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1. Introduction
Presence of the Combonis in the area
As Comboni Missionaries we came to Kenya in 1973 from Uganda. One of the first dioceses where we came to work was Eldoret. We settled in areas in need of first evangelisation along the border of Uganda, since we were already in Moroto diocese. We took over the parish of Tartar and split it into three: Kapenguria, Tartar and Kacheliba. This last mission took all the area of Karapokot which had been up to then part of Amudat mission (Uganda).
Since the time of our arrival, in our missionary ministry we have been developing structures of parishes and of human promotion which we handed over to the diocese once the missions had developed enough in terms of knowledge of our faith and establishment of Christian communities. Those parishes were offshoots from Kapenguria and Tartar, such as: Kolongolo, Kapichpich, Sina, Makutano.
At present, we are working in Kapenguria, Kacheliba and Amakuriat (Chelopoy being an offspring of this one). Our work is about evangelising those who do not know Christ yet, and about the nurturing of young Christian communities of an area which is mostly inhabited by pokot pastoralists. In our evangelising activities, we try to bring forth the wholesome message of Christ, inviting people to take part in the banquet of God’s Kingdom, caring for those who are most in need. We want them to enjoy God’s love within our faith and church and to improve their human conditions, fulfilling what Jesus did in his turn (Lk 4:14ff), and what Comboni was doing for the African people he was freeing from slavery.
After all these years, we can say that the evangelisation of the Pokot has been hazardous, especially the pastoralists, but lately even they are accepting the Gospel more openly, especially women. At present, distances, roads, mountains and sickness makes the evangelisation of our people still a tough task to accomplish. Yet, we know that we are fulfilling Jesus’ commandment of bringing to the Father’s sheepfold the lost sheep, and attaching to the crown of the Church the Pokot people for God’s glory (as Comboni would say).

2. Social and geographical environment
Main features of the people
As missionaries we dedicate ourselves to any person in need of God and wishing to improve his condition, regardless of their ethnicity, education, age and gender. In the area the majority of the population belongs to the Pokot tribe. 
The Pökot of the area are pastoralists, they depend on cows, goats, sheep and camels for their survival, though there is an increasing interest in agriculture; the pity is that the rainfall is not very reliable, and they are lacking people to educate them into it. Women are the ones doing much of the tilling of the land. The landscape is thorny savannah bush bordered by the Chemoronkit mountains (a small ridge of steep mountains on whose tops people try to get a better harvest of maize, but the ridge is narrow and the rainfall irregular).

The Pokot are enduring people in adversity, able to live with little. Their society is well organized around their traditions and the authority of the elders. There is tight control on misbehaviour (e.g. adultery, stealing, killings). The roles of women and men are clearly defined. Women in the past did not play an important role in the public eye, but they did influence their husbands and children. Nowadays, they have a greater say in public meetings, though they still remain second class citizens. They have high esteem for their family and off-springs, though in competition with their appreciation of cattle. Their religiosity concentrates on restoring life and keeping harmonious relations among themselves. There is an increasing acceptance of God in their lives, as the one who provides and cares for his creatures. They enjoy Christian prayers, but do not care much for morals outside their traditions.

The harsh environment of the area, the cultural practices regarding livestock and poor agriculture make it impossible to have reliable sources of food; its scarcity is a common occurrence. However, gold panning and aloe extraction is boosting the economy of the families without disturbing the livestock, since those activities are done mostly by women. Diseases continue being on the increase as the virus of malaria, typhus, HIV keep on becoming resistant. Infant mortality has dropped a lot thanks to mother and child clinics.

The security of the area remains very defective because of cattle raiding and stealing with neighbouring tribes. The police cannot do much and army operations to retrieve illegal guns from the people have proved useless. Nonetheless, big raids are not happening nowadays. The men of the bordering communities are not very interested in Christianity also because of the morals of peace and marriage that we propose.

