St. Monica Widows: a Catholic apostolate to reduce polygamy in Kenya

St. Monica Widows The Archdiocese of Kisumu has formed a group called “St. Monica Widows” for women who have lost their husbands “because the other option is they are inherited” by a male relative of the deceased husband, Archbishop Maurice Muhatia Makumba said. | Credit: “EWTN News in Depth”/Screenshot

An archbishop in Kenya explained to EWTN News the purpose of the Catholic apostolate “St. Monica Widows,” an initiative that aims to reduce the practice of polygamy in the African country, one of the challenges to evangelization in that nation.

The archbishop of Kisumu in Kenya, Maurice Muhatia Makumba, discussed the project with EWTN News correspondent Colm Flynn as part of a wide-ranging “EWTN News In Depth” report on the state of the Catholic Church in the country.

The Church in Kenya continues to grow, and the Archdiocese of Kisumu is nearing the celebration of the 100th anniversary of its founding.

“Faith is growing very fast in Africa, in Kenya. For example, we have a crisis of vocations,” Muhatia Makumba said. “We have more candidates than places where they can go.”

“That’s our crisis,” the archbishop said.

“Too many,” Flynn interjected, confirming what he heard. 

“Well, not too many, very many,” Muhatia Makumba corrected with a smile.

The archbishop of Kisumu in Kenya, Maurice Muhatia Makumba, is himself the son of a man who had two wives. Credit: "EWTN News in Depth"/Screenshot
The archbishop of Kisumu in Kenya, Maurice Muhatia Makumba, is himself the son of a man who had two wives. Credit: "EWTN News in Depth"/Screenshot

Evangelization and the challenge of polygamy 

“Today, faith in Kenya faces many challenges. Some are internal, others external. People, especially young people, are increasingly exposed to what is happening in other parts of the world,” the archbishop noted.

Regarding local challenges, the prelate told Flynn that “polygamy is a serious challenge to the sacrament of marriage” and can be an obstacle in the preaching of the Gospel.

Muhatia Makumba is himself the son of a man who had two wives, the child of the first wife, so he better understands this reality of Kenyan culture. 

In response to the challenge of polygamy, the prelate said the Archdiocese of Kisumu has formed “a group called ‘St. Monica Widows’” for women who have lost their husbands “because the other option is they are inherited” by a male relative of the deceased husband.

Muhatia Makumba explained that in Kenya “inheritance necessarily means polygamy. There is no other way of looking at it,” the prelate said. It presents a serious challenge that the Church is seeking to overcome, he said. 

“Because by forming this group of St. Monica Widows, more and more ladies are opting to join this particular group and refuse to be inherited. It is a very big challenge. Some are ostracized by their communities because of this. Some are rejected. Some lose all their inheritance because of that. They have no access to the property left behind by the husband,” the archbishop explained.

Regarding a polygamous man who converts to the Catholic faith, the archbishop said that he continues to provide for the family but “the personal relationship between himself and [the other wife] is not there. Now he lives only with the first wife.”

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

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