Fr Joseph Obanyi was on Saturday installed the second bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Kakamega in a colourful ceremony attended by thousands of Catholics and politicians from around the country.
The consecration of Bishop Obanyi, who will turn 48 on Tuesday, marked a significant chapter in his life as he takes over the mantle in one of the expansive and most populous dioceses with 790,588 faithful.
Outgoing Bishop Philip Sulumeti, who presided over the ceremony, referred to his successor as his father when he handed over the mitre and apostolic stuff to him.
“I am retiring in Kakamega. From today I will refer to you as my father and promise to respect and be obedient to you,” said the 77-year-old Bishop Sulumeti.
He added: “While in retirement I will pray for you every day if God gives me the strength so that you can carry out your work unhindered and with guidance from the Lord.”
Bishop Sulumeti has overseen affairs of the diocese for 44 years, with the Pope declining to accept his request for retirement twice. He had sought to retire on health grounds.
Despite fighting a heart disease, the Pope had advised him to continue shepherding the diocese until his replacement was found. Bishop Sulumeti’s is a story of resilience, faith, hope and obedience. He says that his 44 years as bishop have been a collection of trepidation, joy and sorrow.
In keeping with church traditions, the new bishop recited the Apostles’ Creed and also swore the oath of fidelity as a sign that he will be faithful to the church and the Holy Father. He was given a ring as a seal of fidelity.
Bishop Sulumeti anointed Bishop Obanyi with holy oil on his head and placed a mitre on his head. He was also given a Bible.
Bishop Obanyi said: “I will uphold the supreme teaching of the church in teaching, sanctifying and ruling the people of God.”
Bishop Sulumeti asked his successor to learn the Luhya language to make it easy for him to communicate with his flock.
The pope’s appointment letter was read by different priests in Latin, English, Kiswahili and Luhya.
After the formalities of installing the new bishop were over, the packed Bukhungu Stadium erupted in song and dance as he entered his sleek Prado, bought by the faithful, and drove around the stadium.
Deputy President William Ruto was the chief guest at the ceremony also attended by Senate Minority Leader Moses Wetang’ula, Amani Coalition boss Musalia Mudavadi and governors Wycliffe Oparanya (Kakamega), James Ongwae (Kisii) and Nyamira’s John Nyagarama.
The ceremony was attended by 25 bishops including the apostolic nuncio (the Pope’s representative) Archbishop Charles Balvo, the Bishop of Nairobi, Archbishop John Cardinal Njue, more than 100 priests and hundreds of nuns.