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As Archbishop Okoth Retires, Anyolo to Assume Mantle of Leadership

The Catholic Archdiocese of Kisumu will have a new head on Saturday.

Archbishop Zacchaeus Okoth is retiring after being in control since May 21, 1990. Kenya Conference of Catholic colorful chairman Philip Anyolo will assume Bishop’s in a colorful ceremony to be held in Kisumu.

President Uhuru Kenyatta, ODM leader Raila Odinga, DP William Ruto, governors Anyang Nyong’o (Kisumu), Cornel Rasanga (Siaya) and Cyprian Awiti (Homa Bay) are among those expected to attend.

Anyolo is currently the bishop of Homa Bay diocese. On Friday, he will lead his last mass for Homa Bay priests, sisters, brothers and lay leaders at 9 am.

The central organizing committee said Anyolo’s procession will leave for Kisumu 11 am.

At Kobuya/ Nyakwere — the border of Kisumu and Homa Bay dioceses — he will be officially handed over to the Kisumu priests and faithful.

Read: Anyolo to replace Okoth as Archbishop of Kisumu

The vicar general of Kisumu, Father Moses Omollo, who chairs the committee, said the new archbishop will make brief stopovers at Katito, Ahero, Withur, Buoye and Nyamasaria en route to St Theresa’s Catholic Cathedral, Kibuye, where he will be waiting to welcome him.

Omollo will then introduce and unveil Anyolo officially. The new archdiocese boss will then be driven to the bishop’s residence, awaiting his installation on Saturday at Uzima University grounds. The holy mass will begin at 9.30am.

Anyolo was born on May 18, 1956, in Tongaren, Bungoma. He was ordained a priest for the Catholic Diocese of Eldoret in 1983.

Pope John Paul II appointed him as Kericho bishop on December 6, 1995, and was consecrated as bishop of Kericho on February 3 the following year.

On February 20, 2002, the pope appointed him as Homa Bay apostolic administrator after Rt. Rev. Linus Okok Okwach resigned.

Anyolo was appointed Homa bay bishop on March 22, 2003, and installed as bishop on May 23 the same year. He was elected KCCB chairman in October 2013 and is currently serving his second term.

He has also served as the KCCB vice chairman.

Archbishop Okoth, 76, leaves a legacy that has been praised by many who have cited gains made as a result of his management approach, save for a few dissidents.

Okoth’s reign

He was ordained priest of Kisumu in 1968 and rose through the ranks to become a bishop in February 1978. Okoth has ordained a bishop in April the same year. Twelve years later, he was appointed archbishop of the greater Kisumu, overseeing Catholic missions in Nyanza region.

His exit is likely to usher in fresh conversation on how the diocese has been run for nearly 30 years he has been at the helm. Under his influence, the archdiocese made great strides in education, health, environment, and hospitality.

Okoth’s footprints will be felt largely in education, having initiated projects in dozens of schools — some named after him. Bishop Okoth Girls’ Mbaga in Siaya county, Bishop Okoth Ojolla Secondary in Kisumu and Bishop Okoth Miranga in Seme sub-county are just but a few in the long list of schools whose construction he oversaw.

The Catholic Archdiocese is feted for supporting girls’ education. Some of its schools have a long history of exemplary performance in national exams.

In Nyanza, the diocese has schools such as St Mary’s Girls, Lwak, St Francis Girls, Rang’ala, St Oda Aluor Girls, and schools for students with special needs.

One institution on the lips of many worshippers, however, is Uzima University, which was Okoth’s brainchild. During the archdiocese’s Silver Jubilee celebrations in 2015, the cleric urged President Uhuru to help the college get a charter.

The charter would allow for its expansion so it can attract more medical students. Kisumu, a metropolitan diocese, is one of the largest in the country. Others are Nairobi, Mombasa, and Nyeri.

On health, the archdiocese is feted for its role in the management of HIV-Aids. The church, through its charity arm, the Catholic Medical Mission Board, has linked thousands of patients to treatment.

Okoth has also been an anti-contraceptive crusader, championing child upbringing based on God’s teachings.

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