Source Nation Media Group
The dedication of the new multimillion Regina Caeli Catholic Church, Karen, by the Apostolic Nuncio to Kenya and South Sudan, Hubertus van Megen, marks the beginning of the end of almost six years’ construction of the huge church that will comfortably host up to 3,000 members every Sunday.
The journey has not been easy, the priest in charge of the Karen Parish, Fr Stephen Omondi, said, as he watched over the tens of workers putting final touches on the massive structure’s furnishing yesterday.
It all began with the call for architectural plans, which were received from more than 22 firms in 2016. At least half of them dropped their bids after realising the church was not paying the winner of the bid.
Only eight firms actually submitted their designs. The script was simple, the church was to be designed as a crown, one that the church believes is worn by Mary, the mother of Jesus, who is also Regina Caeli, (The Queen of Heaven).
“Of the eight designs, only one firm got what we wanted, that the entire church was to be a crown, the rest came up with usual church designs with a crown-shaped top,” Fr Omondi said.
The church, which upon completion and furnishing will have gobbled up more than Sh300 million, has now used up at least Sh210 million, money that has seen its capacity increase tenfold from 300 in the old church to 3,000 worshippers. It is a multiple-storey structure made up of the basement that can comfortably host 1,000, the main hall (1,400) and the gallery (600).
The funds for construction were collected in several ways, the main one being the Journey of Faith walk in 2016 that saw church members walk from Mumias to Mombasa and back to Nairobi via Murang’a town. The route, a retracing of the steps over the places the father of then-father-in-charge, James Maloba, worked as a prison officer in Kenya.
Also, several initiatives, including Changa Mchanga run by the youth, Tuweke Paa by the women, the window initiative, bi-annual fundraisings plus contributions of the church elders, greatly helped in pooling resources.
The church itself is an object of wonder, a towering circular structure resembling a crown with long arcs cutting across its walls supporting the massive weight of concrete in a building that has no pillars inside. There are only 12 pillars in the huge hall, each representing Jesus’ disciples. They hold the gallery on the first floor.
“Jesus said the disciples will be the pillars by which the church will be established and that is why each pillar has the name of each disciple, including Judas,” Fr Omondi said, chuckling at the last bit.
The three main doors — the biggest one at the back and one each to the right and left — represent the Holy Trinity. Wood from the Mvuli tree, used on the doors, was imported from Congo, and taken to St Benedict’s for joinery and art work.
The art includes carvings of Mary done at the site of construction. The main door cost Sh1 million, with the other two at least Sh700,000, Fr Omondi revealed. Above the main entrance is a huge painting of the ancient Jerusalem city’s wall.
The church has three confession rooms, an adoration chapel and a fully-fledged restaurant attached to the first floor that will be open to the public. The basement will also be upgraded to a full theatre and will be soundproofed so that two masses can run concurrently, one below the surface, and the other one, above. The ceiling is painted sky blue with a dove representing the Holy Spirit at the centre. Four stars — two yellow and two blue — are also placed at the roof. The yellow ones represent the Vatican’s flag, with the blue ones for the colour of Mary.
The church has two mothers’ rooms with glass walls that allow the mothers to see what is happening in the main church but which do not allow those outside to see inside. Senior Catholic Church leaders will attend the dedication happening today.
They include Metropolitan Archbishop of Nairobi, Phillip Anyolo, John Cardinal Njue, Auxiliary Bishop of Nairobi, the Reverend David Kamau, Apostolic Administrator of Nakuru, the Rev John Oballa and Bishop of Murang’a James Maria Wainaina