During the last two decades the need of cash and of food has led the people to clear areas of rain forest, for cultivation; and to increase the production of charcoal to sell in towns. The degradation of the land is a fact for which people do not have solutions in their traditions, because of their living in trust lands, of their dislike for the government, and of the absence of government officials and the spreading of their corrupted and irresponsible attitudes.
Water catchments and boreholes are good source of water that help people to settle down, be more stable and improve their security and new sources of income. Yet, the maintenance of boreholes depends almost entirely on our missions.
Dependence on alcohol has become a severe problem for many people, including women. Protestant Christians seem to be more effective in providing solutions.

It is a matter of fact that the culture of the Pokot is evolving and it is being influenced from outside. Those influences are improving their living conditions but they are also eroding their system of values and their gridlock measurements of checks and balances. Besides, in their culture there are practices that need updating to push aside whatever is harmful to the people (FGM, traditional medicine, etc.) while keeping the values that are beneficial. People need to jump over the taboos that envelop some topics in order to deal with them in an efficient way; this is very true on matters pertaining to gender relations and improvement of the conditions of women.

The role of women in society and family is changing and affecting the ego of men more than what they think, this is much more true regarding educated women. HIV remains a hidden prowling evil which people do not want to accept. Traditional attitudes towards sex are being corrupted for the worse thanks to modern influences. In traditional environments the elderly are taken care of, but in areas around towns it has started to be a problem.

The youth are challenged by the lack of jobs for them, but also by the fact that those who went to school refuse blue collar employments. Because of this attitude there are not many Pokot technicians in the area. Those jobs are taken by outsiders, whose presence influences, for good and not so good, the young of the area.
Illiteracy is very widespread and calls on the population for adult education as well as an increase in school education. Handfuls of poor people challenge the culture as they come from other tribes (Turkana), or are impoverished Pokot that people prefer not to consider.
The political and professional leaders of the Pokot are suffering from the abuses of power common in Kenya bringing about corruption and unequal distribution of land.

3. Church life
History of the Catholic church in the area
Christianity came first thanks to missionaries belonging to the Church Missionary Society of the Anglican Church. The Catholic Church came to Tartar in the early 1940’s. At that time this place was an outstation of Mukumu (near Kakamega) taken care of by the Mill Hill missionaries under Kisumu diocese. With the opening of Eldoret Diocese, missionaries from St. Patrick Missionary Society started mission stations in Tartar (1953) and Ortum (1956), which later split with the openings of Chepereria, Kapenguria and Psigor.

The spreading of the gospel was done hand in hand with some social services in the health and education sectors. The teaching of the gospel was done through catechists and teachers of bush schools. Human development came thanks to the assistance of missionary Sisters and Brothers. Mobile clinics and dispensaries were helpful showing people that we cared for their well-being. The building of schools and the sponsorship of students have brought a great improvement in the living conditions of the people. In spite of the great efforts put into education by missionaries, Pokot people have been slow in responding to school education.

On the high lands of Kapenguria and Lelan the response to the Gospel has been positive. Christians are well organized in parishes, chapels and small Christian communities. The variety of ethnic groups and exposure to the outside world has also contributed to the openness of mind and heart of the people.

Statistics and membership
The evangelisation of the Pokot has been characterized by hardships and challenges: from the geography, from the people, from civil administrators, from the language itself, from catechists. The growth of Christianity has been slow. Only in the more settled communities was fast enough. At present the Catholic Church, ACK, Lutherans, AIC and Full Gospel are the main churches. Protestant churches are spreading faster than the Catholic Church because they are less moralising and more pentecostal oriented. In our missions we found it difficult to keep good catechists for long.

Notwithstanding those difficulties the Catholic Church has spread quite a lot among the Pokot. In our present parishes the percentage of Catholic membership remains 10-15% of the total population. We have a good number of catechumens, and yet the chapels do not get full as much as they could. The registered Catholics, more or less according to records, are: Amakuriat 5000, Kacheliba 4000, Kapenguria over 7000.

