At a time when the number of Catholic priests in the United States is declining, Catholic pastors from Latin America, Asia, and Africa are filling positions in U.S. churches.
On July 1st, Father Chrispine Otieno became the new pastor at Our Lady of Sorrows parish at S.E. 52nd and Woodstock Boulevard. Originally from Kenya, Father Chrispine says OLS has been very welcoming and kind. He is just one of many African priests serving in Oregon.
"People are really religious in Kenya," reports Fr. Chrispine in an interview with THE BEE. "It is unfortunate that the media at times tends to show only atrocities and misery in Africa, and so people are compelled to hear mostly about war, famine and negativity. There are, in fact, tragedies and deprivation in the world, but people remain resilient and hopeful thanks to the family spirit and their closeness to God.
"There is a common Swahili saying, 'Hakuna Matata', which means 'no worries'. Problems are always there, but we have to be a people of hope, and trust in God," commented Fr. Chrispine.
Fr. Chrispine grew up in a rural area of Kisumu, the principal city in western Kenya, with a population of 600,000. He began his long journey to the priesthood in 2001. First he studied in Nairobi, the capital of Kenya; then he proceeded to Pontifica Urbaniana University in Rome.
He was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Portland in 2013. None of his family has ever been to the United States, but because of technology, his family and friends in Kenya and elsewhere were able to watch his ordination by Internet live-stream in 2013.
After one year in Eugene, four years in the Oregon town of Gervais north of Salem, and one year in Gresham, he is settling into Woodstock, and says, "Tell the neighborhood I am glad to be here, to get to know the people, and to serve together with them. People should feel free to come to visit and talk, and worship with us."
Father Chrispine loves a Swahili proverb, "tenda wema nenda zako", which translates, "Do good and go your way" – meaning that it is not good to be the center of attention, despite all you do for others.
"The life that we live is not about us, it is gift from God to be gifted in turn, by serving others. Growing up in Kenya, I learnt that life is a gift that calls for celebration despite the ups and downs. That explains the joy in people's lives, even in the midst of poverty and suffering. Joy is not found so much in material things, but in our relationships with each other in the community and by placing our hope and trust in our loving God."
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