The Akamba people do not shy away from dancing, and they can sing beautifully too. And sing and dance they did on February 1, ¬¬2014 at our Lady of Koma Rock shrine located on Nairobi – Kangundo road some 50 kilometres East of capital Nairobi.
This was not a first time event. Every first Saturday of February since 2005, all the roads in the vast Machakos Catholic diocese lead to the Koma Rock shrine as thousands of Christians from all walks of life gather at the rocky hill for the annual prayer day pilgrimage.
This year’s event was particularly special; and it reportedly saw the biggest crowd ever at the Marian shrine. Bishop Martin Kivuva also used the event to _ celebrate 10 years as a bishop and to crown it all he would be ordaining thirty priests; the highest number ever to be ordained on the same day for the diocese of Machakos.
Christians came out dressed in their best; the men in splendid suits with the Catholic Men Association (CMA) ties and the women in long blue and white dresses. The children too were in their best, if not in colourful liturgical dresses or school uniforms.
The close to 6,000 chairs that had been put in place for the occasion were already filled by 6am yet thousands kept streaming to the shrine, some lining up for confessions, some making their way up the hill praying at the stations marking the way of the cross while some went up the hill to pray at the huge statue of Mary holding Jesus.
Soon thousands of people were spread over the rocky hill, the Mass started and the hill came to life; people danced and sang and even responses to the liturgy came back from the hill with resounding conviction.
The powerful sound system put in place ensured everyone at the shrine could follow the Mass from wherever points they were. Some people who were too far simply tuned in to Radio Waumini FM which was broadcasting the event live. But if you had arrived at the shrine at mid day, you would be amazed by the silence that surrounded the hill even as thousands of Christians some sitting; some standing silently bowed their heads in prayer.
The silence would go on for close to an hour, the only visible movement that of over two hundred priests moving in a file to place their hands on the 30 kneeling deacons being ordained to priesthood. The silence would occasionally be broken by Fr Josephat Makau, the vocations director of Machakos as he urged the Christians to say special prayers for the new priests.
“We have seen the results of the year of faith in these 30 deacons becoming priests today,” said Bishop Martin Kivuva.
“From today as you become priests you have the duty of serving people through the sacraments of repentance, Eucharist, uniting families in marriages and acknowledging the presence of God among us,” he told the newly ordained priests.
The ordination of the 30 priests brings to 225 the number of catholic priests in Machakos diocese a clear indication of the impressive response to vocations in the diocese. A fact that bishop Kivuva must have been proud of as he marked 10 years as a bishop in the diocese.
“Through prayer, through perseverance, through sharing we managed to be ordained priests in the Catholic diocese of Machakos. It was a great day for us, seeing all those people coming to celebrate with us the ordination and participate in the liturgy, it was wonderful,” said Fr Lincoln Kimeu, one of the newly ordained priests from Tala parish.
Families do not give up on each other
While opening the Year of the Family, the bishop urged spouses to be faithful to each other. “Why do we hear of a lot of ‘mpango wa kando’ unfaithfulness in the media? Are we truly living the holy family life? Let us not agree to be among them, we live among them but as Christians we must be set apart and have faithful marriages.”
“If you look at the newspapers in the last two, three four months, the family is at stake. There are so many issues from families breaking to very interesting kinds of marriages being promulgated by other cultures; the whole issue of unfaithfulness, the abuse of children. There is a need to address the issue of family because if we do not surely it is the foundation of society therefore it is necessary…” said the bishop in an interview with The Seed.
According to the bishop, people will give up their marriages if these challenges are not addressed.
“There are many divorces today in Europe and its catching up in Africa. There are those who are thinking of short time relationships while the Church promotes a long lasting family life, make the word of God light for your path as families.”
“We are open to receiving and sharing ideas. We encourage people to become as creative as possible in addressing the issue. We also would look out for marriage counselors and people who are gifted in certain areas and would like to be part of the programme. .
We will be educating young people about family values; we will be trying to help couples that are separated or families that have difficulties and encouraging single mothers so they do not feel left out. We also have children without families. Every parish will come up with issues we need to address. We want to re-introduce afresh the family life programme, strengthening the good families already living together; we want to promote engaged encounter programme for couples that are courting for marriage,” explained the Bishop.
The decision to close the Year of Faith, open the Year of the Family and ordain 30 priests at Our Lady of Koma Rock shrine was because over the years the shrine has come to be an important part of annual diocesan pastoral activities.
History of our Lady of Koma Rock shrine
On any other day, the Komarock Shrine is a quiet place, ideal for prayer and reflection. The 3km way of the cross starts from the bottom up the hill and the jutting rocks form crevices and corners where one can spend time alone deep in prayer.
The hill did not make much interest until an Indian priest the late Fr Thomas Vadassery, and then the parish priest at Mary Mother of God parish Koma Rock turned it into a place of prayer in 2000. In 2005, the shrine was separated from the parish and Fr Thomas Vadassery took full charge of the development of the shrine.
The tradition of an annual diocesan pilgrimage to the shrine began in 2005 and people from the Machakos diocese have been making annual pilgrimages to the shrine since then. Fr Vadessery died in 2013 but there is a full time priest who takes care of the shrine.
The place is currently being developed; a church structure is coming up, a sanctuary that can contain nearly 200 people has been set up for Masses at the shrine. The Catholic diocese of Machakos is still negotiating with private owners to get as much of the hill as possible.
According to Fr Januarius, the Koma Rock shrine is not closed to Catholics or Christians from Machakos alone. “It attracts people from all over. On other days apart from the day of pilgrimage for the diocese, if you go there you will find people from Nairobi parishes, Murang’a, Nyeri, Kitui and other places.“ It has been established that apart from Catholics, other groups of Christians have also been going to the shrine to pray. Whenever they come they ask for permission to come to pray at the shrine.

Welcome to Our Lady of Koma Rock Shrine Machakos

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