#28-2013 Fr. Kiriti Celebrates 25 Years of Priesthood
It was a glorious day, with only a few glitches – like the man who was to arrange for transport to Longenot, Fr. Kiriti’s home parish, where the celebration took place. People were to leave Naivasha at 9 am, but the arranger told the matatus to arrive at 7:30 am. Seeing no one there, they left! But evidently most people managed b/c over 1000 attended. The weather was lovely, sunny, with a nice cool breeze. Music was by the wonderful Naivasha parish choir, whose soaring voices and wonderful harmonies waft through my window during 2nd mass and which regularly wins choir competitions.
I ferried Jecinta, Julia and Agnes, and we arrived in good time so I could get a good seat. A number of large tents protected the audience from the sun for which I was very grateful—would be been totally cooked.
After introductory speeches, a bishop friend of Fr. Kiriti celebrated the mass with all the trimmings. At the offertory I queued up with everyone else, thinking it was for Fr. Kiriti. Only later did I learn that it went to the Longenot parish. Oh well, but I was sorry that it wasn’t going to his parish in Kositei. Then later there was another queue for people with envelopes of offerings. Was that for Kositei? Nope—for Longenot. OK, if I have anything left I can give it to him personally on the way to the airport.
After the mass came speeches by the chairpersons of the committees, one from Naivasha and one from Longenot the contents of which I am unable to report, as they were all in Kiswahili. I had been asked to speak on behalf of his many American friends. Right before my turn a nun asked whether I was speaking in Kiswahili. Oh right! I would guess more than half understood English well enough to get my meaning.
A number of his US friends had written their greetings and I quoted them almost exactly. I could see he was very moved their by comments. You know that a Kenyan man would never cry in public, but I could see from his face he was trying to control his feelings. My own words were short and succinct, as I like to think is my usual style. You can be the judge. I’ll send the talk as a separate post.
A nun spoke representing all in attendance. They presented him with a new vestment and stole, hand embroidered, I think and very beautiful. They joked that he always wore the same one so they figured it was all he had!
After the speeches people again queued up, this time handing their envelopes to Fr. Kiriti, ensuring they were for his parish!
The presentation of the cakes was next. They were incredible works of art. The main one was a church, with apse, nave, bell tower—the works. Second one was a lamb, third an open Bible with some scripture on one page and a picture of Fr. Kiriti on the other page. Wow! Those planners had really gone to the top!
A tradition in Kenya is that a celebrantee feeds a small bite to each guest. Well, he wasn’t going to be able to do all 1000+, but he did feed quite a few, each with a word of greeting a big Kiriti smile. Although he generally doesn’t like to be the center of attention, he was clearly having a great time!
The formal part lasted for about 3 hours, after which came the food. There was goat stew, rice, vegetables, beef (a whole cow!), chicken, chipatis and the traditional food whose name I don’t know, but it’s mashed potatoes and peas, so it looks like green potatoes, with some maize mixed in. Women had been working day and night to prepare it. Imagine enough to feed all those people, and it was definitely more than 2 loaves and 5 fishes! They served sodas and bottled water as well. What a feast!
Cyrus came to sit with me during the last of the formal part. We had a lovely chat. He had come from Nairobi, even though his exams began on Monday. All the kids from Mji Wa Neema refer to Fr. Kiriti as Dad, and he has fulfilled that father-figure role so well for them. He says it is hard for him to go there b/c he has such a heart for those kids and it’s painful not to be such a big part of their lives anymore.
Fr. Kiriti was well and truly honored and even the next day and after he was still floating on the love evidenced by all.