Missions and parishes in Kitale diocese
The diocese of Kitale was created in 1998. Our communities continued to belong to the West-Pokot Deanery, and continued to work hand in hand with the other parishes. We follow the  pastoral plan of the diocese of 2005-09 and make ample use of some diocesan departments … depending on their availability, because some of them find it hard to move to our areas because of distances, roads and people. Justice and Peace and health seem to be the most efficient. We acknowledge that the pastoral approach in parishes has to be different from the one in the missions. But the diocese concentrates on parishes, invades us with leaflets and invitations to meetings which we cannot attend because of distances, costs and late information. We worked very well with other priests in the deanery, but lately the deanery is quite stagnant. Leadership determines very much its efficiency.

The teaching of our faith was possible thanks to the help of catechists who have been able to put our thoughts into their culture and our words into their language, which has been difficult to learn. Yet, we have been forced to start over and over again because not many of them have been constant in their commitment.
We got very much involved in school education and we expected more committed Christians out of them; but that has not been the case.

Inter-religious dialogue
There are many Christian churches in the area. We relate with them in respect while keeping distances. None has interest in cultivating relations. On the contrary, some of them disturb us with calumnies and defamation. Few development activities have been done in cooperation with other churches.
Islam is not much present in the area. It is followed by the Somali merchants and few Pokot people. Their number increases slowly. They prefer to cultivate a belligerent attitude towards the Catholic Church.
On our side, we had and have respect towards them, and hire people from any denomination and faith.

Polygamy remains a challenge to our evangelisation. Few of our Catholics live a good Christian family life. The same can be said about the participation of men in the church, and about the leadership women can do in the church. 
There is a fairly high outflow of members away from the Catholic church, either enticed by gifts from other churches, lack of personal contact with them, pressure from other Christians, drinking habits, and simple proselytising. According to statistics the non-practicing Catholics rate is high, or they are just “seasonal Catholics”. The ways of preaching of Pentecostal churches, their theology of salvation, the participation of people, etc. seem to be appealing to many people in our area.
Infant baptism is appealing to non-Catholic Christians and to Catholics, but we are lacking means and policies to follow up the families of those children and their growth into faith, once they have grown.
Our Christian communities need to grow in self-reliance in all senses: leadership, vocational catechists, vocations for priesthood and consecrated life, finances.
At times, local traditions and calendar conflict with the liturgical year of the Church. Likewise, they disturb the steps towards baptism and other initiation sacraments. There is need for a more complementary approach, rather than parallel ways.

4. Comboni Missionaries’ presence
Our communities
At present our communities in Kitale diocese are Kapenguria, Kacheliba and Amakuriat. We have handed over to the local churches the parishes of Tartar, Kolongolo, Kapichpich, Sina and Makutano. In all the parishes we have been working with Sisters, either the Comboni Missionary Sisters or the Evangelising Sisters. The mutual understanding has been fruitful, while cooperation had its ups and downs depending on individual personalities.

In our ministry priests have concentrated very much on evangelising through: visitation, catechism instruction, formation of leaders and catechists, sharing God’s grace through his Sacraments and preparation of material in local languages. Brothers have been working very much in the building and maintenance of physical structures and schools, plus the drilling and maintenance of boreholes. Sisters have worked to improve the health conditions of the people, teaching in schools, women’s groups and pastoral activities addressed to professionals and catechists.

Thus collaboration with other pastoral agents has been a characteristic of our zone, especially with the Comboni Sisters, the Evangelizing Sisters of Mary and our catechists. At times, the missionaries have organized their activities in Apostolic Communities (RL. 68).

Goals, objectives and means
As Comboni Missionaries, we strive to bring the Good News of God’s kingdom to the people who do not know Christ yet, helping them to live their faith in established local Christian communities. We do that in fulfilment of our common vocation to grow in holiness in the following of Jesus Christ under the inspiration of St. Daniel Comboni, trying to be good shepherds for his sheep.

