By ANDREW MWANGURA
The appointment of Fr Wilybard Lagho as the Bishop-Elect Malindi Catholic Diocese is a great honor to seafaring and the fishing community along the West Indian Ocean rim.
Fr. Lagho has for many years offered pastoral care to seafarers and the deep-sea fish workers calling the port of Mombasa as the National Director and as Mombasa Port Chaplain of the Apostleship of the Sea in Kenya.
Eighty per cent of 1.6 million world merchant mariners working aboard 61,100 foreign ocean-going merchant vessels are Catholics.
The chaplains of the Apostleship of the Sea are on the front-line of the shipping industry, playing a vital role in supporting seafarers. They do so by providing means of communication and transport in port.
This allows seafarers to contact their families at home, visit the seafarers’ centre in port or the port town.
PROBLEMS ON BOARD
They alert port and maritime authorities to problems on board. They give pastoral care and organise Mass on board or ashore when requested by seafarers. They bridge the world of land and sea and make seafarers visible.
Seafarers appreciate seafarers’ centres as these offer the opportunity to meet and talk to people, including priests and also to pray.
The ship environment does not allow time and space for spiritual and emotional needs, including counselling after traumatic events such as deaths at sea or pirates’ attacks.
The Apostleship of the Sea in Kenya is part of an international network known to the maritime world as Stella Maris, working in more than 311 ports served by 216 chaplains in more than 30 countries around the world.
Other Catholic priests who have offered pastoral care to seafarers and deep-sea fish workers calling the port of Mombasa includes Fr Ernest Mutua, Fr Cyril Owambo and Fr. Montero.
The worldwide population of seafarers serving aboard foreign ocean-going merchant vessels is estimated at 1,647,500 comprised of 774,000 officers and 873,500 ratings.
Before this appointment, the Bishop-elect was the Vicar-General (VG) and Head of secretariat in the Catholic Archdiocese of Mombasa.
He is also the former Consultor in the pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue (Rome) Italy and the Coast Interfaith Council of Clerics (CICC) Trust 2011-2016.
The VG will be filling the vacancy left by the late Bishop Emanuel Barbara OFM Cap. who died on January 5, 2018.
Apart from this, he was also the lead consultant for the pilot study on Religion and Peace in East Africa sponsored by DAN MISSION of Netherlands.
As Bishop-elect of Malindi, Father Lagho will be expected to continue with his preaching of peace and unity among the Christians, Muslims, Hindus and traditionalists in the Coastal region of Kenya.
He was ordained deacon on December 21, 1985 and Catholic priest on April 25, 1987 in the Archdiocese of Mombasa.
The Bishop-elect holds a diploma in Arabic Language from the Pontifical Institute of Arabic and Islamic Studies (Rome), Licentiate in Arabic and Islamic Studies from the Pontifical Institute of Arabic and Islamic Studies and a master’s in Religious Studies from the Catholic University of Eastern Africa, Nairobi.