The ordination of the first-ever blind Catholic priest in Kenya will help show people that “disability is not inability,” the archbishop of Nyeri has said.
In a message shared with ACI Africa, CNA’s news partner in Africa, Archbishop Anthony Muheria of the Catholic Archdiocese of Nyeri reflected on the Jan. 14 ordination to the priesthood of Father Michael Mithamo King’ori, who lost his sight while serving as a deacon.
“This new priest, Father Michael, will help us to appreciate, in a very new way, the capacity, the ‘enabledness,’ of people who may have a deficiency of ability because of [their] situations,” Muheria said in the Jan. 15 message a day after presiding over the priestly ordination of the Kenyan priest.
The archbishop added that the priestly ordination of Mithamo King’ori “is a reason for great joy because in spite of his limitation, in spite of the hurdles he has had to go through, he has come out to give evidence and testimony that disability is not a hindrance to answer[ing] God’s call, that disability is not inability.”
The Kenyan Catholic archbishop said the priestly ordination of the first-ever blind Catholic priest in Kenya “is a great wake-up call” for everybody to give opportunities to people living with disabilities.
“Many people who may not have the abilities, the normal abilities that we value, are very gifted in so many other ways that make them still very effective in the ministry, in evangelization, and in fulfilling the call that they have received. Of course, it is ours to ensure that they are well prepared,” he said.
Father Mithamo King’ori was ordained to the priesthood alongside five other deacons during Mass at St. John Bosco Kiamuiru Primary School grounds in which the archbishop emeritus of Nyeri, Peter Kairu, members of the clergy ministering in the archdiocese, women and men religious, and laity participated.
In his Jan. 15 audio message, Archbishop Muheria said the historic priestly ordination in the East African nation “is a moment to also embrace that disabilities are gifts that God gives so that those people can develop new other gifts and enrich our society.”
“When Our Lord walked on the streets of Jerusalem, Galilee, Nazareth, where he spoke to the crowds, he always had a special eye for those in need,” he explained.
The member of Opus Dei who started his episcopal ministry in January 2004 as the bishop of Kenya’s Embu Diocese said he finds it regrettable that a section of persons living with disabilities are discriminated against.
“Many of our children in those places, in schools, are not given the dignity due to them. Toilets are badly done, the caretakers are few, the teachers sent there are very few; they can’t handle them,” Muheria said, adding that there are many hurdles limiting the supervision of special schools and institutions.
Families of children living with disabilities have been forgotten, yet they require social and financial support, he lamented.
“We in the Church, you in the parish, at least take this challenge. At least let us visit the homes of families with disabilities, and the schools of children with disabilities regularly to help, not just to give food, but to help improve infrastructure, to walk with them, to clean, to give them new shades,” Muheria said.
He continued: “Let us pay more attention to the people with disabilities, then indeed we will see the face of Christ in them. Reach out to those in marginalized areas in ways that you can; don’t pass by. Let us be there because Christ calls us to reach out to our brothers and sisters.”
In an interview with Kenya Television Network (KTN) News posted on YouTube Jan. 16, Father Mithamo King’ori traced his priestly vocation to the grace of God and expressed his gratitude to Archbishop Muheria for giving him the hope he needed to remain focused on his dream vocation.
“I can’t forget Archbishop Anthony Muheria, who has really journeyed with me,” he told KTN News shortly after presiding over his first Mass on Jan. 15.
He added in reference to his local ordinary: “He has really encouraged me; at those times when I became sick and fell down as if my vocation, my life, [had] come to an end, he didn’t leave me. He held me very well with his fatherly love that I still remember, words of encouragement, and he even dared to give me work to do because he believed that I had something that I could offer.”
“I am dedicating everything to God himself because I believe in giving God the best. He is the one who has given me the best I have to give, the best, and that is the best; I’m offering myself,” Mithamo King’ori said.
Asked about what kept him focused on his priestly vocation, he said: “It is that spirit of God that really kept me discerning my vocation because I believe that having lost my eyes does not mean that I have lost my dream.”
“Through prayer I was convinced that there is a difference between the problem that I’m facing … and the vocation that is within me, that which God is calling me to serve,” he said. “I convinced myself through prayer that loss of eyesight doesn’t mean loss of my vocation.”
He encouraged persons living with any form of disability not to lose sight of the presence of God in their lives.
“To those people who may be disabled in one way or the other, that doesn’t mean the end of life. It is important, it is imperative to know that God is already aware of it, and having God aware of it is enough,” he said.
He continued: “To the disabled, to the physically challenged, my dear brothers and sisters, all is not lost; focus on the strengths you have. If you don’t have one hand, you have a leg — walk; if you don’t have a leg, you have a hand — work. If you don’t have or if you have lost your eyesight, you have your brain — use it [to the] maximum.”
The new priest cautioned against discrimination, adding: “To those people who sometimes discriminate against those who are physically challenged, my dear brothers and sisters, you … forget that you discriminate [against] your brothers and sisters, because we all belong to the same family.”