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From herds-boy to Jesuit Priest

By Fr. Augostine Edan Ekeno, SJ

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"To all men, therefore, priests are debtors that the truth of the Gospel, which they have may be given to others. And so, whether by entering into profitable dialogue they bring people to the worship of God, whether by openly preaching they proclaim the mystery of Christ, or whether in the light of Christ they treat contemporary problems, they are relying not on their own wisdom for it is the word of Christ they teach, and it is to conversion and holiness that they exhort all men." (Presbyterorum Ordinis, 4)


My journey to priesthood started in the early 90s when the life of shepherding our goats and cows failed to meet my heart's desires. Spending many hours in the bush with animals and being constantly on the move in search of pasture and water raised fundamental questions regarding how I ought to live my life. Besides nomadism, the issue of cattle rustling and the extent to which banditry and fighting for scarce resources had become normalized reinforced my resolve to reconsider a better path to a satisfying life.

This path led me to realize the value of going to school and church. Going to school gave me hope for a better future and the church opened a new horizon that showed me how serving God and the church as a priest is what would make me live a happier life. For me, living a happy life meant providing people of God some kind of direction that leads to God.

As a young man, I witnessed how the high rate of illiteracy and constant tribal clashes blinded the people in the region from realizing what it takes to live a descent life. I felt they needed some guidance and accompaniment for they were like 'sheep without a shepherd'. This experience ignited my desire to take the place of a shepherd in order to lead, not only people in northern Kenya, but others as well in other parts of the world affected by the same challenges to realize how to live the kind of life that pleases God. This is the call that my ordination to priesthood reaffirms.

I see my ordination as a confirmation that I have been called "in the light of Christ" to address the various problems affecting the human body and soul, and by so doing "extort all men" to holiness (Presbyterorum Ordinis, 4). In the words of the General Congregation (GC) 36, such kind of problems "saps the hope and joy that God proclaims and offers through the Gospel." Mine has been the desire to relive my old role as a shepherd, under the true shepherd, Jesus Christ, through reigniting people's hope and joy, dampened by spiritual malnourishment, socioeconomic and political problems.

What I now desire is the grace to be that kind of shepherd that is capable of gathering together as one family the people of God and guide them to become perfect in God's kingdom. This remains my desire and source of consolation. With this hope, I look forward with excitement to take up a new mission in Rumbek in South Sudan. This mission fulfills my heart's desire to serve the vulnerable such as the South Sudanese people who have experienced violent conflict for more than 50 years; a country where generations have grown up knowing nothing but war.

I wholeheartedly embrace this mission with confidence and joy recognizing so well, as the GC 36 companions remarked, that by offering myself, I will be contributing to "the strength and efficacy of the Society all over the world."

 

Source: Eastern Africa Jesuits (AOR) newsletter

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