Planting a Future in Kenya: A Maryknoll Lenten Reflection

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By Joseph Healey, M.M.

Gn 22:1-2, 9a, 10-18 | Rom 8:31b-34 | Mk 9:2-10

On the care of creation, Catholic young people in Kenya are not just talking the talk; they are walking the walk. They are planting trees by the thousands. Collins Ngoma, a member of the Kenya Online Young Adult Seekers Small Christian Community, reports:

“The youth from St. Martin of Tours Parish in Sultan Hamud in Ngong Diocese, Kenya had a seminar on the importance of caring for Mother Nature. Immediately after the session, we planted trees in the compound. I was amazed when the Pontifical Missionary Childhood Society, the facilitators, and our priest joined the initiative. Next, we went to two of Sultan Hamud Parish’s outstations — St. Antony, Emali, and St. Mary, Masimba — that received their fair share of tree seedlings.”

When it comes to climate change and global warming, the people living in Africa are very vulnerable. Kenya is on the equator. Countries in Eastern Africa are presently alternating between terrible drought and excessive flooding, resulting in mud slides.

Sacrifice is an important theme of the Lenten Season and of the Scripture readings this Second Sunday in Lent. Jesus Christ makes the ultimate sacrifice of suffering and dying for humankind. In the Gospel, Jesus tells Peter, James, and John “not to relate what they had seen [in the Transfiguration] to anyone until the Son of Man had risen from the dead.” In the first reading, Abraham shows his deep faith in God by being willing to sacrifice his beloved son Isaac.

What sacrifices are we willing to make during this Lenten Season?

Sacrifice is essential if we are to truly care for creation and emphasize the importance of ecology and the environment. Are we willing to make sacrifices in our lifestyle and convert to simple living? Are we willing to reduce our carbon footprint by driving gasoline cars less often and flying by planes less frequently? Are we actively engaged in advocacy for moving away from fossil fuels?

World leaders have recently returned from COP28, the UN Climate Change Summit in Dubai in December, 2023. Pope Francis said to the participants: “Let us choose life. Let us choose the future. May we be attentive to the cry of the earth, may we hear the plea of the poor.”

As a takeaway, read Laudate Deum, Pope Francis’ Apostolic Letter on humanity’s obligations to the environment issued in October, 2023 and act on it — both individually and in a communal way (in a synodal way).

And lastly, consider the proverb popular in Kenya: “You must treat the earth well. It was not given to you by your parents. It is loaned to you by your children.” Then teach a child the importance of the care of creation.

Maryknoll Father Joseph Healey, born in Detroit, Michigan, was first assigned to East Africa in 1968 and served there for over 50 years. He is the author of many books, including several published by the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers publishing house Orbis Books, and a well-known proponent of Small Christian Communities.

The 2024 Lenten Reflection Guide from the Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns contains contributions from missioners around the world.

Featured image: Two women prepare the ground for planting in Kenya on Nov. 29, 2022 as part of a reforestation project. (Moses Njagua Gitahi, Maryknoll magazine/Kenya)

Questions for reflection

What sacrifice do you feel called to make this Lenten season to better care for creation?

What is one way you can teach children the importance of care for creation?


Martyr’s Prayer

Heavenly Father, praise be to you who have
given life to all peoples through the passion of
your Son and the power of your Holy Spirit.
Through your miraculous providence, our
ancestors themselves discovered the faith and
in persecution and many trials courageously
witnessed to the Truth and brightened this land
with the light of salvation.
O Lord, we thank you for your great graces,
and we pray that this land may be renewed
with the flame of the Holy Spirit. We pray that
following the example of our martyred saints, we
may live deeply in the mystery of Christ’s death
and resurrection and become one in faith and
love. Joyfully proclaiming the Gospel, we beseech
you that the grace of salvation may spring up and
enlighten even the darkness of the north.
O Lord, help us offer our whole being to
bring the Truth to this age, and with fraternal love
and the evangelical spirit of poverty, to become a
church in solidarity with the poor and powerless.
Grant also that our martyrs bring your light to all
people. Finally, make present the kingdom of the
Father to the whole world. We make this prayer in
the name of Jesus the Lord.

Gerald Hammond, MM

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About the author

Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns

The Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns, based in Washington, D.C., is a resource for Maryknoll on matters of peace, social justice and integrity of creation, and brings Maryknoll’s mission experience into U.S. policy discussions. Visit