Denver faithful buy cows for struggling African diocese

Small herd will be income source for Congolese Catholics

Roxanne King

Thanks to the support of local parishes through the Missionary Cooperative Plan, a diocese in Democratic Republic of Congo now has a starter herd of cattle, which means hope for meeting future needs.

Cattle are fundamental to the people of rural Africa, providing food and a means of financial support. Before civil wars devastated DR Congo’s economy, the Diocese of Kabinda in Congo-Kinshasa had a thriving herd of 1,500 cattle. Sadly, during the conflicts, rebels stole the herd.

This summer, Congo native Father Kibambe Crispin, parochial vicar at St. Therese Parish in Aurora, made a Missionary Cooperative Plan appeal to three parishes of the Denver Archdiocese to buy cattle for his home diocese. Through the generosity of parishioners—particularly Risen Christ Parish—$36,000 was raised, enabling the Kabinda Diocese to buy two-dozen cattle, which could eventually grow to a herd of 250.

“The diocese can get money in the future (from these cows),” explained Father Crispin, adding that it plans to sell cattle, meat and manure from the herd. Ideally, the Kabinda Diocese would like to have a herd of 100 cattle to expand to create a sustainable source of income for its needs.

“The diocese is facing a lot of challenges: there is no car for it; parish rectories aren’t in good condition; churches need repainted. We want to build a school in each parish,” Father Crispin said. “If someone would like to help they can send donations to the Diocese of Kabinda through the Missionary Cooperative Plan.”

Located in central Africa, the Kabinda Diocese is home to over a half-million Catholics. It has 30 parishes, 65 priests, 160 lay religious and 59 seminarians.

Although rich in natural resources, political instability, corruption and a lack of infrastructure have kept the people of DR Congo among the poorest in the world. Despite the nation’s problems, the Catholic Church has remained a constant stabilizing force, leading scholar Michael Schatzberg to describe the Church as DR Congo’s “only truly national institution apart from the state.”

The Missionary Cooperative Plan, a project of the Denver Archdiocese’s Social Ministry Office, works to foster the spirit of mission outreach. Each year, in partnership with the Society of the Propagation of the Faith, representatives from Catholic organizations visit parishes to share their experiences and ask for financial support and prayers. St. John Paul II described the necessity of missionary outreach in the encyclical “Redemptoris Missio,” saying: “Local churches … must always maintain an effective sense of the universality of the faith, giving and receiving spiritual gifts, experiences of pastoral work in evangelization and initial proclamation, as well as personnel for the apostolate and material resources.”

Although economically poor, the people of Africa are rich in faith, boasting one of the world’s largest Catholic populations (158 million) and turning out a high percentage of the Church’s priests. Father Crispin is among the priests his homeland has shared with the Denver Archdiocese.

“My presence here is a blessing (for me),” he said about ministering in Denver, adding that it’s a grace meant to be shared with Catholics back home. “My wish is to help my diocese.”

TO HELP

Email: Fara.Kearnes@archden.org
Call: Social Ministry Office, 303-715-3171

COMING UP: Father Jan Mucha remembered for his ‘joy and simplicity’

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When Father Marek Ciesla was 11 years old, he encountered a priest in his hometown in northern Poland who was visiting his parish on mission.

“I was impressed,” said Father Ciesla. “A couple of my friends and I were talking about how energetic, how wonderful this priest was. I think in this way he inspired us a little bit to follow the call to the priesthood.”

The priest was Father Jan Mucha, and little did Father Ciesla know that decades later and an ocean away, he would reunite with the man that inspired him and his friend to pursue the priesthood.

In 2010 when Father Mucha was retiring from his role as pastor of St. Joseph Polish Catholic Church in Denver, Father Ciesla was sent from Poland to the Archdiocese of Denver to take his place.

The priests spent two days together, and Father Ciesla was struck by the familiarity of Father Mucha.

“For some reason, the way he was talking and the words he was using, something rang a bell,” he said. “I asked him if he remembers visiting my parish. And he said, ‘Oh, yeah, I had it on my list. I remember.’”

Father Ciesla was amazed that the man he was there to replace was the same one who had impacted his life all those years ago.

“God works in mysterious ways,” said Father Ciesla. “I never thought I would meet him again.”

Father Mucha passed away March 21 after serving the archdiocese for 40 years. He was 88 years old.

Father Mucha was born March 16, 1930 in Gron, Poland to parents Kazimierz and Aniela Mucha. He was one of five children. Father Mucha attended high school in Kraków and went on to study philosophy and theology at a seminary in Tarnów.

Father Mucha was ordained December 19, 1954 in Tarnów by Auxiliary Bishop Karol Pękala. He served at St. Theresa Parish in Lublin, Sacred Heart Parish in Florynka and as a Latin teacher at Sacred Heart Novice House in Mszana Dolna.

He was incardinated into the Archdiocese of Denver on April 20, 1978. Before he was granted retirement status in August of 2010, he served at St. Joseph Polish for nearly 40 years.

“Father Mucha was dedicated to his people and there was a joy about him,” said Msgr. Bernard Schmitz, who had known Father Mucha since his own ordination in 1974 and more recently within his former role as Vicar for Clergy.

“I admired his joy and simplicity,” said Msgr. Schmitz. “He seemed to have no guile and what you saw is what you got. He was very proud of his Polish heritage and was unafraid to be Polish.”

Father Mucha’s move to the United States came about after he visited St. Joseph Polish while on vacation. The pastor at the time was sick, and parishioners asked Father Mucha to stay.

After receiving approval from his superiors in Poland and the archbishop in Denver, Father Mucha did stay, and ended up serving the parish for nearly four decades.

“He was happy to serve here,” said Father Ciesla. “All the time, he was a man of faith. He kept his eye on Jesus.”

Msgr. Schmitz believes Father Mucha’s faithfulness and tenacity as a priest will leave a lasting impression on those he served.

“He was dedicated to the priesthood and didn’t want to retire until he was sure his people would be well taken care of,” said Msgr. Schmitz. “He could come across as tough, but really he was a compassionate person [with] a heart open to the Lord’s work.”