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1. Marsabit Diocese

The Diocese of Marsabit, once part of Nyeri Diocese, was created in 1964 with Bishop Cavallera as its first Bishop. After his resignation in 1980, Bishop Ambrose Ravasi took over and served up to January 2007 when Bishop Peter Kihara was installed as the third ordinary of the Diocese.
Marsabit Diocese is located in the Eastern Province of Kenya with an area of approximately 78,000 square kilometres. It extends over the Districts of Moyale and Marsabit, with Lake Turkana and the diocese of Lodwar to the West, the Samburu district, which is part of the Maralal diocese, in the south, the dioceses of Isiolo (Eastern district) and Garissa (North Eastern district) in the East and Ethiopia in the North. The total population is estimated to be 250,000 of which about 25,000 are Catholics.
The Diocese is still an area of first evangelisation with a predominantly nomadic population. There are twelve parishes, served by eight local priests, eighteen religious priests, brothers and sisters and eight fidei donum priests.
The territory of the  Diocese is an extensive plain (?) lying between 300m and 1,800m above sea level. It is located in one of the driest region of Kenya. Rainfall ranges between 200mm to 1000mm per annum.
The region is one of the poorest in the country. The main causes of the poverty are: frequent severe droughts, inadequate water supplies for domestic and non-domestic use, low agricultural production due to harsh climatic conditions, lack of reliable and lucrative market for livestock products, few employment opportunities, over dependency on relief food and livestock economy, unutilised resources, illiteracy, poor infrastructures that are hardly maintained, insecurity and conflicts, which include ethnic clashes and cattle rustling.
All through the years, the mission of the Catholic Diocese of Marsabit has been an Instrument of transformation for the people in the region by adopting an integral evangelisation approach. In this mission, she has been guided by her vision of helping the people live a better and a more fraternal life, by providing to them a holistic formation. For the personnel in the Diocese this has always meant forming the whole human person by emphasising both the Proclamation of Faith and Human Promotion.
In its endeavours to evangelise, the Diocese has retained the tradition of preparing a Pastoral Project for each year in the light of the pastoral theme chosen for the year. The Comboni Missionaries have always been instrumental in drafting and in implementing it. Sessions and seminars, at Diocesan and Parish levels, are often organised and facilitated by the Comboni Missionaries.


2.1 The Gabbra
The Gabbra live mainly in the Chalbi desert of northern Kenya, between Lake Turkana and Moyle and Marsabit, extending into the Bulla Dera plain east of the Moyle-Marsabit road, and the Mega escarpment in southern Ethiopia.  They share portions of this area with the Borana, Rendille, Samburu, Dassanetch and Turkana.  The Gabbra are an Eastern Cushite group from the southern Ethiopian highlands.  They are closely related both historically and culturally with the Sakuye people.  They speak Borana language, an Oromo language of the Cushite family. Their culture is entwined with their care of camels.  They are still primarily pastoralists although some have adopted other forms of livelihood especially around the Hurri Hills.

2.2 The Borana
The Borana are a pastoralist ethnic group living in southern Ethiopia and northern Kenya. They are a sub-group of the Oromo people and represent one of the two halves of the original Oromos (the other half being the Barentu). They are nomadic, but recently some Borana have taken up agriculture. Oromos in northern Kenya first entered the region from southern Ethiopia during a major migratory expansion in the late 16th century. They then differentiated into the cattle-keeping Borana and the camel-keeping Gabbra and Sakuye. The Borana speak Borana, which is part of the cushitic branch of the afro-asiatic family of languages of the cushitic family.

2.3 Rendille
The Rendille are an ethnic group of the Kaisut Desert. They are often referred to as "the holders of the stick of God". They are nomadic pastoralists with some members of the family roaming with their camels across the desert. The Rendille believe that they belong to the desert not by mistake but because it is their "promised land". In their popular morning prayers they pray "your people God cannot climb mountains, cross seas but remain in this promised land in which You have looked after our fore fathers, us and our children's children...." Rendilles have age sets fourteen years apart. An age set is a group of men circumcised together and remain in the warriorhood for 14 years before they are allowed to marry and give way to another age set. Experts believe that the pure rendilles are almost extinct with their language confined mainly in Kargi and Korr. The language is under threat from Samburu.