We hope that the people who accept Christ in their lives manage to enjoy more humane lives in peace, justice and prosperity. And that they become self-sufficient in their ecclesial organisations: in the ministries and in the material needs. And that they assume the responsibility of all followers of Christ of bringing other people to the fold of the Good Shepherd.
All the activities we do in our missionary service are the means that help us, with God’s grace, to accomplish those goals and objectives (see n.6,7).

In agreement with the provisional character of our missionary activity, once our mission is accomplished, we leave it to the local church to continue the task started by us. Thus, every three years, the zone makes a special evaluation of our presence, assessing what steps to take next regarding handing over commitments, or accepting new ones.

4.1 Structural organization
The three communities of the zone meet together three times a year (occasionally four), in order to fulfil the goals above depicted. 
In the zone there is a “Zone Coordinator” who convenes and chairs the meetings and sets the agenda for them in consultation with confreres. If needed, there can be a “Secretary” who takes minutes of the meetings. If he is not there, the zone coordinator fulfils this function as well. Minutes of the meetings are sent to the Secretariat of Evangelisation – Ongoing formation and to the Provincial Council (unless stated otherwise).
The communities of the zone help one another when there is need so that the people we minister may get the service they deserve. The cooperation implies mutual assistance in personnel, and in finances. Thus the zone becomes a kind of an “extended local community” (RL. 40, 41, 42, 28, 29, 30).

5. Personal growth and fidelity to our vocation
In the zone we organize monthly recollection days in order to enrich our community prayer  and fulfil our rules (RL. 49.2). The Comboni sisters have been sharing this day of recollection as well.
On-going formation initiatives are organized at the zone level making use of the ordinary meetings along the year (RL. 95, 99, 100, 101).
Relaxation done together strengthens the bonds of our brotherhood, therefore we welcome initiatives that foster such goals.

6. Missionary methodology
We are missionaries at the service of the local church in Kitale Diocese. Therefore we operate within the framework of its administration and pastoral plan under the direction of its bishop Rev. Maurice Crowley, and within the West Pokot Deanery. Our evangelisation tries to reach the whole person, therein our support for development and care of the people; even though the main thrust of our activity is on bringing people to the encounter of Christ.

6.1 Our missionary work is characterized by the following activities:
Catechumenate: Usually a two years’ programme to initiate the catechumens into our faith. To help the catechumens we organise periodic courses for them. We have also prepared a short catechism in Pökot and Kiswahili. 
Sacramental ministry to the Christians: With daily Eucharist in the centres and frequent visits to the outstations. Easter is the salient time for baptisms; Lent and Advent for the sacrament of Reconciliation.
Formation and support of catechists and church leaders: We achieve this thanks to periodic courses in our missions, in the Mitume centre or in outstations. The catechists are supported by the local Christian community and by us missionaries.
Assistance to formal school education: By means of sponsoring schools (and what this implies within the Kenyan environment), and sponsoring scholarships for secondary and tertiary school students, both boys and girls.
Translation of God’s Word and Liturgical material: This is done mostly in Pokot Language. This activity was started since our arrival in Pokot land in cooperation with the Kiltigan missionaries. Since then, we have done several re-editions of the material. Choirs are also an important element in the liturgical experience of our Christians.
Care of the sick: Through formal western medicine which is being distributed by our missionary Sisters in the dispensaries.
Support for Women’s groups: Work that is done mostly by the Sisters, within the framework of the CWA.
Ministry to the youth: We work mostly with students, but we also organise courses for youth who do not attend school. All of them get regular periodic seminars. This is an important activity to foster peace.
Small Christian Communities: Within the framework of the outstations. These groups try to share their faith in prayer groups and to help one another in their needs.
Support for Catholic teachers: We try to foster their professional commitment and the living of their Catholic faith through personal contacts and through CTA.
Support to Men’s groups, Catholic and elders indistinctively offering them “fora” for discussions and getting ourselves venues to communicate Christian values.
Assistance in development projects: We help people to improve their living conditions cooperating with them, though up to now, in many instances, our assistance exceeds their contribution. We aim to withdraw as they assume full responsibility of their future. The assistance to their development is done: through the building of schools; drilling and maintaining of bore holes; supporting small scale projects of agriculture, apiculture and animal husbandry; organising leadership courses for the people, etc.
Organising parish and outstations councils: So that our Christians may become more responsible for the affairs of their ecclesial communities.

