Kenyan Friar to Lead Community Outreach for Basilica of St. Josaphat


Brother Ayub Mwenda, 41, Basilica of St. Josaphat Outreach Coordinator, playfully considers himself “new on this planet,” and “not so interesting”. But spend a few minutes with him and hear about the circuitous route he took before recently landing in Milwaukee, and about the various places around the globe he has called home, you quickly conclude that perhaps not only did he take vows of poverty, chastity and obedience when he committed to following Christ, but he may also have taken a vow of humility as well.

“Whenever I have the opportunity to go out and share faith with others, I count it as a challenge to be embraced rather than feared,” Brother Ayub shared. “Because you receive a lot of graces when you give yourself totally to the service of others, and this is more difficult when you have to do it away from your homeland. It’s a Christian calling to ‘go out’ and preach the Good News to all the people. Wherever you are sent — you call it your ‘home’.”

And, indeed, the native Kenyan’s winding path from his boarding school days in his homeland (where a magazine article, about Conventual Franciscan Friars and the life of St. Francis of Assisi triggered that early yearning to serve others and “the idea could not leave me”) followed this nomadic route:

Kenya – Four-year boarding high school where students are still allowed to practice their faith

Tanzania – Formation; two year Postulancy program

Zambia – Novitiate; one year of intense prayer and discernment, upon which culminates with the profession of vows

Zambia – St. Bonaventure College; degree earned in a three-year program in philosophy and religious studies

Kenya – Back home for one pastoral year

Poland – Spent five years in Poland and learned the Polish language; studied theology and earned a master’s degree from the Pontifical University of John Paul II in Krakow

Kenya – Chief editor of the Messenger of Mary Immaculate Catholic Magazine and assistant director of the Franciscan printing press and also pursued an MBA from Catholic University in Nairobi in a two-year program

Ecuador – Brother Ayub requested to go to the Conventual Franciscan Friars’ mission in Ecuador (“they needed help”) and spent the first of two years in Quito, helping in the formation of our young friars and the second year in a remote mission closer to the Amazon in Santo Domingo

Kenya – Back home again in 2018 (but only briefly), was requested by the speaker to assume the same magazine editor role

Chicago, U.S. – In February 2019 asked to accompany Father Simon Minyati, OFM Conv. (first Kenyan to be ordained) to St. Ita Parish in Chicago, and took on the role of “Director of Outreach”, responsible for coordinating donations, volunteers, and running the food pantry, kitchen, and clothing distribution

Milwaukee, U.S. – Was requested in May of 2020 by the minister provincial of the Province of St. Bonaventure, Fr. Michael Zielke, OFM Conv., to coordinate the Basilica outreach program

“We’re still in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Brother Ayub. “But our outreach has already had a positive impact and we’re brainstorming to see how we can continue to benefit the community. This is just the beginning. I’ve already talked with the school principal about my role and we pray we’ll be able to impact in many ways. The food pantry is now open again here, so that’s a positive step.”

Does Brother Ayub see himself being in Milwaukee long-term?

“Well, I thought I’d be in Chicago for many years,” he said with a smile. “Wherever you go, you call it ‘home.’ This is home for now. But wherever I’m sent – I will go.”

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