2.4 The Turkana
The Turkana are a Nilotic people of the northern Kenya. In the Diocese, they are mainly in Loiyangalani and Moite. They raise mainly goats and donkeys. In their oral traditions they designate themselves as the people of the grey bull, after the Zebu, the domestication of which played an important role in their history. In recent years, development agents have introduced fishing among the Turkana with considerable success. Traditionally, both men and women wear wraps made of rectangular woven material, but each sex adorns themselves with different objects. Men carry also stools which are used as simple chairs. But these stools also serve  as headrests, keeping one's head elevated from the ground, and protecting any ceremonial head decorations from being damaged. Women will customarily wear necklaces, and will plait their hair in a faux-mohawk style which is often braided and beaded.

2.4 The Samburu
The Samburu are related to the Maasai. Actually, the name 'Samburu' is also of Maasai origin and is derived from the word 'Samburr' which is a leather bag used by the Samburu to carry a variety of things. They are semi-nomadic pastoralists who herd mainly cattle but also keep sheep, goats and camels. 19th century European travellers often referred to Samburu as "Burkineji" (people of the white goats).
In our Diocese they are found mainly in Korr, Laisamis, Karare and in Gatap in Loiyangalani Parish.

2.5 The Dassanetch
The Dassanetch live north of Lake Turkana, the region where Ethiopia borders Kenya and Sudan. They are Ethiopia's most southern people.
They are very similar to the Nyangatom of West-Ethiopia, with whom they are almost identical in appearance, way of life, economy, social structure, and physical appearance. The only real difference is the language. The Dassanetch speak a completely different language and are actually the only Cushite-speaking group of the Omo Valley. Most probably the two peoples are not related, but have had a profound influence on each other.
The most important ritual of the Dassanetch is the so-called dime. Taking part in the dime ritual are those men who have daughters that have already reached puberty. After the ceremony, which takes six weeks, the participants are upgraded to 'great men', or those that may engage in politics. The dime ritual is directly connected to the upcoming marriage of the daughters and consists for the larger part of slaughtering large quantities of cattle. By the end of the ceremony the participants are extremely well-dressed, with ostrich feathers in their clay hair, oxtails around their arms, leopard skin over their shoulders, as well as the same skirt they wore during their circumcision many years earlier. In their hands they will carry wooden shields and a stick with a phallus symbol.

3. The Presence of the Comboni Missionaries
Following the formal and insistent request of the first Bishop Charles Cavallera, the Comboni Missionaries arrived in Marsabit Diocese in 1973. The first communities to be opened were Moyale and Sololo which were handed over to us by the Consolata missionaries who preferred to remain among the more receptive Samburu people. Later on the Cathedral Parish was entrusted to us in 1998. At present we have two official pastoral commitments in the Diocese: the Cathedral and the Pastoral Office.

4. major Pastoral challenges in the Diocese

4.1 Catechumenate: In an area of first evangelisation, the way the catechumenate is organised in the Diocese leaves a lot to be desired. It is striking to note that even within the same parish at times discrepancies in this area from one outstation to another are evident. In most parishes we lack a clear programme of when catechumenate begins the enrolment and a guideline on how long it should last. But it is encouraging to note that a number of parishes have started taking this as a priority.

4.2 Ethnicity: Our region, for the last couple of years, has been deeply divided on ethnic lines to a point that sessions at deanery level, where different ethnic groups are present, have become a real problem. People identify themselves more with their tribe than with their faith. There is a tedious but obligatory journey of helping the people gain the sense of belonging to a larger Christian Family. It is urgent for the Church to find ways and means of bringing the people together. Our confreres have elaborated a project targeting the Youths and Women with the specific goal of bringing different groups together in the Diocese.