6.2 Challenges and needs
At present the most challenging situations we find are the following:

  • Learning of the local language by the missionaries, is still needed, though not imperative.
  • Changing of the local culture and language of the people, especially the youth.
  • Instability because of cattle rustling, though not as virulent as in the past.
  • Lack of commitment of professionals and civil servants.
  • Proper Christian family life among our baptised Christians.
  • Vocational catechists who commit themselves to their ministry full heartedly.
  • The changing role of women, while still being oppressed.
  • Responsible use of resources; corruption thrives among the local leaders.
  • Education of the youth towards a different future, enlightening them with professional ethics and opening their eyes towards blue collars jobs as well.
  • Adaptation / inculturation of Christianity (preaching, teaching, liturgy, morals).
  • Participation of laity in the church: chapel councils, evangelisation, finances.

7. Looking towards the future
In our communities we try to plan every year our community life and our activities prioritising them according to the needs of the people and the six years plan of our Province of Kenya. Yet, as we analyse our present situation we see the following:

7.1 Urgent needs

  • More missionary personnel –if possible- in order to reach better the outstations; distances and the condition of roads make our ministry very demanding.
  • More committed catechists.
  • Splitting our large missions so that they may become easier to handle by ourselves and by the local church.
  • To delegate responsibilities onto local people able to assume the care of their communities, people and structures (mission structures and of the area in general).

7.2 Evangelisation
We shall continue with the activities mentioned above updating them to the conditions of the people and our strengths. Yet, we stress that:
Christian Family life needs improving regarding the treatment of women, care of children, co-responsibility in home affairs and finances, and monogamy.

  • Justice and peace should be the concern of our Christians to avoid corruption and to promote a more generous society striving for the common good of all.
  • Cattle rustling, tribalism and any kind of violence as contrary to Christian behaviour.
    Drunkenness is a habit to be disdained by our Catholics.
  • Care of the sick and the poor is part of the ministries of a Christian community.
  • Small Christian Communities provide proper environs for Catholics to share their faith, meditate on the Word of God and help one another.
  • The Catholics of our parishes should be more forward in sustaining the Church (sadaka, zaka).
  • We should give our Catholics a healthy pride of belonging to avoid the shifting to other churches.
  • The laity may find their place in our church holding leadership roles and cooperating in the spreading of the Gospel and the Catholic Church among the people.

7.3 Human development
Assistance in the improvement of living conditions for the people has been and it will be a way to show the care of the Good Shepherd for his forsaken sheep. As people gain knowledge they should steer the projects of their development. So, we need to give them more responsibilities in the running of projects like schools, boreholes, self-help groups. At the same time help them to learn how to run those projects. This kind of training and follow up is very appropriate for our Comboni Brothers and our Sisters.

It is important to be consequent on the criteria about scholarships finances from abroad, and to foster co-operation among our Christians to assist each other in the expenses of the education of the youth.
Part of our ministry is to instil into the youth and professionals good Christian ethics towards work and honest administration of good. This becomes very true regarding teachers, health workers and security officials.
Proper care of nature is imperative in order to guarantee a sustainable development and a good living for future generations. We can organise courses enlightening our people about forests and deforestation, soil erosion, ownership of the land, suitable agriculture and livestock keeping, etc.

7.4 Mission and Vocation Promotion
In agreement with our Rule of Life (RL. 73, 75, 77) each community becomes a centre for mission and vocation promotion. We are reminders to the local Catholics of their duty of contributing to the fulfilment of Jesus commissioning of the disciples (Mt 28:19). And at the same time, we shall invite young men and women to answer positively to Jesus invitation to leave everything and follow him. Enlightenment about their vocation in life is part and parcel of our ministry to the youth.
We think that magazines like New People, the Seed and Missionaries Today are helpful material in the hands of the youth to discover how to serve the Lord better.

