Dressed in sparkling pontifical vestments, a smiling Bishop Arnold Subira Anyolo stepped out in style as he opened yet another chapter in his 36 years’ service to the Catholic Church.
The expansive and sun-baked Uzima University College grounds in Kisumu shook with song and dance as Anyolo took over as Archbishop of Kisumu from his retiring colleague - Archbishop emeritus Zacheus Okoth.
Anyolo and Okoth are pulpit veterans who have risen over the ranks to enter the church’s top hierarchy. Deputy President William Ruto and Opposition chief Raila Odinga were among thousands of faithful and guests from other religious organisations that braved the sweltering lakeside heat and swirling dust to witness the historic occasion.
“I am not being detached from Homa Bay but I am being extended to Kisumu. I will miss you but I will have you in my heart,” Rev Anyolo said on arrival from Homa Bay on Friday.
He was later escorted by hundreds of his flock, humming hymns, and police to Nyakwere on the Kisumu-Homa Bay border where they handed him over to the Kisumu Archdiocese team amid ululations.
Homa Bay County Police Commander Marius Tum said they escorted him as a VIP because of his new status. Yesterday, Archbishop Anyolo promised to give his best to the Church, just as he has done ever since he was ordained as priest in 1983. In a 16-minute speech, Archbishop Anyolo called on Christians to pray for him and work towards bringing Christ in their hearts.
“I come here with humility as a servant of God, a child of the universe and a son of our beloved church that calls us to be rooted in Christ.” Bishop Okoth thanked the congregation and the faithful of Kisumu archdiocese saying he was headed to “build bridges” and pray for Christians.
“I thank you all as I embark on my appointment of bringing peace and uniting the nation as a family of God,” said Okoth.
Pope’s Representative Monsignore Marco congratulated Anyolo and wished him well in his ministry. He said it was because of his great work that the Pope singled him out form the position. John Cardinal Njue led Catholic bishops in congratulating and decorating the new Archbishop who was handed over a V-shaped “authority” cap and a small round purple cap - zuchtto - to symbolise leadership.
While DP William Ruto presented the new Archbishop with a new Toyota Prado, Raila gifted him a shield and a spear to symbolise his fight against evil.
Anyolo started out as an ordinary village boy in Tongareni, Bungoma. The star of his priesthood shone when he met two priests from Ireland and one from Kenya, all of them serving at Tongaren Parish. The Irish priests were Father Noel McHenry and Father Tom Smith while the Kenyan was Father Philip Sulumeti. The rest, as they say, is history.