The Sisters of Mercy came to Kenya in 1956 at the invitation of the then Archbishop of Nairobi, Dr. J.J. Mc Carthy, CSSP. The invitation extended was to set up a hospital for Kenyans and for the education of the girl child. This was before independence and these two ministries of health and education continue to remain important to this day in the different locations in which we now find ourselves.
Currently the Mercy Sisters are in sixteen communities which spread from the Turkana desert in the north of the country to the Eastern Province, much further south. The terrain in which we minister varies greatly from one place to another. The north-west where we work is desert land and the south-east is also arid. The Rift Valley and some of the areas around Nairobi, the capital city, has fertile plains and lush vegetation.
Individual dioceses from Ireland set up missions in dioceses here after the first group came from Dublin in 1956. Now we are united in a provincial structure and more than two thirds of our sisters are Kenyan born. The latter half of the 1970’s saw the beginning of Mercy Initial Formation in Kenya and from then on a gentle stream of young women have joined our congregation here and the stream is still flowing. We continue to engage in forming young women as Sisters of Mercy to answer the needs of our country and our world in the third millennium since the birth of Christ.
The Leadership Team of the Kenyan Province
From left - Srs. Jacinta Mwende, Brigid Marnane, Rose Macharia, Anne Itotia (Provincial Leader), Mary Okumu
As a country Kenya can boast of great beauty and variety in terms of cultures and terrain. This same variety exists economically where a small percentage of the population enjoy considerable wealth and a vast number struggle for their daily necessities. This is very evident in Nairobi where large areas of the city environs are home to tens of thousands of slum dwellers, in search of a living. The capital city is home to people from every tribe in the country. In the rural areas there tends to be mainly one tribal group whose mother tongue is widely spoken. Kiswahili and English are the two national languages while at the same time one can hear a great diversity of dialects from place to place.
As Mercy Sisters we continue to be touched by the many needs of the people. The “kind word, the compassionate look and the patient hearing of sorrows” are as much a challenge in the Kenya of to day as they were in the Ireland of Catherine Mc Auley in the 1830’s. Enabling people to be self sufficient, providing for basic health care and helping educate the young population as well as engaging in catechesis and providing training in a number of areas continue to be the focus of our diverse works here. We still have a long way to go to make the millennium development goals [MDGs] a reality for almost half the current population of this beautiful land.
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