Much like an African Union summit in downtown Nairobi, the patriarchal seminary which is part of the Greek-dominated Patriarchate of Alexandria and All Africa today attracts a pan-African crowd. Recent graduates include men from Burundi, Cameroon, Madagascar, Malawi, Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe. This past year, the seminary, which enrolls about 45 students in its three-year program, graduated seven priests, each of whom held a different African passport. But despite their cultural differences, said the archbishop, all the students share the same objective: To discover the true meaning of life in Orthodox Christianity and take that authentic message to the different tribes of Kenya and Africa.
Orthodoxy, through the liturgical life of the school, is uniting them all and they become one. And you know how difficult that is when you are dealing with diverse cultures. It is not something easy, something simple. But by the grace of God, we are able to achieve so many things, he said.
Summer vacation has just begun, but in the seminarys lush, palm-filled courtyard, two seminarians sit anxiously outside the archbishops office. Dressed in dapper black suits and wearing sunglasses attire that seems to disguise their humble origins as peasant farmers second-year Philip Chasia and third-year Charles Otieno await their appointment with the archbishop at which they will present their progress reports. The young men plan to spend the summer visiting remote parishes and villages in their home province of Nyanza some 250 miles west of the Kenyan capital near Lake Victoria. Readying for the trip, they are full of zeal.
These three months, began Mr. Otieno, we are taking the theological knowledge we have gained here and bringing it to our people of south Nyanza. From what he has seen, the people there hunger for Jesus. They want more churches and priests. Im going to plant the Orthodox faith there, chimed in Mr. Chasia, who will work in two isolated villages whose residents have expressed interest in the Orthodox faith. At the moment, they cannot even make the Sign of the Cross. They just dont know anything concerning the Orthodox Church. So my plan is to build for them a very good foundation.
Innocently, the seminarians recognize but remain undeterred by the vocations inherent challenges: too few priests, a vast territory to cover, tough competition from other churches, a diverse flock to serve and a permanent shortage of funds.Its not easy. Its a heavy task. There are many challenges, said Mr. Chasia. You have to sweat. You really have to sweat.
While Kenyas Orthodox Church constitutes Africas largest indigenous Orthodox community, it comprises only an estimated 300,000 of Kenyas 30 million people. But despite the churchs modest size, few would dispute that its 156 priests, who serve over 300 parishes, are overworked. Adding to the workload, the church continues to expand, receiving new members on a regular basis.
The number is increasing every day, added Archbishop Makarios.
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