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African priest ready to walk alongside SA parishioners

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He’s walked alongside the Maasai people in Kenya and now the Archdiocese’s newest international priest is looking forward to getting in step with the people of South Australia.

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Fr Paul Mwaura Gicheha (pictured) from the diocese of Ngong, Kenya, arrived in Adelaide mid-September and has been getting to know the staff within the Archdiocese, visiting local parishes and seeing the sights of the city – by foot, of course.

Ordained in 2004, Fr Mwaura has spent the majority of his time as a priest working with members of the Maasai community who are well known for their nomadic lifestyle.

“The diocese of Ngong is basically a Maasai area. The people you are always interacting with are Maasai so you’ve got to learn their language and their culture,” he said.

“About 90 per cent are Catholics and they treasure you (as a priest) a lot. They are God-fearing people and they love the Catholic Church because it has enabled them to be who they are.”

Fr Mwaura, 43, explained that when the Maasai would move out with their cattle in search of green pastures, the Catholic priests and missionaries would walk alongside them, helping to build schools in places where the women and children were left behind.

“Most of the schools and health facilities were established by the missionaries and that’s why the Maasai honour them and the priests. They hold them in high regard…you’ll never find a Maasai arguing with a priest!

“I also walked with them and went to their settlements and evangelised with them, catechising them in preparation for baptism.”

As the local priest his ministry involved helping the community in many ways.

If a Maasai woman went into labour it was him they would call upon to help get her to the health facilities – no matter what time of day it was.

“My work has not only been evangelisation among the Maasai but also working with their social issues,” he said.

His ministry has also included serving in the more urban setting of St Peters Catholic parish. There he was general manager of Osotua Catholic Radio which provided another tool for evangelising the Maasai people through “talking about the Bible and prayers” in their native language.

“We also used the radio programs to educate them on how to live, about HIV, about diseases and politics.”

As the parish priest his responsibilities included the role of director of St Peters Academy and pre-school, a leading education institution for more than 1000 children.

Raised by his “staunch Catholic” mother after his Dad died when he was young, Fr Mwaura said he knew the priesthood was for him after serving as an altar boy.

“I would see the missionary priests from Ireland celebrating Mass and I always wanted to be like them. This was a driving force in my life.”

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