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The Journey of and to the Poor – Kenya

by | Jul 4, 2015 | Formation, Reflections | 1 comment

kenya-featured-newsExperience a different way to travel to Kenya with the Congregation of the Mission in this multimedia story rooted in the work of a local liturgical artist– an integration of text, audio, and photography. Be sure your sound volume is turned on to fully experience the sights and sounds. Click on the graphic above to begin.

The Journey of and to the Poor
Photographs by THOMAS ESSELMAN, C.M.
Adapted for online use by FAMVIN.ORG

I have discovered over the years that a work of art can help to build, deepen, and interpret our collective identity. A practical illustration of this thought is exemplified in a work of art depicting Saint Vincent de Paul that hangs in the students’ residence building, Ravasi Hall, at DePaul Centre in Nairobi, Kenya. This image of Saint Vincent was carved by a local liturgical artist, Chrisantus Momanyi. When I asked him to produce a panel of Vincent in an African setting, he told me that he knew very little of the saint and so I gave him a short biography of our Founder to supply him with some background. Several months later he came back to me with a proposed sketch of his idea for a wall hanging. He told me “I had this dream about Saint Vincent, and after I woke up, I developed this sketch.” Chrisantus entitled his picture, “Saint Vincent on the Road of the Poor in Africa.”

The artist begins this depiction with an African village. At the top of the panel coming out of the village is the winding road of the poor. Chrisantus believes that Vincent and all of us who follow him are on this winding road of the poor, and as we journey with him, “we meet all those are who forced to travel this path.”

This was Chrisantus’ interpretation. However, over the years that I lived with this image of Saint Vincent I began to interpret it another way. I think that the work could also be called “Saint Vincent on the Road to the Poor,” as it depicts his autobiographical journey, and his personal and spiritual road to the poor.

The story begins with departure. The hero hears a call to leave home, and in Vincent’s case, he dutifully responds, crosses the threshold and enters into a new world. Vincent departs Pouy as a young boy. He is urged by his family to make his way in the world, and to establish himself in an ecclesiastical career in order to help himself and the family. And so the journey begins.

Vincent’s ambition, his drive to succeed, was refocused into an ambition to liberate the poor from their degradation and enforced enslavement. On his return from the epic journey, he saw the poor as his masters. He, and we, their servant.

As a missionary, I am supposed to teach them to pray! They don’t need instruction. They are an encouragement to me. God is real for them. True prayer involves becoming poor. Who will lift up the world to God and plead for mercy? When God looks down on us, what does He see worth saving? He sees His Son in the faces of those who continue to cry out in this valley of tears. St. Vincent learnt that without ever leaving France!

More on the Congregation of the Mission in Kenya, and information on giving opportunities at:

Epilogue from Irish Vincentians

Sound effects by

Music by Kenyan gospel artist: Sammy Irungu. Song: Niwikite Magegania.

1 Comment

  1. marguerite broderick dc

    Very well done!! Gave us a feeling of being there in Kenya–What a wonderful artistic representation of Vincent and his journey and ours in the wood carving. Thank you.

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