East Africa & The VC
Africa, the planet’s second largest continent, includes fifty-three (54) individual countries.
It contains the Nile river, the world’s longest river and the massive Sahara Desert, the world’s
largest desert. The continent’s highest point is Mt Kilimanjaro, in Tanzania, 19,341feet
(5,895meters) while the lowest point is Lac’ Assal in the small country of Djibouti, 512 feet
(156 meters) below sea level.
East Africa or Eastern Africa is the easterly region of the African continent. Though 19
territories (Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia,
Mozambique, Madagascar, Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Comoros, Mauritius, Seychelles, Reunion and
Mayotte) constitute Eastern Africa in the United Nations scheme of geographic regions, East
Africa is often used to specifically refer to the area now comprising the countries of Kenya,
Tanzania and Uganda and (in a wider sense) also Rwanda, Burundi, Somalia, Djibouti, Ethiopia,
Eritrea and Sudan.
Uganda, the “Pearl of Africa” is home to the highest mountain range in Africa, the Ruwenzori,
home to half the mountain gorilla population in the world, diverse wildlife, and over 1000
species of birds. Kenya, the preferred investment destination in East Africa, hosts one of the
earth’s greatest natural spectacles, The Serengeti-Maasai Mara wildebeest migration. The Great
Rift Valley, colorful Maasai villages, beautiful beaches, numerous parks and Mount Kenya can all
be explored. Tanzania is home to the highest mountain in Africa-Mount Kilimanjaro, snow-capped
and rising to 5,895 meters, also the Ngorongoro crater, The Serengeti and spicy Zanzibar.
The African Continent is said to have been evangelized in the first century itself. It had the
singular privilege of hosting the Holy Family in exile (Matthew 2:14-15). Among those who were
together in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost, there were people from Egypt (Acts 2:10) – LINK
TO WORD OF GOD
Ancient Christianity in North Africa was made famous by the Theological School of Carthage,
prominent Bishops like Cyprian of Carthage, St Augustine of Hyppo, many martyrs of 1st and 2nd
centuries such as Felicita and Perpetua. But with Islamic aggression, Carthage fell to the Arabs
in 697. Thereafter, the growth of Christianity came to a standstill.
Islamic invasions and insurrections had a debilitating effect on the evangelization process that
was taking place in different parts of Africa. When Ethiopian Church was badly hit by Islam,
Christian faith was being revived and strengthened under Alfonso of Congo, the first Christian
ruler of the south of Sahara. After 20 years of tireless effort, in 1526 he drew up a plan of
evangelization in North Africa. For over 300 years, his successors tried to maintain good
relationship with Rome and welcomed many missionaries into the continent.
The pre-colonial period from 1800-1880 was truly the heroic age of the modern missions. Many
missionaries succumbed to the deadly malaria fever and some were killed treacherously. The
foundation of most of the African Churches, however took place during the colonial period of
1880-1960. This period brought to this continent much of the modern infrastructure that
facilitated greatly the work of evangelization. Christian churches became more alive and active
in many countries after their independence. Thus Christianity became a major religion in most of
the sub-Saharan countries.
Christianity has been estimated to be growing rapidly in different parts of the world. In Africa,
for instance, in 1900 there were only 8.7 million adherents of Christianity, now there are about
600 million and it is growing still higher.
In East Africa, Uganda and Kenya are predominantly Christian with 52.5 million followers. As far
as the Catholic Church is concerned, Uganda ranks first with 41.9% of the total population
followed by Kenya and Tanzania with 33% and 25.74% respectively. This shows that there is an
unparalleled potential for faith formation programs in East Africa and the African continent at
If there is anything to go by the saying, “a leader is a dealer in hope”, then due recognition
must be given for the beginners of our African Mission. An unsuccessful attempt in this line was
made by Frs. Emmanuel Rathappillil and Hilarios Aranjaniyil in the year 1975.
But the verse ‘do not throw away your confidence which will be handsomely rewarded’ (Hebrews
10,35) was fulfilled when two pioneer missionaries of our Congregation, Frs. James Edavazhithara
and Jacob Athickal reached Tanzania on 10th July 1979 for pastoral work in the diocese of Mbeya.
They were entrusted with the parish of Tukuyu with its 16 mass centers. After two years, Fr.
Thomas Kuzhippala joined them. Due to the commendable service of our missionaries, the parish of
Kyela with its 26 Mass Centres was brought under the pastoral care of the Vincentians in the
same diocese when Fr. Luke Mattappillichira joined the pioneer missionaries in the year 1985.
Unfortunately, Fr. Luke had a fatal attack of malaria fever while he was making his annual
retreat along with Fr. Thomas Kuzhippala at Kabanga in the diocese of Kigoma. He breathed his
last on January 9, 1986.
This did not dampen the missionary spirit of our confreres. Later in the same year, the Superior
General Fr. George Manalel visited the missionaries to console and encourage them. He visited
the tomb of Fr. Luke Mattappillichira in Kabanga in the diocese of Kigoma. Fr. Manalel had a
meeting with the Bishop of Kigoma who invited the Vincentian Missionaries to serve in his
Frs. Athickal and Edavazhithara were encouraged by the new comer Fr. Thomas Plackal. These three
tried hard to manage two parishes with their 42 outstations. However, it was quite wearying to
manage two parishes with numerous outstations in the diocese of Mbeya. Moreover, they wanted to
take up missionary activity in the diocese of Kigoma. Consequently, the parish of Kyela was
given up in the year 1987 and they concentrated in Tukuyu parish to make their ministry more
Frs. James Edavazhithara and Jose Adapoor moved to Kigoma to take up the Katubuka parish in 1988.
When Fr. Thomas Embrayil, the Asst. Superior General visited Tanzania, a decision was taken to
give back Tukuyu Mission to the diocese so that more attention could be given to develop
Katubuka Mission. Due to shortage of personnel to look after the parishes entrusted to us, the
rest of the missionaries had to wind up their activities in the diocese of Mbeya and came over
to the diocese of Kigoma in September 1990.
When the African Mission came under the jurisdiction of Marymatha Province, Frs. Jacob Athickal,
Thomas Kuzhippala and Thomas Palakkattu went back to India. On March 27, 1992 Fr. Thomas Plackal
met with a fatal car accident and died on the spot. He was buried near the tomb of Fr. Luke
Mattappillichira at Kabanaga, Tanzania.
In the course of time, more missionaries with zeal and commitment came over to the African
mission. Consequently, our service was requested by Bishops of Kenya and Uganda. Needless to say
that the arrival of Fr. Joseph Kuruppamparambil in our East African Mission in 1992, was timely
and speeded up its blossoming. Quite steady has been its growth. Meanwhile, Vincentian Houses
were established. VH Vikindu was established in 1998. Seminarians were sent to Major seminaries
in Tanzania and Kenya for their theology program. In the year 2004, St. Xavier’s Parish Uvinza
was entrusted to Vincentians for its pastoral care and later we built the first school there in
Uvinza. Rt. Rev. Issac Amani, the Bishop of Moshi was attracted by the Popular Mission retreats
and invited us to open our mission in Moshi. Vincentians were glad to take up St. Albert the
Great Quasi Parish Weruweru in 2015.