After completing his first year of theology studies at St. Meinrad (Ind.) Seminary in May 2016, 30-year-old priesthood candidate Kenneth Wandera was accepted into the new Glenmary novitiate class along with Jose Carlos Miguel Lopez, Samuel Mungai and Aloysius Ssendawula. They comprise the largest novice group in recent Glenmary history.
The novitiate is a one-year program beginning July 1, 2016, potentially leading up to the four students’ profession of their First Glenmary Oaths—at which time they would become members of Glenmary.
In June 2016, Kenneth and Samuel have both been on a mission placement at the Maynardville, Tenn., mission to learn more about life, people and ministry in Glenmary mission areas.
Before coming to the United States in the summer of 2015 to enter Glenmary formation, Kenneth was born and grew up in Busia, Kenya. He is the youngest of four children of Francisca and the now-deceased Charles. He grew up in the countryside mostly with his mom, because his father spent most of the time working until a few years ago, when he retired and returned home.
“I remember my childhood with a sense of love from my parents and siblings. My mum continues to be a figure of inspiration in my life. She laid a strong Catholic foundation. She asked all of us to go to Mass every Sunday together. She trained me to love the Church, and my early experiences of seeing a priest saying Mass in our village attracted me so much to such a life.”
After receiving his first Communion, he became a server, and it was through the parish server group that he developed a strong desire to be a priest and became active in the church and community.
“I also discovered from my parish priest,” he says, “that missionaries had come to our area many years ago; spread the Gospel; catechized the area; and built schools, a hospital and a big church. It is now our responsibility to take this faith in equal measure and vigor to the worlds that have not been fully evangelized.”
He was attracted by what he heard and read about these Mill Hill Missionaries, and after having attended two religious colleges (Philosophy Centre in Jinja, Uganda, and Tangaza College in Kenya), he did seminary studies for five years with the Mill Hill group before he discerned in 2012 that he should leave that society.
But he knew that he loved pastoral work, and his pastoral placements with Mill Hill, as well as his volunteer work, were full of good experiences. For example, he worked with the poor in the slums of Jinja and the semi-arid area of Karamoja, both in Uganda; worked with children in a Nairobi, Kenya, orphanage; and in Kiserian, Kenya, helped by serving Mass, teaching young people how to serve, teaching catechumens, visiting the old and sick, and teaching basic theology.
“Pastoral work is where I learned to meet people and always felt God’s presence, the spirit of God at work even in the hardest moments of those experiences. I discovered how much people require others to talk to, to share their plight with, and hopefully to get the consoling message of Christ. I learned resilience and the spirit of loving service.”
And in his continuing search for societies of apostolic life, he heard about Glenmary. “Reading about Glenmary’s charism of rural ministry, especially to the unchurched, touched me. Hearing that there were parts of the United States that were unchurched communicated to me even more loudly. I began corresponding with Glenmary and, by God’s grace, I came to the United States and entered formation with them in 2015. It was my longest journey, my first flight, and especially a change of culture. But I want to be a missionary priest and offer myself to the people of God. I keep praying for this grace.”
He began residing with fellow Glenmary students at Glenmary's House of Studies in St. Meinrad, Ind., in the summer of 2015, and started his seminary studies in the fall semester.
“I thank God for the gift of Glenmary to me, and for those who have worked and walked with me this far. Mine is a prayer of hope that Glenmary will be a place I will call home for many years to come. Mission is the reason I came to Glenmary!”