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{mosimage}Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
I am writing this letter moved by the desire to share with you some information, which relates to the present situation of our Diocese and also to announce some coming events, which are in store for us during the next few weeks and months.

The appointment of a new Bishop
As you very well know, two years have already elapsed since ---as it is requested by the Church legislation--- I submitted to the Holy Father my resignation as the Bishop of Marsabit and this resignation was in principle accepted almost immediately with the provision “Nunc pro Tunc”.

Many of you have often asked me why it was taking so long to appoint the new Bishop. Truthfully, I do not have the answer. Of course, there have been many happenings, which could somehow explain this delay, such as the changing of the Apostolic Nuncio, the death of His Holiness Pope John Paul II, the election of the new Pope, Benedict XVI or the killing of Rt. Rev. Luigi Locati, the Apostolic Vicar of Isiolo, or there could also be other reasons, which have caused the postponement of what myself have been ardently desiring to happen for the good of our Local Church and for my own good.

As a matter of fact, I have had the opportunity of expressing my feelings to the Apostolic Nuncio, His Grace Alain Paul Lebeaupin, enlightening him on the present rather critical situation of the Diocese in regard to personnel and in regard to several other pending questions, whose solutions would perhaps be better left to the new Bishop to take. But he has repeatedly encouraged me to continue on in carrying out my responsibilities, if health allows me to do so, and to let the matter of the election of the new Bishop take its course, and follow the proper procedures. He insisted that in the meantime the ordinary life of the Diocese should go on, without any hesitation and without incurring into any sense of uncertainty, even if it were the question of having to handle urgent matters, as long as any decision is taken in conformity with the Church Law and meeting the spiritual, pastoral and administrative needs of the Diocese.

So what can I say except urging all of us to continue in fulfilling our duties with one accord, generosity of heart and perseverance, while waiting the manifestation of God’s will at its own time and in its own way?

Some taken important decision

It is, therefore, in the light of the above reflections and with the support of the various Diocesan Commissions and in particular of the Diocesan Consultors that I have recently taken the following decisions:

1. The establishment of a “Quasi Parish” of Diriba Gombo. This parish has been cut out from Marsabit Parish, having as outstations Badassa, Boru Haro, Gabra Scheme and Kubi Bagasa, in view of enhancing the evangelization of the people of this area and deepening the faith of the increasing number of Christians. This new parish will be known as St. Paul the Apostle Catholic Parish and has been entrusted to the pastoral care of Fr. Augustino Ledude and Deacon Isaak Ibrahim Racho as his assistant. We wish them success. We have to pray for them.

2. The Construction of a Charitable Diocesan Institution. Since the splitting of the Diocese of Maralal from Marsabit, the desire has been felt on the part of many of us to have such an Institution. The time has come for it. It will also be at Diriba Gombo, near the newly established Parish and St. Paul Secondary School and next to Hekima Primary School. It will be called Fatima Children’s Home. It is for physically disabled children, whose care will be entrusted to the Nirmala Dhasikal Sisters. Construction of this home and of the house of the sisters will soon be on the way with the support of overseas donors.

3. The construction of a multi-purpose hall at the Shrine. This addition to the Maria Mfariji Shrine and House of Prayer will also start soon. It will consist of a wing adjacent to the Shrine, consisting of a hall, dining room, kitchen, sanitation block, garage, workshop, storage and some additional water tanks, etc. The added complex will be suitable to receive and accommodate groups of people, who will visit the Shrine on daily pilgrimages, contrary to those, in small number, who will be willing to reside at the House of Prayer for the purpose of having short spiritual retreats in residence and experience the presence of God in their life through prayer.

Some coming happy events

1. The Priestly Ordination of Deacon Isaak Ibrahim Racho. It will take place at Marsabit Parish on May 7th, the 4th Sunday of Easter, known as Good Shepherd Sunday, a day set aside by the Universal Church to pray for the increase of vocations. Knowing the manifested desire of the Apostolic Nuncio in Kenya to visit Marsabit Diocese, and meet some of our Christian people, what better occasion than having him come to rejoice with us on this very same day? He has accepted to do so.

2. The Official opening of Maria Mfariji Shrine and House of Prayer. We have been looking forward for this event since a long time. For the fulfilment of this desire, we have recently been blessed with the assignment of Fr. John Dutto and Fr. Paul Tablino, both Consolata Fathers, who have been entrusted with the responsibility of the Centre and particularly with the animation of the Prayer House. I believe that there is no better day for this occasion than the Feast of Our Lady of Consolata in whose honour the Shrine and the House of Prayer have been built and are dedicated. We shall do so on Sunday June 25th, a few days after the Solemnity of Our Lady of Consolata, which traditionally falls on June 20th. The modality of this celebration will be entrusted to a Committee, which shall soon be set up to prepare for it spiritually and otherwise. Fr. Dutto will arrive to Marsabit early in May. He will be joined by Fr. Tablino a few weeks later.

