On Saturday, October 22, the Congregation of Holy Cross celebrated the joyous dedication and blessing of the new McCauley House of Formation in Nairobi, Kenya, which houses the District of East Africa’s Post-Novitiate Formation Program. The Most Rev. David Kamau, Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Nairobi, presided and preached at the Mass, which was the center of the day’s celebrations.
“Since the first formation program in Dandora to this fourth formation residence, Holy Cross has always striven to have a formation program that is based in community living, prayer and ministry,” said Br. Bill Zaydak, C.S.C., Superior of the Moreau Province (Austin, Texas). “Any formation residence—and now this new formation residence—is meant to help and to enable all of that. This residence will be conducive for studies, as Fr. Moreau described, for ‘cultivation of the mind,’ and this residence will be for ‘cultivation of the heart’ by being conducive to community life and to prayer, both communal and personal prayer.”
Joining the men in formation and Fr. Cyprian Binaka, C.S.C., Superior of the McCauley House of Formation, for the festivities, were Fr. Thomas J. O’Hara, C.S.C., Superior of the United States Province (Notre Dame, Indiana); Br. Zaydak, C.S.C.; Fr. Patrick Neary, C.S.C., Superior of the District of East Africa (Kampala, Uganda); Fr. W. William Beauchamp, C.S.C., Assistant Superior and Steward of the United States Province; and Fr. David T. Tyson, C.S.C., Former Superior of the United States Province.
Many other Holy Cross religious, including many Holy Cross sisters, as well as the architects, engineers, and contractors who were so crucial in the construction of the new house, were also present for the Mass and the luncheon and festivities that followed.
“After the solemnity of the Mass, there was absolute joy with much dancing of the men in formation, the formation staff, and many guests. These men are so very happy and proud to be in this building, and their joy was palpable,” said Fr. O’Hara.
The story of this joyous day goes back to what Fr. Neary described as a “dark day” in October 2010, when “our formation house was condemned by the Kenyan government. Our land titles turned out to be bogus, and we were suddenly treated as squatters on our own property. We were ordered to demolish our buildings at our own cost and within a matter of weeks.”
“Desperately searching for a place to rent for 28 men,” continued Fr. Neary, who was the Superior of the House of Formation at the time, “we were told about some unused seminary buildings owned by the Consolata Missionaries. Visiting there, we found a chapel, space for our library, offices, lounges, and plenty of rooms for our men. It was if it dropped out of the sky like manna from heaven.”
Gifted by Providence with a temporary residence, Fr. Neary shifted his efforts to securing land for a new, permanent home for the Congregation’s house of formation in East Africa. Unfortunately, many of the early leads proved to be dead ends, never panning out.
“After one particularly frustrating meeting where a sure deal fell through, our lawyer took me aside and spoke to me about an elderly couple she knew that might have land for sale. Meeting with them the very next day over tea, I knew that we had found the site for our new formation house. This lovely couple agreed to sell to us some land right behind their home. Once again, God provided for us at the opportune time,” said Fr. Neary.
It is on this piece of land, almost five years later, that the new, beautiful McCauley House of Formation now stands and receives temporarily professed men in formation in the Congregation. According to Fr. Neary, the house is a testament to “the blessings of Divine Providence for Holy Cross, a reality that was ever present to our founder, Blessed Basile Moreau, who discerned God’s hand in all events, whether good or bad. It should remind us that God is particularly close when things seem to be at their worst.
“I had never experienced the power of Divine Providence until I passed through this trial,” continued Fr. Neary. “At the darkest of times, when one door closed, God opened another. God will never fail us nor forsake us as Holy Cross if we remain faithful.”
Although the dedication took place just last week, Fr. Cyprian and the men in formation actually moved into the left wing of the new McCauley House of Formation on July 11, 2016. Worked continued on the rest of the house, until August 18.
The McCauley House of Formation has 50 rooms for men in formation. It also has six rooms for finally professed religious, three of which are currently in use by the formation staff, and two guests rooms. There are also offices, a boardroom, staff lounge, computer room, library, conference room, TV room for the scholastics, sitting room, spacious dining room, modern kitchen, laundry room, reception office, visitors’ parlor, and chapel. There are also plans to make a basket and volleyball court.
“The new house of formation has a beautiful chapel, spacious common places to build community life, a beautiful compound and gardens, and a special Holy Cross touch in terms design,” said Fr. Cyprian.
“It reflects our origins,” Fr. Cyprian added, pointing to the mosaic of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in the Chapel, the stained glass windows of Blessed Basile Moreau and St. André Bessette, and niches for the icons of Our Lady of Sorrows and St. Joseph. There are also stained glass depicting the Uganda Martyrs and St. Josephine Bakhita, who are so critical in the local Communion of Saints.
“The heart of this new formation house is the beautiful Chapel of the Sacred Heart,” concurred Fr. Neary. “It symbolizes the need we have to be single-hearted in our love of Christ and wholly devoted to his service as men of Holy Cross. His heart must be our heart, too. If our religious life is not grounded in Christ, it is worthless and empty. We are sent forth each day from this chapel to remind the people—especially the poor—that Christ happily dwells in their hearts, his preferred tabernacle on earth.”
The beauty and spaciousness of the new McCauley House of Formation, however, also represent part of its challenge.
“We have been blessed with well-designed and attractive formation house. It has all the amenities and space we could ask for,” said Fr. Neary. “The temptation is to feel too comfortable or to expect that all of our buildings in the District should be similarly appointed. Maybe we can feel that we deserve the best of things. While appreciating this beautiful space, we must not lose sight of the poor who live in squalor or in over-crowded conditions. We can never forget our call to maintain a preferential option for the poor and to be willing to live in their midst.”
It is responding to that call of the Lord Jesus to “come, follow me,” that is at the heart of the mission of the new McCauley House of Formation. It is a call that the men in formation take up with great joy.
"It was a privilege to be invited and to be present at the dedication of the new McCauley House of Formation. In 2010, I saw the sadness in the faces of young men whose home was destroyed," said Fr. Tyson. "Though appreciative of the generosity of the Consolata's, it just wasn't their home. To see the look of joy and pride in the faces of young Holy Cross religious at the dedication of the new McCauley House was nothing short of moving."
“In the middle of the last century, Fr. Vincent McCauley and his Holy Cross confreres planted a small seed of Holy Cross in East Africa when they came to Western Uganda,” said Fr. O’Hara. “Today Servant of God Bishop Vincent McCauley no doubt looks down upon this celebration with great joy. More important than a beautiful building are the dedicated and fervent young men passionate about becoming Holy Cross religious and serving the people of God. That seed has produced a tree that continues to grow and blossom.”