4.3 Pastoral Plan: The Diocese of Marsabit has a known and well acknowledged tradition of making Pastoral Plans. Every Year the formation given in the whole Diocese is guided by a theme in all the parishes. The question is on the real impact of these Pastoral Plans on the day to day running of the pastoral activities within the parishes. The implementation of the proposals at the grass-root level leaves a lot to be desired and sessions at the parish level hardly have a follow up.
The biggest challenge is on the need to journey with a goal or focus within the Parishes. There is a need to bring down to the Christian Communities the Diocesan Pastoral Plan, making choices that would be relevant to the specific expectations and demands of the different parishes. The danger is to limit ourselves to the pastoral work of sacramentalisation, limiting ourselves to the celebration of mass and administering of other sacraments without any programme of formation in the Parish.

4.4 Team work: There is a growing awareness among the pastoral agents of the need to form true functional Parish Pastoral Councils. The involvement of the lay people in the decision making and running of the parish affairs is still quite minimal. Team work means for us as Comboni Missionaries finding ways of collaborating with the numerous religious communities in the vicinity of our communities.

4.5 Islam: Islam is slowly but surely gaining grounds in the region; there is an evident strategy of islamisation of the region especially during the month of Ramadan. The biggest challenge to the church is to help our faithful understand the phenomenon of Islam. But the most important element in facing Islam is the on-going formation of our faithful and a keen attention to the journey of Christian Initiation. We have to give to our faithful a sense of pride for their faith!

4.6 Youth: The majority of the participants in our Church are the youth. This calls for an urgent need to have a proper programme at the parish level for apostolate to the youth. The ideal is to create an atmosphere in our parishes that allows them to feel at home and, where possible, to make the parish the point of reference for them.

5. Missionary methodology
We are becoming more and more aware of the urgent need to journey within the Diocese in a harmonious way with a common policy in all the fields of evangelisation. We feel more and more the need of involving more actively the laity to feel that they too are called to be active agents of the
proclamation of faith and of human promotion. In an area strongly marked by insecurity, tribal tensions and conflicts, we have been challenged to let the faith we profess, as individuals and as a community of religious, be a real witness of fraternity. The witness of our faith has to be an agent of social transformation in our region. The families of our Christians have been called to be yeasts of change, true Domestic Churches where faith is nurtured and where lay people readily witness with courage the Christian faith that they profess.
As Missionaries, we have to stress more the fact that there is a personal responsibility in the spreading of the Gospel. Each one of us is called to give him/herself whole heartedly participate in the mission of the Church here in the Diocese. But this self-giving is not to be an individualistic endeavour but rather a mutual interdependence by which all of us work together for the same cause. This means for us that first and foremost our Comboni communities have to be evangelising communities. The dynamic nature of the Church as COMMUNION has to be visible and tangible in the way we live our community life, the cenacle of apostles, in the way we proclaim faith to others and carry out the work of human promotion. The WORD we proclaim to others has first and foremost to be incarnate in our own Comboni communities. Our pretence and at times demand and insistence on the formation of the Small Christian Communities has to be reflected on the seriousness with which we value community life and give it its due importance. This spirit of communion reminds us that in carrying out our pastoral responsibilities and duties, we do not act as individuals but rather within a specific religious community. This is the spirit of team-work in our apostolate, bearing in mind that the power of evangelization will find itself considerably diminished if we, who proclaim the Gospel, are divided among ourselves in all sorts of ways.
But this prompts us to embark together with the Christian Faithful on an urgent and a profound programme of renewal of the understanding of the Church and the role that each one has in carrying out the mission that has been entrusted to us.
In 2009, our Diocese starts a challenging journey towards 2014,  the Golden Jubilee of the creation of our Diocese. Our pastoral plan must pay attention to the reality ad intra, within our Church. We are called to help our people grow in the ownership of the Church through an authentic spirit of collaboration and a sense of belonging to the Family of God here in Marsabit Diocese.
But we have also to pay attention to the reality surrounding us. This invites us to look ad extra, outside our ecclesial boundaries and circles. This is the urgency of our social relevance as a Church in this region. The role we have to play in order to help the people live wholly and fully the divine gift of human life. As Comboni Missionaries, we have the mission of alleviating the social evils and sufferings facing our people. Our work of human promotion and of charity reaches out to all regardless of their faith and ethnic belonging.