Some sad News

1. The death of Fr. Peter Davoli, IMC. He died on Ash Wednesday, March 1st in Torino, sixteen days before his 95th birthday. He left Kenya a year or so ago because of old age, after having spent 62 years in Kenya.

He was truly a missionary pioneer. We have a particular duty to remember him in our prayers, since he has helped Bishop Cavallera to start the Mission of Sololo, South Horr, Maralal and Baragoi. In one of his last letters that he wrote to his confreres in Kenya, he expressed again his desire to be given to come back to do a little more missionary work, but he realised that he could not do so and he instead wrote “Yes, even if my body is far, my mind and my spirit are still and always in Africa.” May his great soul rest in peace and may God grant him the crown of the Apostles.

2. Withdraw of the Comboni Missionaries from Sololo Parish. On January 11th, last, Fr. Marian Tibaldo, the Provincial Superior of the Comboni Congregation in Kenya, has informed me that, due to lack of personnel and after a painful discernment with his Consultors, he was forced to take the regretful decision to withdraw the only Comboni priest remaining in Sololo Mission and so to hand over their commitment to the Diocese of Marsabit by the end of July this year. 

I must admit that the news was a shock not only for me but also for many other persons both within and outside the Diocese, particularly considering the transitional and already difficult situation in which the Diocese of Marsabit finds itself. However sorrowful as this decision happens to be, this news must be accepted in faith. Fr. Mariano has pledged himself to help us to find other missionary Congregations to replace the Comboni Missionaries in Sololo but this wish will not be easy to fulfil, since even greater efforts have been tried unsuccessfully on behalf of other areas of the Diocese, where also more missionaries, both priests and sisters are necessary for the work of first evangelization.

So let us pray that while we, too, are forced to suffer with faith this abrupt decision, the Comboni Missionaries, who have been working so successfully in Sololo since 1973, investing so much personnel and resources in missionary work, will continue to offer ---as much as possible--- and elsewhere in the Diocese, their valuable assistance, since the Diocese of Marsabit is still badly in need of first evangelization, which is the main reason for the foundation and for the very being of any missionary Congregation.

In regard to Sololo and in view of preparing ourselves to take over the responsibility of the Parish, I have assigned Fr. George Guyo, as Assistant Parish Priest. Having already done pastoral work during his formation years, he will get better acquainted with the people and the planned pastoral activities, together with Fr. Jesus Lobato presently Father in Charge of Sololo Mission.

Lenten Season

Let me end my letter with a call to strive to live well this holy period of lent, which once again has come upon us. We should be reminded that according to the theme of our three years Pastoral Plan we have committed ourselves to the “Renewal of Faith” both in ourselves and in the people entrusted to our pastoral care.

We should, however, not forget that the renewal of Christian faith is geared in and aimed at the deepening of Christian love towards God and towards one’s neighbour. That is what the first Encyclical letter “God is Love” by Benedict XVI seems to beautifully illustrate. The Pope has also written a Lenten message in this regard. Even the yearly Lenten Campaign Booklet, prepared also this year by the Justice and Peace Commission in the name of the Bishops in Kenya, while quoting the National Anthem, speaks of the most basic prerequisites of the love of God and love of neighbour i.e., Unity, Peace and Liberty. There are other catechetical aids available for us to properly carry out Lenten Christian instructions for our lay faithful, particularly, keeping in mind catechumens, who are taking the last steps of their journey of faith before becoming children of God through Holy Baptism. So, best wishes and the promise of my prayers for a successful and fruitful Lenten Season. A deep spirit of prayerfulness is the best guarantee that it will be so! I am sending you a copy of Pope’s letter “God is Love” and his Lenten message.

Finally, may I remind the priests that the Rite of the Blessing of the Holy Oils and the Renewal of our Priestly Promises will ---also this year--- take place on Thursday, April 6th, a week earlier than Holy Thursday. Fr. John Kofi will also send you a reminder for it. This yearly “get-together” of all the priests working in our Diocese is a wonderful occasion to show the unity of the priesthood and to foster fraternal charity. Please, don’t miss to attend it!

With my blessing and thanks for everything, I remain,

Sincerely yours,

Rt. Rev. Ambrose Ravasi, IMC
Bishop of Marsabit

March 5th, 2006
First Sunday of Lent