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Paynesville Press - August 15, 2001

Kenyan delegation visiting the area

By Michael Jacobson

For once, the guests of honor at the annual Harvest for Hope Celebration will be in attendance.

For the past couple years, the St. Cloud Diocese has been working on establishing a partnership with a sister diocese in Homa Bay, Kenya (click here for map). On Saturday, the annual fund raiser for this effort will be held at the Urban and Rosie Spanier farm west of Spring Hill, and a group of 12 Kenyans from the Homa Bay Diocese will be here for it, as part of a two-week trip to the St. Cloud Diocese. The Kenyan delegation should have arrived yesterday and will stay until Tuesday, Aug. 28.

"We're hoping to have a big crowd because when we were in Kenya thousands of people came to see us and they walked," said Rosie Spanier, who coordinates the partnership efforts within the St. Cloud Diocese. "We're hoping to be as generous with our hospitality as they were."

The celebration on Saturday features a hog roast and sweet corn feed that starts at 11 a.m. and continues until the pots are empty, said Spanier. Live music will be played throughout the afternoon. A raffle - baby quilt, doilies, rattan chair, and a crucifix from Tanzania - will be held, and literature about the Catholic Relief Services, which provide money to places abroad, like Kenya, will be available.

An outdoor mass at 4 p.m. will be celebrated with four bishops, including Bishop Kinney from St. Cloud, and Bishop Okok from Homa Bay.

Spanier went to Kenya in March 2000 with a group from the St. Cloud Diocese that also included Father Richard Leisen from St. Louis Catholic Church. (College-aged members from the St. Cloud Diocese also visited Kenya last April around Easter.)

The partnership is an effort to learn from one another and help each other, said Father Leisen. "We live in a world where it's not ‘they' and ‘us' but ‘we,'" he explained. "We are living in a global community."

One day, with the shortage of Americans entering the priesthood, parishes in the United States might have to look abroad for priests, Father Leisen noted. "Maybe someday they will have priests coming to serve in our diocese," he explained. "We have lots to learn from each other."

Three members of the delegation will be staying with members of the St. Louis congregation: with Father Leisen, the Spaniers, and Marv and Mary Kunstleben. Members of the Kenyan delegation will be speaking at St. Louis Catholic Church over the weekend. (On Saturday night, the regular 5 p.m. mass has been moved to 8 p.m. because of the afternoon mass at Harvest for Hope.)

After the Harvest for Hope Celebration, the Kenyan delegation will be touring the St. Cloud Diocese and the Paynesville area. Planned excursions include trips to farms, agriculture processing plants, area manufacturers, and health care facilities. The Paynesville hosts will try to show the Africans some possibilities for development.

Most Kenyans farm only a few acres and earn a few hundred dollars per year, Father Leisen noted, so specialty farms, fish farms, and game farms will be new to them. Should the Kenyans try to replicate something they see here in Kenya, the St. Cloud Diocese would likely help financially.

Catholic Relief Services (CRS) is the largest private international development agency in the world, serving in 85 countries, said Father Leisen, who worked as the director of CRS in the St. Cloud Diocese for 20 years.

Right now, in Homa Bay, CRS is helping fund a grain storage project. Native storage methods are little more than wicker baskets and are inadequate, said Father Leisen. "Of course, the grain is so quickly infested they lose a high percentage of their crop," he added. CRS has trained some artisans in the villages and provides the sheet metal to make metal grain storage bins, which are available for sale for only the cost of labor. These artisans will also train more people to construct the bins.

A metal storage bin keeps the grain better, resulting in better diets and more leftover grain to sell for profit.

"Handouts develop dependency," said Father Leisen. "Programs develop independence."

More about the St. Cloud Diocese's partnership with the Homa Bay Diocese is available online at

Harvest for Hope
What: A celebration to welcome a delegation of 12 Kenyans to the St. Cloud Diocese and a fund raiser for continued support for their diocese in Homa Bay
When: Saturday, Aug. 18, starting at 11 a.m.
Where: Urban and Rosie Spanier farm, 4.5 miles west of Spring Hill on County Road 175. Parking is available.
Mass: Mass with four bishops will start at 4 p.m.

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