6.1The Cathedral Parish

6. 1.1 The Creation of the Parish

The Parish of Marsabit Cathedral was born with the Diocese in 1964, the year Bishop Charles Cavallera was appointed first Bishop of Marsabit and the first Parish house was built in the mission. Since 1957 there was a small Church built in mabati not far away from where the Pro-Cathedral stands now. This was built in 1969-70 and blessed in January 1971.
From the beginning until 1998 the Parish was run by the “Fidei Donum” Fathers from Alba, Italy. Many people and specially the Christians still remember their names: Frs. Tablino, John, Venturino,Molino,James and Rinino. Fr. John, who served as the Parish Priest for 27 years, died in 1993. Fr. Tablino and Fr. Rinino are still with us. The others are back in their Diocese of Alba.
In 1998 The Comboni missionaries took over the Parish from the Alba  “Fidei Donum” Fathers.

6.1.1 Evangelisation in Marsabit

The first evangelisation in Marsabit was carried out through contacts with people in the villages such as home visiting, and through schools. A network of nursery and primary schools was gradually established and used as privileged means of proposing the Gospel to the children. Prayer houses and catechumenates were opened at the main villages. After some years of hard and dedicated work some good results could be seen when scores of adults and school children started asking Baptism.
This work of evangelisation is still going on with the pastoral care of those who are now active members of the church. However, due to various reasons (such as superficial evangelisation or lack of an efficient pastoral care, pressure from traditional cultures, Muslim religion or other Christian denominations, tribal clashes etc) some of our Christians have abandoned the church and joined other religions. Others prefer to sit on the fence and stay at home.

6.1.2 Pastoral Organisation of the Parish The Parish community
The Parish comprises the Centre and its outstations. The Centre (Cathedral) includes 3 small communities in the town area: Ginda, Karantina and Milima Mitatu. All of them have prayer houses.
The outstations are Mass Centres with a church or a prayer house. There are ten of them distributed in three ethnic Zones:

Borana Zone: Manyata Jillo, Dub Goba, Goru Rukesa, Golole, Did Athi and Gar Qarsa.
Gabra Zone: Bubisa.
Rendille Zone: Hula-Hula, Leyai and Songa. Local Council and Parish Pastoral Council
In every community there is a Local Council with a membership of 5 - 10 people. The Local Council looks after the affairs of the Local Community, in communion with the whole Parish, through its chairperson and Catechist.
The long-range plans and policies for the Parish are set up by the Parish Pastoral Council composed of all the chairpersons of the local councils, all priests working in the Parish and the representatives of the various Parish groups. The Parish Council has a number of commissions to deal with the various sectors of the Christian life. Pastoral team: Most of the day to day activities of the Parish are planed, executed and evaluated by the Parish Pastoral Team which meets once a week. The members of this team are: all the priests and sisters doing pastoral work and a few catechists. Every priest brings to the meeting the plans and problems of the zone assigned to him. Catechists: In Marsabit we have a group of 16 catechists, half of them trained; the others are volunteers. The importance of the catechists is fundamental in our pastoral structure. They meet once a month in Marsabit for a two day ongoing formation and planning. They instruct the catechumens and lead the community in the liturgy.

