Kenya's New Abbot
By Fr. Casmir Odundo
|New Abbot: Rt. Rev. Fr. John Baptist|
The Benedictine Missionaries were invited to Kenya in 1972 by three Bishops, Servant of God Maurice Micheal Cardinal Otunga then, Archbishop of Nairobi, the Late Bishops Emilio Njeru and John Njenga of Eldoret. In Nairobi they are basically in Tigoni and Ruaraka, in Nyeri they are in Nanyuki where they run the Bible on the Ground animation and retreat centre and finally in Eldoret they served in many parishes in Kerio Valley (Marakwet) region. Today they also have a presence in Marsabit diocese.
|The New Abbot with Bishop Kamau and two other Abbots from Africa|
After the Homily, Bishop Kamau questioned the new Abbot on his resolve, to which he gracefully replied “I am so resolved.” Then it was time for the Litany of Saints, the New Abbot lay prostrate on the ground as the rest of the Church knelt in prayer to the saints in heaven. What followed was the abbatial blessing. Then the Abbot was given his insignia. First the ring, then the Mitre and finally the Pastoral Staff. He was also presented with a copy of the Rule of St. Benedict.
According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, "An Abbot is superior of a community of monks in an abbey. The name abbot is derived from the Syriac form of the Hebrew ab, and means "father". St. Benedict of Nursia, the father of Western Monasticism, gave monasticism its definite form and constitution. It was him who designated an Abbot as the head of the community of monks. St. Benedict's conception of a monastic community was distinctly that of a spiritual family. Every individual monk was to be a son of that family, the Abbot its father, and the monastery its permanent home. The Catholic Encyclopaedia further notes that the blessing of an abbot, though important is not in itself essential for the exercise of an Abbot's order and office. Indeed, as Abbot Pambo explained in his homily, "a monk becomes an abbot immediately after election." The rite of blessing of an abbot though a little similar in solemnity differs slightly from that of a bishop's consecration. It confers no additional jurisdiction, and imparts no sacramental grace or character. The essentials of the episcopal ordination or consecration are of course omitted. There was no imposition of hands, consecratory prayer, anointing with sacred chrism in today's liturgy.
The new Abbot Rt. Rev. Fr. John Baptist Oese Imai hails from St. Joseph’s Parish in Kocholia, Teso in the diocese of Bungoma. He is is barely 42 years old. Prior to his election as Abbot, he served as Prior of the Tigoni before its elevation for six years. Before then, he was Parish Priest of St. Benedicts Parish Ruaraka. He has also a long experience in formation and has been Novice master of the monks in Tigoni for many years. Like many Benedictines he has a passion for liturgy and liturgical Music. He is credited with composing the famous song Jina Maria (Nairobi Catholic County Choir) which is a favourite of many throughout Kenya and beyond. He will serve as Abbot for a term of 12 years. Though he is the First Abbot of an Abbey in Kenya, he is second Kenyan to be named a Benedictine Abbot. This is after Rt. Rev. Fr. John Paul Mwaniki was elected Abbot of Inkamana Benedictine abbey in Kwazulu Natal-South Africa in April 2018.
May God bless the new Abbot Rt. Rev. Fr. John Baptist in his work and prayer!
The author is Parochial Vicar: St. Mary’s Parish Kabarnet. Email firstname.lastname@example.org