In Tanzania's future capital, Dodoma, hundreds of priests from Tanzania’s Catholic Dioceses have celebrated 100 years of the local priesthood in the country from the ordination of the first four Tanzanian priests on 15 August 1917.
The first four native priests were Frs. Celestine Kipanda of Bunda Diocese; Angelo Mwirabure, Geita Diocese; Oscar kyakaraba, Bukoba Diocese and Willlbard Mupapi from Kashozi-Bukoba Diocese.
The 100 years celebration was graced by the Holy See’s delegate, Archbishop Protase Rugambwa who is the Adjunct Secretary of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples and concurrently President of Pontifical Mission Societies. Also present at the event were the Apostolic Nuncio to Tanzania, Archbishop Marek Solczyński; Tanzania’s Catholic Bishops and four visiting Bishops from Burundi and Rwanda.
The participation of Bishops from Burundi and Rwanda was significant because two priests (one from Burundi and another from Rwanda) were ordained in the same year, 1917, with their Tanzanian counterparts.
In his Homily, the Auxiliary Bishop of Bukoba Diocese, Bishop Method Kilaini commended efforts of the missionaries specifically Bishop John Joseph Hirth of the then Apostolic Vicariate of Southern Nyanza which was a Catholic mission territory of Eastern Africa. Bishop Hirth promoted the idea of Africans becoming priests in spite of opposition from some of his fellow missionaries.
“Bishop Hirth never gave up; he continued doing what he had planned to do. He was happy to see his dream come true on 15th, August 1917 when four Tanzanians (Africans) were ordained, priests. Later on 7 October 1917 he ordained one priest from Rwanda and another one from Burundi,” said Bishop Kilaini.
Bishop Kilaini urged priests to remain steadfast in their vocation. “In whatever circumstance do not revoke your priesthood,” he said.
He stated that from 1917 when Tanzania got its first four priests, there were now in the country, 3,316 Catholic priests. Of these 2,926 are Diocesan priests; 390 are Religious.
(Sarah Pelaji in Tanzania)