Youth: In every outstation there is a youth group.  At the Parish level there is a youth team to coordinate all the youth activities in the Parish. In all three secondary schools there are Catholic Action groups (equivalent to YCS). Groups: There are some other active groups in the Parish. The most important are: Catholic Women Association, Consecrated Family Groups, Altar Boys and Liturgical Dancers. Small Christian Communities
Small Christian Communities (SCC), also known as Jumuiyas, were started in Marsabit town by the Alba Fathers in the 1980’s. When the Comboni Missionaries took over the Parish, in 1998, there were no more signs of their existence. Based on our experience elsewhere we decided to bring back the SCCs, hoping that, this time, they would survive. Plans to activate the SCCs were presented to our Christians at all levels. Meetings and workshops were organized and Christians were invited to start SCCs in the area of their own residence.
Out of this first initiative six SCCs were started: Saint Jude, Saint Paul, Saint Monica, Saint Michael, Saint Gabriel and Saint Lwanga. Later on two of our SCCs were started: Saint Steven and Saint Peter – but unfortunately one of the first and most active – Saint Michael – dissolved itself. The SCCs were established also in the different outstation of the Parish, where they are still active. In town most of the Jumuiyas meet on Sunday afternoon and participate in the Sunday liturgy and other activities of the Church.
The presence of a member of the pastoral team (Father, Sister, Brother or Catechist) at the weekly meeting of the Jumuiya is a tremendous encouragement to all its members. The same must be said of the weekly celebration of the Eucharist in one of the Jumuiyas.
Other ways of supporting the Jumuiyas include: Periodical seminars for all the members and their participation in the various activities of the Parish.
At present, besides the town centre, we have good communities in the Borana area (Manyatta Jillo, Dub Gobba and Goru Rukesa), in the Rendille area (Hula Hula, Songa and Leyai), and the Gabbra area (Bubisa). A few others in the Borana area are still very small (Golole, Did athi, Gar Qarsa). In all of them, there is the possibility of growing.
It must be noted that during these years, Marsabit has been a place of heavy immigration. Many  Gabbra  and Borana, have migrated from Ethiopia and other places of the Diocese of Marsbit and settled in Marsabit town. This can explain why after 40 years of the presence of the church in this area, there are still many people who have not been touched by the gospel. It also points to the need of an urban pastoral approach of following the Christian community around the town of Marsabit.
Marsabit therefore remains a place of first evangelisation. There is need of a new methodology of evangelisation and of following the already established communities.

6.1.3 Challenges in the Parish
We are called to Evangelize and animate the local Church according to the Comboni Charism and the Plan of our province. However, we cannot fulfil that task if we are not fully in touch with the reality of the People we are ministering to and also with our own reality us individuals and Comboni Communities.

6.13.1 .Keeping in mind that in our Zone there are different cultural groups, such as Borana, Gabra, Rendille, Samburu, etc, there is the need of paying more attention to the culture, language, tradition, religion of the people that we are living with. Therefore, it is a complex reality in which we find ourselves.
We need to organize, as Comboni missionaries in Marsabit, a workshop on culture, tradition, religion of the People. As Comboni Missionaries in Marsabit, we are called to share our gifts with our Brothers and Sisters both us individuals and community – Evangelizing community. In our pastoral work we are called to: Prepare local leaders in our Christian Communities such as catechists, local chapel councils and others. Organize our program for our catechumens, keeping in mind the Pastoral Program of the Diocese. Encourage our young people to go on deepening their Christian faith when coming together both in their schools and chapels. It seems that we are loosing a lot of young people who opt for other religions. Empower our women in our Christian Communities. A very high percentage of people coming to the church are women. What about our men coming to church? What can we do together with them? As we know, it is a difficult task, but steps must be taken. The social dimension of the Gospel also must be present in our community/Evangelization, helping our Christians to apply or live Christian values in their families and in their communities, such as Solidarity and Communion.

6.2 The Pastoral Office

The Pastoral Office was established in 1989. It aims at helping all pastoral agents to implement the diocesan pastoral project through workshops, seminars, handouts and sessions.
The office carries out several activities, reaching out to a great variety of organised groups in the Parishes. The main task of the office is to animate the Christian Community to grow in their dimensions of self-ministering, self-propagating and self-supporting. Most of the activities are organised at the parish level in parish structures and others in secondary schools.

