On a first exploratory walk from Mill Hill house, Nairobi, this morning along Ngong Road, admiring the glitzy new tall buildings and distracted by the many giant billboards, I wandered through Adams Arcade street market. On the spur of the moment I called in at the nearby church of Our Lady of Guadelupe, but found it closed for major refurbishment.
An amplified woman’s voice sounded from a nearby marquee. A temporary shelter for the local catholic community? I wandered across to have a closer look. A congregation at worship, so it seemed. Then I heard the words ‘bishop Vincent’, and ‘Malakal’.
How to describe my utter astonishment when I realised that I had stumbled into a memorial celebration of the late Bishop Vincent Mojwok Nyiker of Malakal, South Sudan, who died last year.
Behind the altar I recognised Bishop Macram Max Gassis, former bishop of El Obeid (Sudan) and Jacob Kirchler mhm who served in Malakal until the unspeakable massacres at the outbreak of the civil war in South Sudan in 2013 forced him to leave. With them were other concelebrants, no doubt South Sudanese.
This was the migrant South Sudanese community of the diocese of Malakal resident in Nairobi commemorating in gratitude their bishop Vincent Mojwok.
I soon realised that the Mass was finished and various speakers took to the floor to address the assembled congregation. ‘South Sudanese are good at making long speeches’, bishop Macram Max quipped when he closed the long line of speakers.
‘Bishop Vincent Mojwok stood out for his simplicity’.
‘He was truly God’s gift to Malakal.’
‘I feel a strong bond with the diocese of Malakal. Bishop Pio Yukwan, literally died in my arms’.
Switching with admirable ease from English to Arabic bishop Macram Max Gassis spoke of his affection and admiration for bishop Vincent Mojwok. And referring to the ongoing violence in the country he made a passionate appeal for peace.
‘Peace will only come when our leaders will have learnt to respect our people. Leadership means service’.
Amen to that.
Fons Eppink mhm
BISHOP VINCENT MOJWOK NYIKER (1933-2018): EXEMPLARY SIMPLICITY
In the mid-90s when we were occupied with philosophical studies while others delved deeply in their theological trainings, there was this story among us seminarians, “the Bishop of Malakal is a very simple person”. In Church’s language, “simplicity” embodies humility, love of others, forgiveness, respect and accepting everyone in one’s life. Such attributes are qualities that fast-tracks beatification or canonization. Bishop Vincent Mojwok lived his saintly life among his people till the Lord called him from among us when we needed him most. He chose to live and die among his people. A true apostle and Bishop.
Bishop Vincent Mojwok valued education, as a shepherd he sent many students far and wide. He built schools for his flock and invited missionaries from far afield. As a teenager, I first met my cousins from Upper Nile in El-Obeid, Kordofan in 1989. They were sent to study there by Bishop Vincent Mojwok. In search of knowledge during war time, he always assigned a priest to cater for the needs of his seminarians studying in Comboni El-Obeid under St. Kizito Minor Seminary. Our colleagues from Malakal related closely to their Bishop and fondly praised him in our conversations. At St. Paul’s, our Rector, theologian and South Sudan’s missionary historian, Fr. Dellagiacoma Vittorino used to narrate to us during lectures, the lives of all generations of Catholic clergy beginning from those who went to Lacor, Uganda, Tore, Busere, Juba-Munuki and Khartoum. Young Vincent Mojowk’s life shone brightly in the eye of his formators.