By Claudia Mathis
Father Fredrick Mwangi Kooro, as director of the Catholic Diocese of Nakuru Mission Office, is living out his dream.
In November, he arrived in Syracuse to replace Father Cleophas Oseso Tuka as director and as parochial vicar at St. Margaret’s Church in Mattydale. Father Tuka is now serving as parochial vicar at St. Ambrose Church in Endicott.
“I’ve always longed to become a missionary,” said Father Kooro. His involvement with an Irish missionary during his high school years in Nakuru, Kenya fueled Father Kooro’s interest in the vocation. “I wanted to experience what I saw,” he said.
The missionary’s kindness had such a great impact on his life that he began to contemplate becoming a priest. “This was to be a turning point in my life,” Father Kooro said.
Father Kooro was serving as Vocations Director and Youth Chaplain at the Catholic Diocese of Nakuru when his bishop assigned him to the Nakuru Mission in the states. “I was humbled by this appointment and I wasn’t expecting it,” remembered Father Kooro.
Not long after he arrived in Syracuse, Father witnessed his first snowfall. He was impressed. “It’s very beautiful,” the Nakuru native commented. “I love looking at it [snow] every morning through my back window.”
Father Kooro has adapted well to the differences between the Nakuru culture and that of his new country. He learned how to drive on the right side of the road instead of the left side, as is the custom in Nakuru. He also shortened the length of his homilies at St. Margaret’s. In Nakuru, it is common for the clergy to deliver a homily lasting three to four hours.
Father Kooro earned a degree in theology from St. Mathias Mulumba Seminary in Tindinyo, Kenya. He was ordained Nov. 23, 2002 at the Cathedral of Christ the King in Nakuru. He served at several Kenyan parishes before assuming the role of Vocations Director and Youth Chaplain in 2010.
The Catholic Diocese of Nakuru Mission Office (CND), based at St. Agatha’s Church in Canastota, was created in July 2000 by Bishop James Moynihan’s promotion of a cooperative program with Bishop Peter Kairo of the Catholic Diocese of Nakuru. Under the plan, Bishop Kairo would send African priests to the U.S. to serve in the Syracuse Diocese to offset the shortage of priests and they, in turn, would familiarize people with the extreme poverty and lack of food and resources in Africa.
The Mission Office raises funds for the CDN. The funds are used to provide food for the starving, medicine for the sick, clean water for consumption and food preparation, educational facilities for children and orphanages for homeless children and abandoned infants.
In 2010, Holy Family Parish in Fairmount decided to expand the small wooden-framed orphanage in Nakuru that housed 18 children into a facility that would accommodate 80.
As of November, 67 young children are living in the Holy Family Children’s Home and 21 toddlers and babies live in the Abandoned Infants Home that is adjacent to the orphanage. Needy and abandoned children are being welcomed daily.
The facility provides a home to children who would otherwise be wandering the streets in an unsafe environment. Many of the children have lost parents to HIV/AIDS and others have been abandoned because their parents couldn’t afford to care for them. The orphanage offers the children such necessities as food, clothing, a safe place to sleep and education.
Mary Ellen Masterpole, a member of the Social Justice Ministry team at Holy Family Parish, has developed a sponsorship program where donors can give as little as $10 a month to help support one child at the orphanage or infant home. There are 134 sponsors in the Syracuse Diocese. “Their donation and support are very rewarding for the sponsor and the child,” said Masterpole. “Not only do they help with monetary support, they are also letting these children know that someone in this world really cares and loves them and that in itself is just as important. They need and count on us to help them.”
American parents now sponsor all of the children. According to Father Kooro, the ideal situation would be to secure two sponsors for each child because $10 is not enough to cover the expenses of each child.
The board of directors for the mission includes 10 members from St. Margaret’s Parish. The annual fundraiser, which includes an African bazaar, is also held at St. Margaret’s.
Through its fundraiser last September, the mission raised $25,504. The proceeds funded the installation of a full kitchen and laundry room. The improvements have made it much easier for the orphanage officials to maintain and care for the children.
Last December, the children in the orphanage enjoyed a brighter Christmas due to a special donation of $1,555. The mission wired the money to a Nakuru department store so that the children could enjoy a special meal and a present.
“That went so well, we decided to do this again for Easter. So far, we have raised $1,430 for the Easter surprise,” said Masterpole.
Current improvement projects at the orphanage include installing underground and overhead water tanks.
Father Kooro said that the children’s greatest needs include school uniforms, shoes and more land to accommodate a playground and a garden.
Father Kooro is dedicated to improving the orphans’ lot in life. “We need to think about their future and to support them in acquiring knowledge,” he said. “When they reach high school age, they need to attend a trade school so they can learn a trade so they can become independent. Then, I think that they’ll come back to help others who are less fortunate.”
Father Kooro’s visit to the orphanage has stoked his determination to help the children. “I’m doing this now with a passion because I’ve seen the joy in those who have been helped,” said Father Kooro. “Their lives have been made complete from donations. Jesus Christ is in these children. It is our responsibility to care of these children and to show them love.”
To make a donation to the Holy Family Children’s Home, make checks payable to CDN Mission, Inc., c/o Rev. Fredrick Mwangi Kooro, 406 Spencer St., Canastota, N.Y. 13032. Please write “Holy Family Children’s Home” in the memo section of the check.