6.2.1 Catechists: Catechists have a place of honour among the laity who are actively engaged in the Church in the region. They play an important role in the animation of the Christian Communities. They receive their training in Maralal Catechetical Centre while the Pastoral office remains in charge at the Diocesan level of their on-going formation. This consists in three sessions per year at the parish level and an annual retreat at the Diocesan level.

6.2.2 Parish Pastoral councils: These are also the beneficiaries of the on-going formation offered by the office. The major task here is to sensitise all the pastoral agents on the need of involving the laity in the running of the parish and especially in decision making touching on the parish life.

6.2.3 Youth and Women Groups: The confreres in the Pastoral Office have elaborated a special programme targeting Youth and Women in the Diocese. The main goal of the project is to make our youth and women active protagonists in the search for Reconciliation, Justice and Peace in our region, through a focussed programme of spiritual, human formation and empowerment. We wish first and foremost to give formation on the values of Justice and Peace, and promote initiatives that would act as yeasts of reconciliation between the different tribes present within the Diocese. This will be done through a series of annual sessions of formation and through planned intercultural festivals and annual sport initiatives geared at bringing together different local communities as a way encouraging interaction and exposure.  From these intercultural festivals we wish to produce visual aids, like DVDs and video cassettes, to be circulated in all our localities as a means of promoting mutual appreciation of the different cultures present in our area.
As it has been witnessed in our region, the absence of Justice and Peace does not only affect social development, but in the ecclesial field it has become a serious obstacle to real evangelisation and the foundation of a true fraternal community.
We shall focus on the theme of Reconciliation, Justice and Peace bearing in mind also the ecclesial move of the African Church that is preparing for its Second Synod with the same theme, The Church in Africa in Service to Reconciliation, Justice and Peace. The outcome of this Synod will accompany our Church for many years to come.

6.2.4 Vocations: Unlike in the past where the orientation courses were centralised and conducted at the Pastoral Centre, the two phase orientation courses have been taken back to the parish level. Boys who are interested in joining the minor or the major seminary are met in the parishes. This offers to the confrere in-charge the possibility of meeting the boys in their villages with the opportunity of contacting their families.
Besides recruiting boys for the minor seminary, the office makes a discernment journey with the boys in various Secondary Schools who are interested in joining the major seminary.
The office follows and journeys with the major seminarians in their vocational discernment.

6.2.5 Newsletter: The office is in-charge of the publication of the Diocesan newsletter which is a means of liaison between the parishes. It is also a simple instrument of a follow up of the activities and sessions offered by the Pastoral Office.

7. Organisation of the Zone

7.1 Projects
Projects to be funded by the Comboni Missionaries, or requests of help from the Provincial Council are to be discussed first at the community level and then presented to the zone for further discussion and eventual approval. It is only after the approval at the zonal level that the request will be made for the exemption from the deductions at the level of the Provincial Bursar.
What falls under the normal running of the parish is not to be considered as a project. But if there is a specific programme of formation that requires a special budget during a given pastoral year (e.g. for the youth in the parish), then money can be asked with that particular specification.

7.2 Meetings
7.1.1 Community Council
Each community has its community council on the evening of the first Monday of the month.
Planning together, on monthly bases, the major personal and community programmes is encouraged as a way of fostering openness and communication among ourselves at the community level. The best forum is our monthly community council. We are also aware that a good dose of flexibility and true spirit of listening will certainly help to bridge our personal and community weaknesses.

7.1.2 Zonal Meetings
Our zonal meetings are once a month, unless otherwise agreed on.  The local superior is to remind the confreres of his respective community of the zonal meetings and commitments.

7.3 Monthly recollections
In the afternoon of every first Monday of the month we join other religious personnel in Marsabit area for a half day of prayer at the Maria Mfariji Shrine. We have agreed that the 10th of October, St. Comboni Day, will be set aside as a day of prayer among ourselves and of being together.

7.4 Openness to others 
We are grateful to note that our communities are quite welcoming and different people especially religious and local clergy, come to visit and even ask for accommodation.