Bringing Students an Awareness of Africa

Maria Hayes Friar News

WASHINGTON — Paul O’Keeffe, OFM, has served in Africa as a missioner for the Franciscan Mission Service. Now he’s helping forge a new program. Paul, the FMS development director, along with a representative from St. Francis Preparatory School in Queens, N.Y., held a dry run of a short-term mission and global awareness trip to Kenya that FMS will offer next summer. They were overseas from July 23 to Aug. 3.

The high school wants to “contract with FMS for this trip but before they could commit, the representative had to see for himself what we would be doing and seeing with the kids and what conditions would be like,” Paul said.

One of their destinations was Subukia, a region four hours from Nairobi, Kenya, where the friars have a mission with 12 outstations. There, they visited an internally-displaced persons camp, where Kenyans displaced during the 2007 election violence are trying to rebuild their lives.

Paul and the representative also stopped at a high school run by the friars and an orphanage for orphaned and abandoned mentally and physically disabled children.

Subukia is also where two HNP friars are buried: Roy Corrigan, OFM, and Conrad Schomske, OFM.

Paul and the representative visited several other ministries including:
•  The Dream Center Clinic, which provides testing and counseling for persons with HIV/AIDS
•  A local mosque, where they learned about Muslim prayer and religious practices
•  Kibera, the largest slum in Kenya, where they toured people’s homes and learned about the 
 social justice issues of the citizens who live there

They also spent time with various groups of sisters and friars, both Franciscans and Capuchins.

“The trip was reenergizing for me, because I was able to see several people I met while on mission in Kenya withGeorge Corrigan, OFM, 15 years ago,” Paul said. “It was inspiring to see the great works being done by friars and sisters.”

Previously, Paul worked in Kenya and Ghana as a lay missionary with FMS for a total of five and a half years. While in Kenya, he primarily taught secondary school and worked with the disabled and refugees. He has been to Kenya three times and to Africa nine times. In June, Paul travelled with Christopher VanHaight, OFM, to Mexico to participate in the Order’s Chapter of Mats of “Young Friars Minor.”

FMS’s first short term mission trip to Kenya will be in August 2013.  Next summer, Paul will also be chaperoning short-term mission trips to South Africa in June and July with students from Siena College and the University of Georgia, where Thomas Vigliotta, OFM, and David Hyman, OFM, are stationed.

 Maria Hayes is communications coordinator for Holy Name Province.