With much pomp, ceremony, song, and dance, the formal inauguration of the Congregation of Holy Cross’s Province of East Africa took place on January 8, 2023, in a packed Virika Cathedral in Fort Portal, Uganda, where four Holy Cross priests first arrived in 1956 to begin a new mission endeavor in East Africa. The establishment of the new province, which previously had been the District of East Africa, was decreed by the Congregation’s 2022 General Chapter.
The Most Rev. Robert Muhiira, Bishop of the Diocese of Fort Portal, presided and preached at the Mass. In addition to the Holy Cross priests and local clergy concelebrating with him were the Most Rev. Philip Anyolo, Archbishop of Nairobi, Kenya, and the Most Rev. Josaphat Louis Lubulu, Archbishop-emeritus of Arusha, Tanzania.
In the presence of Br. Paul Bednarczyk, C.S.C., Superior General, Fr. Cyprian Binaka, C.S.C., publicly declared his faith and took the oath of office as the first superior of the new province. He had been serving as the district superior at the time of the establishment of the new province on January 1, 2023. Following Fr. Binaka, the members of the Provincial Council also took their oaths of office.
Br. Bednarczyk then read from the scroll officially proclaiming the canonical establishment of the new Province.
“It is with joy and gratitude to God that the Congregation of Holy Cross in East Africa announces the inauguration of the province of East Africa,” Fr. Cyprian says. “This exciting news affirms the many years of good ministry in East Africa since November 4, 1958, when the Congregation of Holy Cross first established its presence here.”
Fr. Binaka continued, “This celebration is an expression of gratitude to God, Holy Cross missionaries, and lay collaborators who have for years worked hard to bring the work of Holy Cross in this part of the world to what it currently looks like.”
Among those in attendance was a large delegation from the United States Province of Priests and Brothers, which had canonical oversight of the District of East Africa. The delegation was led by Fr. William Lies, C.S.C., Superior of the Province, and also included Fr. Thomas O’Hara, C.S.C., former Superior, and Fr. Thomas Eckert, C.S.C., Director of the Holy Cross Mission Center, as well as other former province missionaries to East Africa.
Br. William Zaydak, C.S.C., former Superior of Moreau Province, represented his province at the celebration. The Moreau Province had collaborated with the U.S. Province in the establishment and support of the District of East Africa. There were also representatives from the new Province of West Africa, including Br. John Affum, C.S.C., Superior, and from the Sacred Heart of Jesus Province in the person of Fr. Apu Rozario, C.S.C.
The Inaugural Mass was the culminating event of five prior days of assembly where the province members and invited guests gathered at St. Paul’s National Seminary. There were addresses from the local bishop, Br. Bednarczyk, and Fr. Lies. There were also other talks on themes from the history of Holy Cross in East Africa, formation, higher education, and mission endeavors. The assembly also provided an opportunity to celebrate the jubilees of both religious profession and ordination.
The establishment of the Province of East Africa comes after several decades of sustained strong growth in the Holy Cross’s communities and apostolates in the region. East Africa is currently home to 77 professed Holy Cross priests and brothers, 39 temporary professed members, 11 novices, and 24 postulants.
In addition to the Province of East Africa, the 2022 General Chapter decreed the establishment of three other provinces, all of which came into existence on January 1, 2023: Province of West Africa, Province of Tamil Nadu, and Province of Saint André Province of brothers in India.
“Those who have gone before us crossed borders of every sort in order to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ in word and deed. Thanks to their dedication, our Congregation has taken root and expanded in various parts of the world,” stated the 2022 General Chapter in its preamble to the decrees establishing the new province. “We recognize their missionary zeal as we establish new provinces and approve of structures that promise to enhance our efforts to read the signs of the times and be faithful to our mission.”