By Harrison Maina, Ajabu Africa News, posted September 16, 2010
BOSTON, Mass., _A Kenyan catholic priest, Fr. Ignatius Ikunza .SJ (Senior Jesuit), (39) died in Burlington Mass. on Monday September 13, 2010 after succumbing to a short battle with cancer. He will be burried tomorow, Friday September 17, at Campion Jesuit Center, 319 Concord road, Weston, MA 02493 , in accordance to the Catholic Jesuits congregation policies. The viewing of the body will take place at 9am , followed by a funeral service at 10am.
Jesuit priests belong to a religious order of men called Jesuits, who follow the teachings of the Catholic Church. Jesuit priests and brothers — also sometimes known colloquially as "God's marines" — are engaged in evangelization and apostolic ministry in 112 nations on six continents reflecting the Formula of the Institute (principle) of the Society. They are known in the fields of education (schools, colleges, universities, seminaries, theological faculties), intellectual research, and cultural pursuits in addition to missionary work, giving retreats, hospital and parish ministry, promoting social justice and ecumenical dialogue.(wikipedia).
According to a circular released by the Society of Jesus
Province of Eastern Africa from Nairobi Kenya, which was signed by Agbonkhianmeghe E. Orobator, SJ, and circulated to the catholic faithful through Father Michael Komu, the father in charge of the Kenyan Catholic community in Massachusetts, the late Ignatius was born to Mr. John Ayieko and Sapientia Atema Musina
on 9 September 1971, at Shikoye, Kakamega, Western Kenya.
grew up in Nairobi. After his primary school, he joined Queen of Apostles
Junior Seminary in Nairobi and completed his Ordinary Level in 1987
attaining Division II. He then did his Advanced Level in the same school
and qualified to join the Kenyan universities.
While he was in the Junior Seminary, Ignatius got in contact with the
Jesuits through the Late Fr. Sean O’Connor, SJ. He entered the novitiate of
the Society of Jesus in Lusaka, Zambia, on 30 June 1990. After one year in
Zambia, Eastern Africa Province established its own novitiate in Arusha,
Tanzania. Delays in construction led to the setting up of a temporary
novitiate in Morogoro, Tanzania, where Ignatius and his co-novices
completed their novitiate formation.
As a novice, Ikunza signed his letters
with the Spanish name "Iñigo", showing a deep longing to become a true
companion of Jesus in the footsteps of our founder, Ignatius of Loyola. He
pronounced his first vows in the Society on 31 July 1992 in the chapel of
the new Gonzaga Gonza Novitiate in Arusha. He spent the following year
doing a Juniorate programme at Arrupe House in Harare, Zimbabwe.
In 1993, Ignatius began his philosophy programme in Kimwenza,
Zaire (now DRC). While in Kimwenza, he was identified as determined,
trustworthy, intelligent, good at human relations, committed to his studies
and with a strong penchant for issues of peace and justice. Upon
completion of his studies, for his regency, Ignatius was sent to Kampala,
Uganda, to work with the youth at Sharing Centre under Fr. Ronald Champagne, a White Father (Missionary of Africa).
After one year, Ignatius was assigned to Kiwanja cha Ndege (Airport) parish in Dodoma, Tanzania, to continue his regency there, still working with the youth, and teaching Christian Education in secondary schools and Christian Ethics at the College of Business Education.
In 1998, Ignatius was missioned to the University of Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania, to pursue a BA degree in Law. As part of law school he did his internship with Kituo cha Sheria (Public Law Institute) which represents the disadvantaged.
After completing his LLB, he worked for one year with the International Criminal Court of Rwanda in Arusha. In 2002 Ignatius was assigned to Georgetown University for an MA in International Law. He successfully completed this LLM in 2003, following which he was assigned to Weston Jesuit School of Theology in Cambridge to start his studies in Theology. For his apostolate, he worked with the Kenyan Community in the area, a group that was to console him at his deathbed.
Father Ikunza speaking at "Celebrating Africa Day" at
St. Paul's in Cambridge
Ignatius was ordained a deacon on 30 September 2006 by Bishop Francis Xavier Irwin, Auxiliary Bishop of Boston, and ordained to the priesthood on 19 May 2007, at the Holy Family Basilica, Nairobi, by His Grace Ndingi Mwana a’Nzeki, then Archbishop (now Emeritus) of Nairobi. Ignatius returned to Weston to complete his licentiate in Theology.
Upon his return to Eastern Africa in 2008, Fr. Ikunza was assigned to be the director of Jesuit Hakimani Centre (JHC), an apostolate that had been close to his heart since he entered the Jesuits. Apart from continuing the programmes that were already established, he developed a programme of spiritual accompaniment of the members of parliament of Kenya and a pastoral programme with the Kenya military; he was constantly on call at Moi Barracks in Eastleigh, Nairobi.
He also started an outreach programme with medical doctors to offer medical services to the vulnerable and the poor of the society. Further, he devoted his energy towards creating the international branch of JHC in different parts of the world. The most prominent initiative was with his alma mater Georgetown University.
He worked closely with the Jesuit Superiors of Africa and Madagascar in the area of social apostolates and served on the boards of JRS-East Africa, Children of God Relief Institute and Nyangoma Technical School for the Deaf.
In April 2010, Ignatius was reassigned from JHC and subsequently to AFRICAMA House to continue his work as coordinator of the social apostolates of JESAM.
In July, following several inconclusive tests in Nairobi, Ignatius was diagnosed with liver cancer at Lahey Clinic Medical Centre in Burlington, USA, where he passed away on 13 September 2010.
The numerous tributes to Ignatius recognize him as a multi-talented Jesuit with a passion for what is right and just.
He had an unshakable belief
that all the gifts and talents given by God are to be put at the service of the church in order to participate effectively in Christ’s mission in the world. He was admired by many for his intelligence, hard work, courage, audacity, sociability, confidence, sense of humour, innovativeness, exuberant laughter and provocative ideas.
Yet for all his strength he was always conscious of the frailty of the human person and challenges that constantly need to be discerned in life. In his final days he came to terms with this frailty, vulnerability and diminishment as he battled an aggressive and resistant cancer. All who encountered him in his final days attest to his deep sense of peace, love of life, courage and trust in the love and mercy of God.
"I am grateful to the circle of Jesuits, family and friends that surrounded him throughout his struggle with cancer. They are too numerous to mention, but each person is recorded in God’s book of kindness, generosity and compassion, said Agbonkhianmeghe E. Orobator, SJ, Provincial, in the circular.
"On behalf of Eastern Africa Province, I thank in particular, the Provincial of New England Province, Fr. Myles Sheehan, SJ; the Rector, Fr. T. Frank Kennedy, SJ, and Jesuits of St. Mary’s Hall Boston College; Dr. Keith Stuart, MD; Nurse Kim Noonan; Laura Wright and members of the Kenyan Community in Boston", he added.
Ignatius will be laid to rest at Campion Jesuit Center, Weston, Massachusetts, USA, on Friday, 17 September 2010. A memorial Mass is planned for later in Nairobi, Kenya. Details will be communicated shortly. May the soul of Ignatius, our brother and companion, rest in peace. Amen!