Unlike most occasions where we invite ourselves to a diocese to feature it in The Seed, this time we had a special invitation from Rt. Rev. Bishop James Maria Wainaina Kung’u of Murang’a.
His invitation came after he stumbled on a copy of the Special Issue of The Seed magazine published in March this year, where we featured the health of priests and their life after retirement. We had touched on an issue that is very close to his heart.
A three-page letter he sent to me via post reads in part, “I have read with a lot of interest your special edition of The Seed, on “Why Your Old Priest Needs You.” You have covered a topic that is very dear to me, and one that should be treated with urgency and decisiveness. You brought out issues that are very important concerning the priests.... I would like The Seed to visit our [Sabbatical] program and make a comprehensive coverage of it in one of the your editions.”
The bishop of Murang’a is strongly convinced that sabbatical renewal is the real game-changer in the lives of men and women religious.
He notes that many sicknesses can be avoided, and ageing can be made peaceful and graceful if well calculated sabbatical leaves are provided. According the prelate, building retirement homes for the aged priests is not enough; those houses may end up being places of suffering, rather than joy, if aging priests are filled with bitterness, shame, sorrow, disillusionment and feelings of failure.
These issues, he says, can be dealt with only if priests take time to revitalize at least every seven years.
There has always been a misconception among religious men and women about sabbatical breaks, which has made many to dread the period. Many look at it as time for the ‘garage’ when one is taken for panel beating after messing up, a rehabilitation centre of sorts. It’s not.
A sabbatical period is a time for an individual to observe a moment that will help the whole body to rest.
Are you at a point in your life where as a priest, man or woman religious you have become irritable, overreacting to slight provocations with outbursts of anger? Do you feel fatigued, burnt out? Those are clear signs that you need a break. Sabbatical renewal.
If you don’t take breaks when you are still healthy, you might be forced to break by circumstances.
To bishops and religious superiors, make a habit of encouraging your priests, religious men and women to take regular breaks. It will not only save you a lot of the money you would have spent treating preventable sicknesses, but will also ensure you have a more productive work force.
The Catholic Diocese of Murang’a is a home of many firsts: It is home to the first place where evangelization of Central Kenya started (Tuthu); the diocese produced the first local Kenyan priests, Fr Giacomino Camisassa and Fr Thomas Kimangu ordained in 1927.
The diocese also produced the first indigenous women religious congregation in Kenya (Sisters of Mary Immaculate of Nyeri who this October will be celebrating 100 years since their foundation); It is the first and only diocese in Kenya with a fully fledged sabbatical centre; and it was the first diocese to come up with the idea of the Young Adults Catholic Association (YACA) in Kenya, a movement that has spread to other dioceses in the country.