Lauded by many as a fearless man of God who was not afraid to disagree with the powers that be, the late Emeritus Archbishop Raphael Ndingi Mwana’a Nzeki was the first Kamba to be ordained a Roman Catholic priest.
Were it not for the troubles caused by Coronavirus in the country, his burial would have attracted thousands of Kenyans whose lives were impacted by his works.
Interestingly, Ndingi was born on Christmas day, December 25, 1931. He was the last born in a family of five and at the time, Kambas were yet to embrace western education.
The government then ordered each family to volunteer a boy to go to school or surrender a cow as a penalty.
Mzee Joseph Nzeki, Ndingi’s father, volunteered a son but he refused to take up the position.
Ndingi was then ‘offered’ as a replacement, and this was the start of his journey to greatness.
He attended primary school at Manyani Holy Ghost and later Kabaa but a plague came upon the area, claiming several lives.
Ndingi survived this and completed his primary school education at Etikoni before proceeding to Kabaa High School.
He then attended Kilimambogo Teachers’ College and graduated as a P3 teacher in 1950.
Ndingi taught for a while before attending Kibosho Seminary in Tanzania where he studied Philosophy and later Morogoro Senior Seminary for Theological studies.
He was ordained a priest at Kabaa parish on January 1, 1961, and was later posted to Our Lay of Visitation Makadara, where he worked with the resident priests to establish a hostel for young men and women.
During his time, he also worked at Starehe Boys Centre as a Catholic Chaplain and developed a strong working relationship with the late Geoffrey Griffin.
He was ordained the first bishop of the Diocese of Machakos in 1969 before his transfer to Nakuru.
Ndingi later became the Archbishop of Nairobi and served for over ten years. After his retirement, he led a quiet life at the Clergy Home and rested on March 30, 2020.