A faith that blossomed in the shadow of Mt Kilimanjaro

By Catherine Sheehan

From the time he was a young boy, Fr Pastor Mumburi CP knew he wanted to be a priest after witnessing the devotion of the Holy Ghost Fathers (Spiritan Missionaries) in his hometown of Moshi, in the Kilimanjaro region of Tanzania.

“I said to myself, ‘Maybe one day if God blesses me, I’ll be one of them’,” said Fr Pastor, recalling his days as an altar server. “I enjoyed it a lot, the prayers the priests used to say. Especially the Eucharistic prayer when they mix the water and the wine. That prayer, they say it by heart… not loudly to be heard by people.”

Fr Pastor arrived in Tasmania in January this year and in February he took up his new role as Parish Priest at St Joseph’s in Hobart, following Fr Peter Addicoat’s retirement.

He grew up in a Catholic family, with four brothers and three sisters, living in the shadow of Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa at 5,895 metres above sea level.

His hometown of Moshi is about two hours drive from the mountain.

He describes Tanzania as a multicultural community consisting of 120 different tribes. In the region of Kilimanjaro the population of Catholics is about 72 percent, he said, mainly due to the missionary work of the Holy Ghost Fathers and the White Fathers who brought the faith to Africa in the 19th century.

Fr Pastor said serving on the altar as a boy led him to desire to become a priest. As the youngest in his family however he had a difficult time convincing his parents that he had a vocation. His four older brothers had all entered the seminary yet none had continued to ordination.

“I mentioned it to my family and my parents were just laughing because my brothers went to the seminary, four of them.”

“But my mother said, ‘I’ll pray for you, my son. If it’s your call, go for it’. And my two sisters also said, ‘Go for it, brother. We’ll pray for you’.”

After completing secondary school and college he entered the Passionists in 2004. When discerning which religious congregation to join, he wrote application letters to ten different orders. All of them responded straight away except for the Passionists. Ironically, he took this as a sign.

“After three months my mum said to me, ‘What are you waiting for? Just make up your mind’. And I said, ‘No, I’m still waiting’. But I didn’t know what I was waiting for. And finally, the Passionists replied, ‘Come and see’.

“I went there and said, ‘Father, I’ll come and I’ll stay. I’m not to going back home’. And I said, ‘This is the congregation I was waiting for’.”

Fr Pastor said the Passionists’ charism to ‘preach Christ crucified’ meant focussing on the love of God, he said.

“We are talking about the love of God. He suffered because He loved us, and He came for us. That’s what we want to preach. And that’s why we are in solidarity with those who are suffering.”

Fr Pastor was ordained a priest in 2015 and came to Australia in 2017. He undertook studies in spiritual formation in Melbourne and served in a parish of St Paul the Apostle in Endeavour Hills, Melbourne, as well as St Paul of the Cross Parish in Adelaide.

Over the past few months since his arrival in Hobart Fr Pastor said he had found the parishioners at St Joseph’s to be “very supportive” and “warm”.

He also described Hobart as “beautiful”.

“I really enjoy Hobart too, yes.”

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