March 22, 2010

Where Sisters of Mercy Minister: Kenya (7)

Sisters of Mercy ministering in Kenya belong to four different Mercy families: Institute of Sisters of Mercy of Australia; Institute of Our Lady of Mercy (Great Britain); the Congregation of Sisters of Mercy (Ireland); and Sisters of Mercy of Newfoundland.  The Congregation of Sisters of Mercy (Ireland) has a province based in Kenya.

In the 1960s through the early 1980s, Sisters of Mercy established and ran health and educational facilities.  Many of these institutions have been transferred to government ownership with the community or diocese retaining some sponsorship responsibilities.  This pattern of establishing needed programmes and services and handing over ownership and responsibility for them once they are sufficiently stable with local autonomy and leadership is characteristic of Sisters of Mercy in Kenya.  This has allowed the Sisters of Mercy to move to less developed and more needy areas of the country.

From the 1990s on, the Sisters of Mercy have directed much energy to ministering in city slums.  These slums have been formed by internally displaced persons as rural migrants were displaced by “ethnic cleansing” (euphemistically called “The Clashes”) in the early 1990s and other rural migrants came to the cities in times of drought and famine.  The physical conditions which millions of these displaced people face are dire, and most lack water, sanitation, roads, and electricity.  Shanty houses can sprawl for miles.

The responses of Sisters of Mercy in the slums have included a focus on providing primary education and sponsoring students to further education and skills training in order to break the cycle of poverty.  Some Sisters of Mercy work in health clinics where they treat many who come with diseases that are a result of the lack of clean water and poor sanitation. 

The HIV/AIDS pandemic is present in Kenya as in many other countries.  It is estimated that one in four people in Kenya are infected with HIV/AIDS.  The Sisters of Mercy address the care, nutrition, education, and health support of many children who have been left orphaned as a result of this disease and also run programmes to help people make choices that will lessen the spread of the disease.

Additional ministries of Sisters of Mercy in Kenya include the visitation of prisoners and accompanying refugees and other displaced persons.  A large number of refugees and displaced persons have come to Kenya from the Great Lakes Region, including the countries of Congo, Uganda, Ethiopia, Rwanda, and Burundi, and Mercy ministers with Jesuit Refugee Services in providing for the needs of these displaced persons.

For more information on the Sisters of Mercy and their ministries in Kenya, visit:

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