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Fr Odiwa to return home – as bishop


When anyone congratulates Father Michael Odiwa on his appointment as Bishop of the Kenyan diocese of Homa Bay he “tears up”.

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“I still have this business of tears in my eyes,” Fr Odiwa told The Southern Cross a few days after Pope Francis announced his appointment on November 29.

Describing as “scary” the prospect of returning to shepherd his home diocese, Fr Odiwa said he would put his trust in the Lord and in “my good friends who will counsel me”.

When he first told his 90-year-old mother that he was returning home, he couldn’t bring himself to tell her it was as the new bishop.

“She couldn’t connect with that as well so I told her I was being transferred – she was overjoyed and said ‘thank God’,” he said.

When he later told her he was to be the bishop she was even more excited. One of nine children, he has five surviving siblings living in the diocese.

A humble Fr Odiwa said his tears were of “sadness” to be leaving but also “concern and trepidation for the greatness of the office”.

The large diocese bordering Tanzania and Uganda covers 7780 square kilometres and comprises approximately 900,000 Catholics.

It’s a far cry from Hectorville parish where he has been serving the Italian-speaking community, celebrating Mass and visiting people in their homes and aged care residences.

He laughs when he recalls the reaction of the Italians when he first arrived five years ago.

“One lady told me she had switched off when she saw the African priest process into the church,” he said.

“She had her eyes closed and then when she heard me speak in Italian, she couldn’t believe it.”

Fr Odiwa said his time in Adelaide had been “wonderful”.

“South Australians are lovely people, they are welcoming, open, forthright,” he said.

“I think my experience here has shaped a lot of my character as a person, I am most grateful.”

Adelaide Archbishop Patrick O’Regan assured the bishop-elect of “the prayers and best wishes of our whole Archdiocesan family, for him and for his diocese, as he prepares to take on his new ministry”.

The 58-year-old canon lawyer was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Homa Bay in 1993 and is a former Vicar General of the diocese.

Hectorville parish staff described Fr Odiwa as “a beautiful person” and said he would be a big loss for the community.

A date for his ordination and installation have yet to be set but Fr Odiwa said he expected he would remain in Adelaide until late January.


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