The Dominican Brothers of Eastern Africa

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From the 2nd to the 10th of January 2013, frs Prakash Lohale (Socius for Apostolic Life) and Gabriel Samba (Socius for Africa) made a canonical visitation of the Provincial Vicariate of Eastern Africa on behalf of the Master of the Order. Although the territory of the Vicariate covers Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and South Sudan, at the moment, the bothers are present only in Kenya with three communities.

The Vicar provincial, fr Martin Martiny did everything possible to ensure the success of the visitation. The Prior Provincial of the mother province, St Joseph Province, USA, fr Brian M Mulcahy took time to be with us during the visitation.

The Vicariate of Eastern African was established in 1991 by the Province of St Joseph, USA. The brothers are proud of the legacy of the early Dominicans who came to Kenya to start the mission 22 years ago. At present, there are 17 friars solemnly professed assigned to the vicariate, 8 simply professed friars with 1 novice. There are 8 assigned from other provinces (1 priest, 1 cooperator brother, 5 students and 1 novice).

The Convent of St Dominic is the Studentate which also welcomes students from other entities of IAOP.  There are 3 students from the Provincial Vicariate of Rwanda and Burundi, and 3 from the Provincial Vicariate of Equatorial Africa. The brothers study philosophy at Consolata, Theology at Tangaza College and at The Catholic University of Eastern Africa. Some Dominican  brothers are lecturing in these institutions. The Convent of St Martin de Porres, the only priory of the Vicariate hosts the Novitiate with 2 novices this year (one from Kenya and the other from the Provincial Vicariate of Angola) and the Postulancy with 3 postulants. At the Convent of St Catherine, the brothers are building a new parish church.

The visitation was a short one since the brothers are few (33 in all), but it was an opportune time to renew the fraternal bond with the Master and the members of his General Council. The visitation afforded us an opportunity to see the life and ministry of the brothers in the Vicariate, to confirm their commitment to the vowed life as friars-preachers, and to encourage them to carry on zealously the apostolic preaching of the Gospel.

The visitation took place in a political atmosphere as Kenya is preparing to hold its first national election in March 2013. These political events have a bearing on the brothers in view of the post-election violence experienced in 2008. They are therefore called to be “sober and alert”, and to live the fundamental aspects of our Dominican life in this particular socio-politic context marked by tensions.

Despite their number, the brothers are committed in their apostolates; pastoral care of a parish with stations, teaching in the Universities (CUEA) and Masena in Kisimu, Institute of Consolata, Tangaza College, Maseno University, Chaplaincy, Catechesis, Bernard Lonergan Centre, retreats and recollections, Fr. Thomas Heath Kids, Micro-financing programme, sponsorship for poor children’s education, prison ministry etc. Having a lot of apostolate to manage, the brothers have to prioritize often. They certainly need assistance from their mother province and other IAOP entities in terms of collaboration in formation and mission. The focus of the Vicariate is unmistakably mission. Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, and South Sudan are countries that are growing and progressing economically. The Church is also growing and still taking shape. The brothers are aware of the need to expand and they are taking this seriously.

The idea of the first missionaries was to establish the local Church. Today the idea of mission is to enrich the local Church. The Vicariate is challenged to discern the best way they can enrich the local Church. How can the brothers contribute to enriching the local Church and still continue to live our Dominican heritage? How must the Order continue its presence in the society and Church of Eastern Africa today? These are challenges for the brothers.

We were warmly received and treated hospitably throughout the duration of the visitation. This is a testimony to the brothers tradition of hospitality. Many brothers have fond memories of the gracious hospitality of the brothers. In addition, the Vicariate of Eastern Africa has hosted many meetings of IAOP, and it is preparing to host the 12th General Assembly of IAOP in July 2014.  

At the end of the visitation, we launched a way forward to help the Vicariate to achieve its goals. In accordance with the recommendation of the General Chapter on Rome, 2010 (AGC, n° 224), the Socius of the region will be following up the implementation of the conclusions of the visitation. 

fr Gabriel Samba, OP                                                
Socius for Africa