Friday, June 21, 2024

Kenyan Catholic priest in Shreveport Louisiana

Kenyan Catholic priest in Shreveport Louisiana
Kenyan Catholic priest in Shreveport Louisiana

Kenyan priest pastors two churches in Shreveport. He arrived in the United States in 1998 after being invited to train as a substance abuse counselor for the Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse of Northwest Louisiana.

“There were two of us who came from Africa,” Kamau said. “Both of us were students at the time and while we were here, Bishop (William) Friend ordained us deacons in the church.”

Kamau was in Shreveport for three years before heading back to Kenya in December 2001.

“Back in Kenya, I had seven churches and by the grace of God I managed to serve them all,” he said.

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Now back in Shreveport, Kamau is the pastor of two churches: St. Mary of the Pines Catholic Church and Sacred Heart of Jesus Church.

“I came back here in December 2009 and I went to see the new bishop (Michael Duca) and he said, ‘We’ll send you to pastor St. Mary of the Pines,'” Kamau said. “The pastor who was here before me was preparing to go to Mexico to study … and in April 2010 I was appointed pastor here.”

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Kamau is from the Lyke Community, also known as the Franciscan Missionaries of Hope, which was founded in Nairobi in 1993. There is a Lyke Community in Kenya, in Diocese of Shreveport and the Diocese of Washington, D.C.

“We recruit young men who are interested in both the priesthood and the brotherhood and we train them as missionaries of hope,” he said.

The Lyke Community was named after Archbishop James Patterson Lyke.

“He was a friend of Father Andre McGrath, a Franciscan and pastor of Our Lady of Blessed Sacrament,” Kamau said.

McGrath said Lyke was pastor of St. Benedict the Black in Grambling and in 1979 became the fourth African-American to be named a Roman Catholic bishop.

“He left Grambling and went to Cleveland, Ohio, and that’s where I knew him because I was teaching in the Catholic Seminary where he was,” McGrath said. “We became dear friends and he inspired me to go to the missions in Africa.”

McGrath said the Lyke Community numbers about 50.

In our community we have members mostly from Kenya and we have a few from Uganda and one from Tanzania,” said McGrath, who is a co-founder of the Lyke


Kamau is in the United States along with several other members — referred to as brothers — from the Lyke Community, including Paul Mutisya, Moses Sundwa, Stephen Kanglio, John Paul Crispin and Geoffrey Muga.

“A brother is kind of like a male nun,” McGrath said. “You’re in a convent of men who are committed by vows of poverty, chastity and


The brothers, McGrath said, are in training to be priests. He said in addition to Kamau, there are two other priests — Michael Thang’wa and John Basiimwa — who are on missions in other states although their home base is in Shreveport.

Kamau said there is a shortage of priests in the United States.

“America and Europe are in what you would call a crisis of vocations,” Kamau said. “It means there are not too many young people that are going for the priesthood.”

Kamau said because of that, Europe and America are relying on places such as Asia, Africa, South America and the Caribbean to provide more missionaries.

Nina Glorioso, a member of Sacred Heart of Jesus Church, said she feels blessed both culturally and spiritually.

Thang’wa was in Shreveport for Easter and conducted services. Glorioso said Thang’wa hopes to return to the Diocese of Shreveport as soon as his visa documentation is cleared.

“I am impressed with how they can relate so well to our congregation with their preaching,” she said. “Father Francis is a gifted speaker and has an infectious personality and smile.”

As one can imagine, making the transition from Kenya to Shreveport could be quite challenging but Kamau said he’s slowly adjusting.

“When you find people that are very open-minded and very hospitable, it’s like the transition is not very difficult,” he said. “Language is not a problem because coming from Kenya and East Africa, we speak English so we come over here and language does not become an issue. We communicate very well.”

Kamau added, “We find that the people are very open to receiving new members from other parts of the world to come and serve the church because they know that the church needs those kind of missionaries to come over.”

Two things Kamau found to be quite challenging in his transition: The food and the weather.

“I come from a community that doesn’t eat a lot of seafood,” he said. “And now I come here and people are eating mudbugs. I’ve never seen them before in my life.”

But Kamau said, little by little, he’s learning to like them.

“It was hard in the beginning because the food was all fried and I had to inquire what is this because sometimes you don’t know what you’re eating,” he said.

Kamau said in restaurants, the food has strange names.

“So if I go to a restaurant and they give me the menu, I would have to ask the person to explain to me what it is because the names don’t match,” he said while laughing. “I would have to see the food to know what it is, then I feel comfortable eating it. I’m trying, but it’s not easy.”

In Kenya, Kamau said they eat a lot of corn, beans, rice, lamb, chicken and vegetables.

The weather here, he said, is to the extremes.

“It’s either too cold during winter and it’s too hot and steamy in the summer,” he said.

“If I was wearing these things outside,” he said, referring to the type of clothes he had on, “I would be a dead man.”

The weather in Nairobi, he said, is very moderate.

“It goes between 55 and 77. So our winter is 55 and when it gets hot it goes to 77 or it could hit 80,” he said. “The weather is very nice.”

When he’s not having Mass, Kamau said finding something to do outside church can be difficult.

“I come from a culture or environment where there is so much interaction,” he said. “Here, there is almost no interaction except in the service. The only time I get to see people here is when they come for church service. After that, the people are gone. So I’m kind of cut off here.”

Kamau said back in Kenya, he lived in formation, a community where seminarians are trained.



Kenyan Catholic priest in Shreveport Louisiana

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