I had already picked the girl I would marry and I would say I will not become a priest, I will marry her — Father Romano
By Marion Ndung’u
The bespectacled amiable well-built man mingles freely with villagers in Nairutia, Nyeri County.
For the years he has lived in Kenya, the Italian has been assimilated to the local Kikuyu culture and apart from the colour of his skin and accent, nothing else betrays his origin.
Within minutes of meeting Father Romano Filippi, laughter is unavoidable for the charismatic Catholic father has a great sense of humour. At 71 years, Father Romano is fit and goes around his chores with ease.
Mondays are supposedly his off days, but when we visit the church, we find a number of people seated outside his office seeking to see him.
He speaks to his parishioners in the local language, Kikuyu and even says Mass in the language. And because of the ease with which he relates with his people, Father Romano is a household name among the Catholics and Protestants in Nyeri and beyond.
He first came to Kenya in 1971 and set base in Naromoru parish where he started a home for disabled children.
But soon his sights were set on other things to make his people more comfortable. He made water accessible to many families in Kieni for just Sh200 per month.
“I wanted to sink a borehole in the parish but I felt it was unfair to have water while everyone else had to go for miles to find water,” says Romano.
With only Sh3,000, he started off the 350-kilometre Mutitu water project that has become synonymous with his name. He got sponsors to help fund the project and the community contributed Sh15 million of the more than 150 million spent.