished that they would share this experience with others, this was the theme that we chose for the seminar which we organised for Aspirants and Candidates.We also visited Paradise Lostwith them where we spent the day cooking, eating, praying and enjoying ourselves together. Additionally, we attended are treat together at the Focolarini where we reflected on Moses experience of God.
The theme of the seminar was also the subject of the parents’ meeting. This was another great experience. The attendance was incredibly numerous. I was struck by a comment which one of the parents passed where he encouraged the other parents to be pleased if one of their children expresses the wish to join the Society, even though this in itself goes against the Kenyan culture.
So what motivates the Society’s members to keep up this apostolate? The daily mass which they celebrate and their daily prayers at the end of each day in front of the Holy Sacrament exposed in one of the home’s rooms are the motors which drive the spiritual life of these members. Community life is not easy since the members have to learn how to live with each other’s shortcomings. However, there is also a positive side to community life and there was never a shortage of laughter in that home, as well as plenty of interesting discussions.
We had the opportunity to travel outside Ruiru to the cosmopolitan capital city, Nairobi. It is considered as one of the best among African capitals, so much so that it is known as Africa’s London. A cathedral, hotels and high rises dominate the city. We also visited a Safari Park as well as a large zoo where we saw animals which are difficult to spot in Malta like the crocodile, elephant, rhinoceros and hippopotamus. Playing with the monkeys was quite an adventure! Even though when one mentions Kenya, one often thinks solely of under development and poverty, butwe were impressed when we saw Thicka Road, which is a superhighway that has just been completed thanks to collaboration between the Kenyans and the Chinese.
Another memorable experience was when we visited the Sisters of Tereza Nuzzo who are situated half an hour outside Ruiru, in a poor region called Kitambaya.These Sisters were founded by the Maltese even though there are no Maltese Sisters living there at the moment. They take care of the poor children in their region and they welcomed us with their typical songs and dances. This is the region where most of the children who attend the centre come from.
The society offers a library service to the Electsand the Aspirants who attend the centre.Whenever the library opens, most often twice a week, it is always full of adolescents who are eager to read since they are motivated by an unbelievable hunger for knowledge.
There are positive prospects for the Society of Christian Doctrine in Kenya. The Society needs to consider carefully the formation of its candidates since they live in a situation which is totally different from the Maltese context. First and foremost, the Kenyans’ most basic needs have to be met so that they are given financial stability through jobs. It is only when these basic needs are met that one can start thinking about the formation of the candidates. I also feel that the Society needs to consider how to diversify its work in Kenya. Whilst there, we visited one of the 18 outstations of the parish of Ruiru, that of St Lucy in Membley and a meeting was held for the children where the Sunday Gospel was explained to them.
All in all, it was an incredible experience which we will always treasure. God willing, more members will be interested in going on a similar missionary experience so that they too will be able to partake of the missionary spirit of the Society.