This Charter for the Pokot Zone of our Province of Kenya has been composed in the month of September 2007. It is revised every three years, and thorough up-dated after the next edition of the Six Years Plan of the Province.


The way the missions are growing (in population and chapels), requires the development of smaller parish units. At present the zone needs 4 (four) confreres in Amakuriat, 4 (four) in Kacheliba and 3 (three) in Kapenguria.

Holidays of confreres and cooperation
Fr. Dino Rebellato left Kapenguria at the end of April and went to Italy for three months. During his holidays he celebrates his 50th anniversary of ordination as a Comboni Missionary priest. When he comes back, Fr. Carlo Pasinetti will go on his turn. This implies that Kapenguria needs one replacement from May to October. The community welcomes scholastics and brothers to be with them.

Fr. Grabman Hubert Josef left Kacheliba on May 11th. Fr. Tomas Herreros Baroja is leaving on July 5th, Fr. Antonio Guirauwill come to assist during June and July.
Fr. Enrico Camerone will leave the zone and the province after Easter. We are sad for his departure and grateful to God for his 33 years of service in the Kenya Province, and for the good health he has been enjoying up to now. We wish him the best of God’s blessings.

Half the parish has been handed over to the diocesan clergy. The rest is kept as a Comboni pastoral commitment. The parish offers good possibilities of work to some elderly confreres, under the leadership of a healthy father to boast and support the ministry of the others. Furthermore Kapenguria can play the role of reference point for the communities of the Pokot and Turkana zones.


The Pokot Zone, in the April 14th meeting, discussed the topic of the common fund. After remarking that the all subject remains unclear, since the Provincial Council has not yet given the promised explanations, the confreres present their misgivings about “total common funds”, as expressed already by the Province of South Sudan. It seems that it will increase the book-keeping work.  
How did the discussion on the Common Fund come about?


  • After the General Chapter of ’69 the congregation started to insist on the “community common fund” (implying that before it was not there).
  • From the late ’70 and ’80 the Kenya Province had always “community common funds”. Sharing among communities was done in the fashion of ad hoc Harambee. It seems that the Provincial Superior and his Council could also rule on the administration of community funds in a way similar to RL 163.3 –but it was never implemented.
  • In the early 80 the Provincial Common Fund was established with the 10% of donations given to individual (in communities) and other sources. The Provincials directory of 1990 stipulated that the surplus of each community was going to the Sharing Fund and to Dioceses, at the end of the year. The Sharing Fund was catering for the needs of the Province as group and distributed among different funds.
  • In the Chapter of 2003 (CA ’03 102.2) the capitulars agreed to be in favour of provincial common fund, without specifying its modalities. The system will be a sign of fraternity. Yet, it seems that it has become relevant due to the geography of vocations.


  • The common fund at the level of communities seems to be working well. It fosters personal initiatives to look for material needs to carry on the mission.
  • The style of mission will depend also on the means available.
  • If community cannot cope, they can appeal to the Province.
  • The Provincial Financial committee should make comments to the budgets and accounts of the communities. Like wise the local bursar should make comments to the way the community and its members administer the available funds.
  • We need to be transparent on our accountability and faithful to the intentions of donors.
  • We need to be opened to be questioned by confreres; transparency is understood better at close distance; we are not dealing just with numbers but with persons.
  • It seems that there is too much fear that “God’s Providence will not provide”, while in the past it was a constant “ritornellos” of spiritual fathers and Comboni. History proves they were right. Perhaps we have created a mission style with huge economic needs. The future mission will be tailored by the missionaries in action.
  • The scholastics are not aware enough about the source of the material goods of the congregation and about the conditions of our benefactors. The system seems to imply that the institute provides. Common Fund stresses “sharing” and forgets that the pot needs to be filled… who is to do that?

P.S. Any discussion on the topic is welcome!