Grand reception awaits Bishop Korir’s successor

After a long wait, Eldoret diocese Catholic Church faithful are finally ready to welcome their new bishop.

The man poised to fill the late Bishop Cornelius Korir big shoes is one of many firsts having been attracted into the church after seeing one of the few black catholic missionaries, Fr Michael Toror while a student at the Kituro High School in the 1970s.

Bishop Dominic Kimengich will be installed on Saturday. 

Through the Vicar General of the Catholic Diocese of Eldoret, Fr William Kosgei, priests said they have confidence in Bishop Kimengich’s leadership. The bishop was ordained into priesthood in 1986.

According to Fr Kosgei, Kimengich was the first to be ordained as a priest in the Tugen community in Baringo County, an area that was dominated by the African Inland Church (AIC).

“During the days of his childhood, the bishop grew up in a society where Catholicism was rare. Baringo County where he comes from was predominantly protestant and how he became priest remains interesting,” said Fr Kosgei. Fr Kosgei said during that period, Baringo area occupied by the Tugen community was under the Catholic Diocese of Eldoret and was an outstation of Nerkwo Parish in Marakwet.

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Kenyan priest

“Eldoret missionaries went to Baringo and Kimengich was surprised to see a Kenyan priest. All priests who had gone to minister in the area were all foreigners. To him, meeting one from his community was an inspiration,” he added.

The bishop would later develop interest in joining priesthood and ended up converting his parents to Catholicism. Since then, Kimengich never turned back and took it upon himself to inspire more youth into priesthood. He has so far led to the ordination of at least 10 priests from his community.

One of the bishop’s hobbies is singing. He has composed several songs that are sung across the Rift Valley during mass. He composed most of the songs when he worked as a priest in Kipsaraman, Baringo County. “Apart from composing songs, the bishop is one of the best guitarists in the Church,” said Fr Kosgei. Fr Fredrick Kapsir, Kimengich’s nephew, who was ordained into priesthood earlier this month said he was glad to work under his uncle who also inspired him into joining the seminary. 

“You can imagine when your uncle is your boss. It feels good but again it makes you anxious since this is someone who knows you too well. I wouldn’t want to let him down,” Fr Kipsir who has been posted to Mokwo Parish, nearly 40 kilometres away from Eldoret said.

Kipsir described his uncle as a down to earth man who has generously helped needy people throughout his life even before he joined priesthood.

“I lived with him about 2007 and 2008 when I completed high school and that is when he mentored me. He would visit my mother often and I saw how people respected him and that encouraged me to become a priest. I wouldn’t be who I am were it not for him,” he said. “You can’t distinguish the priestly character in him from his ordinary life. He is naturally a polite man and one who loves service to humanity.”

Kapsir told the Sunday Standard that the Bishop takes his religious duties seriously, praying the rosary daily.

Bishop Kimengich is, however, not new in Eldoret. He has been holding a series of fundraising meetings under his Friends of Lodwar, a group he formed to support his apostolic work in the drought-prone Turkana County.

“In Lodwar, Kimengich took over from the white missionaries. At the time he took over the project, the church was like the government providing all services including education and health to the residents, he continued the good work and ensured things ran they used to. Succeeding the missionaries wasn’t easy but he did it,” Fr Kosgei said.

Paul Okello, a member of the Catholic Men Association (CMA) in the diocese, said Catholic men from all the 62 parishes will congregate at Moi’s Bridge on the border of Uasin Gishu and Trans Nzoia counties on Friday to welcome the new Bishop.

Mr Okello said they will receive the bishop who will be accompanied by hundreds of Catholic faithful from Turkana County where he has been based.

Kimengich will be led to his new home in Eldoret in a procession from Moi’s Bridge after a mass.

“In Eldoret, we will walk through town and take our new bishop to the Sacred Heart Cathedral where a mass will be celebrated. We will later take him to the bishop’s house where he will spend the night before the installation on Saturday,” the CMA chairman said.

He continued: “We are happy to get a new bishop. From what we have heard about him, he will fit well into the shoes of the late Korir. He believes in self-reliance and Eldoret is endowed with resources so he be right at home.” Fr Fredrick Njoroge, also a scholar said it took long to get Bishop Korir’s replacement as the process is intricate and secretive. He also said appointees are taken by surprise as the whole process is highly guarded.

Fr Njoroge, who is also a lecturer at Moi University, said the process of appointing a new bishop starts with the Pope through the nunciature of the country in which a vacancy of a Bishop arises.

Pope’s office

“Names are listed and after that information about those listed for the position will be sought in a secret manner that no one will know. The information is sought from all levels of the church starting from the parishes all the way to the Pope’s office. They will look for information about the selected priest everywhere including the seminary where he studied,” Fr Njoroge explained.

Bishop Kimengich, 58, who has served as the Bishop of Lodwar Diocese since 2011 will be installed in an auspicious ceremony in Eldoret to replace the Korir who died on October 30, 2017 in his house in Eldoret. He is to take up a job that was previously done by a man described as a peace icon who tirelessly brokered peace in a volatile region.

There is high anxiety in Eldoret ahead of the ushering in of Bishop Kimengich who was appointed by Pope Francis in Mid-November last year. Kitale Diocese Bishop Maurice Crowley has been doubling up as an apostolic administrator since Korir’s demise. In Lodwar, Kimengich succeeded Bishop Patrick Harrington, an Irish who resigned as Bishop of the diocese on March 5, 2011.

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Eldoret diocese Catholic ChurchBishop Cornelius KorirBishop Dominic Kimengich