By Samuel Waweru
The new Bishop of Kitui Diocese, Rt. Rev. Joseph Mwongela, has promised to be a loving and caring bishop who will strive to be pastoral in his episcopate.
Addressing the congregation shortly after his consecration and installation as Bishop of Kitui Diocese on 29th, August 2020, at St. Charles Lwanga Secondary School grounds in Kitui, Bishop Mwongela promised to sustain the momentum and complete the projects initiated under the 2016-2021 diocesan strategic plan drawn during the reign of his predecessor, Most Rev. Anthony Muheria.
“I promise to be a loving and caring bishop,” said the new bishop. “I shall strive to be a pastoral bishop, one who smells the sheep. May we all work together with love and joy to build the kingdom of God. Let us continue with what has been started so that we realize those dreams even as we explore new ways of building faith in our diocese.”
The new bishop called on leaders at all levels of authority to embrace servant leadership and humility in their work. He cautioned them against using their leadership positions to amass wealth but to always strive to do that which is good.
“You are God’s chosen instruments to transform the world,” said the Bishop. “Leadership is for service. Strive to earn greatness through humble service. Our dignity and greatness do not depend on what we are or what we have amassed but on who we are to the people we serve.”
The Bishop promised to work closely with all the leaders in transforming Kitui and the nation of Kenya towards greater prosperity.
“We’ll work together, not always for condemnation, but through exaltation and collaboration to make Kitui and Kenya great.”
Bishop Mwongela reached out to priests in the diocese, saying he was counting on their support as his closest collaborators in serving the people of Kitui.
“In me you have a loving father,” he said. “Each one of you is my beloved son. Let us be friends as we serve. May selfishness never enslave us. Let the Diocese of Kitui rejoice because it has priests who know the meaning and identity of priesthood. May we constantly rediscover the value of priesthood and live it to the fullest in total service to God’s people.”
He urged the youth to increasingly take up an active role in building the nation and Church, and avoid being distracted to mess up their future.
“There is a lot of hope in you. You are precious. You are a blessing to the world. Take a role in building the nation. Listen to the voice of Jesus who calls,” he said.
To married couples, the bishop encouraged them to love one another as Christ loves the Church. “Be the best couples conceivable, it is possible, try it. Enjoy marriage and parenthood,” he said.
“For you who are single or widowed, you have a place in the heart of Jesus. Stand strong in faith and serve God. Jesus promised never to leave us as orphans. Believe in that promise and count on my prayers as I count on yours.”
Bishop Joseph Mwongela was appointed by Pope Francis as Bishop of Kitui on March 17th, 2020. He was scheduled to be consecrated as bishop on June 8th but this was pushed to August 29th following the outbreak of Covid-19 in the country which led to cancellation of all public events, including religious functions.
Reminiscing on the long wait for his ordination, Bishop Mwongela chose to look at the positive side of the pandemic, saying it presented a moment of renaissance.
“Those who wait patiently reap the fruits,” said the bishop. “Covid-19 has taken a toll on us. I become a shepherd during this pandemic. I refuse to dwell on the negative side because these are moments of rebirth. We have to start afresh, knowing that God has never abandoned us and it is during such moments when he tries our leadership. The Covid-19 pandemic will go away and we shall move on.”
In his address, the outgoing Apostolic Administrator of Kitui, Most Rev. Anthony Muheria, appealed to the Christian faithful in the diocese to support and listen to their new shepherd so that together they can strengthen faith in the diocese.
“My final words to you the people of Kitui, love your new shepherd, take care of him, listen, support and protect him,” said Archbishop Muheria. “There is a lot to be done. We ask the Lord to make it possible, to give strength and courage to our new bishop.”
On his part, the Apostolic Nuncio to Kenya, His Excellency Archbishop Bert van Megen, congratulated the new bishop on his ordination and assured him of his collaboration and prayers.
He noted that priesthood and Religious life are sacrifices that people make by leaving their families so as to serve Christ. “I promise to work with you, to pray for you. We ask for God’s graces and blessings upon you,” said the Apostolic Nuncio.
President Uhuru Kenyatta, in a message read on his behalf by Devolution Cabinet Secretary, Hon. Eugene Wamalwa, assured the new bishop and the Church of Government’s readiness to work with them closely to promote continued partnership between State and Church in fostering national values.
The President acknowledged the great role played by the Church in the clamour for change in Kenya which gave birth to the 2010 constitution. He told the Church to never shy away from playing its rightful role as the conscience of the nation and reservoir of sacred values, norms and ethics.
“I call on the Church to continue preaching against corruption, ethnic balkanization, impunity and other vices with even greater vigour and intensity,” said the President.
The ceremony was held in strict compliance with Covid-19 regulations, with a restricted number of people physically present. Among those in attendance were 15 Catholic Archbishops and bishops led by the Chairman of the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops, Most Rev. Philip Anyolo, and the Apostolic Nuncio to Kenya H.E. Bert van Megen.
Others present included the Devolution Cabinet Secretary Hon. Eugene Wamalwa and the Governors of Kitui, Machakos and Makueni, among other local leaders.