THE CHRISTIAN COMMUNITY OF LOCHEREP RECEIVES A NEW CHURCH
On Sunday the 27th of November 2022 the new Church of St. Joseph the Worker Locherep chapel was blessed by Bishop Giuseppe Philippi, the apostolic administrator of Kotido diocese. The same day the Bishop confirmed 94 Christians coming from all nine chapels of Loyoro parish into the Catholic faith whilst the universal Church celebrated the first Sunday of Advent beginning a new liturgical year.
Locherep chapel is one of the five oldest chapels of Loyoro Parish founded in 1965 by the Comboni Missionaries and taken over by Mill Hill Missionaries in 2010. Amongst the five chapels, it was the smallest and with the smallest church. It’s location off the highway and far away from the parish made it an object of ridicule by other chapels. Amongst the youth jokes such as ‘Locherep people have never seen a bus’, is common. This ridicule impacted on the esteem of residents of Locherep to the extent that in parish competitions even before they participated, they themselves would say: ‘ we know we will be the last’. As a result, many Locherep people who left for studies and business outside the village preferred to remain in Kaabong town. Hence depriving the village of its sons and daughters who could be agents of positive change and making Locherep the poorest outstation of the parish. With biting poverty, many of the youth resorted to cattle raiding and theft. The Church compound had become a resting place for cattle raiders overnight.
The coming of the Mill Hill missionaries to Loyoro parish changed the narrative of Locherep community. The Mill Hill Team with its holistic approach to Mission started by building Christian communities from the grass roots. As a result of being in touch with the people at the grass roots the gaps in essential social services such as education prompted the team in 2012 to reopen a community primary school that had collapsed. Locherep primary school is now a full primary school from primary one to primary seven with a population of 697 pupils. The first primary seven (candidate class) consisting of four girls and six boys sat this year 2022.
The Mill Hill Missionary team through the Women and Youth Empowerment Project built a women and youth Center in Locherep. In this center the women and youth, both school going and rural youth, often referred to as “Warriors” due to their connection with raids come together regularly to share their experiences in a support group. Five support groups make use of the center They include St. Anne’s Women’s group, St. Veronica Youth group consisting of mostly non-school going girls, Peace Champions group consisting of reformed raiders(men), St. Peter the Apostle Youth group consisting of mostly school going youth and Pontifical Missionary Childhood group for the children. The groups also engage in income generating activities such as savings, agriculture (vegetable, cereal, root crops, fruit growing and agro-forestry), and piggery.
The above activities led to a steady rise in the number of Christians and school enrolment putting pressure on the limited facilities available including classrooms and the small Church. With support from various partners such as the Congregation for the Propagation of Faith through the diocesan PMS office, Mill Hill Missionaries, Brothers and Sisters in Need, Missio and Caritas Austria etc, a number of projects have been completed in the community such as construction of a classroom block and office, kitchen and store, energy saving stoves, construction of a youth and women’s center and, most recently, the completion of a 500 seater capacity church in Locherep. The blessing of the Church crowned the success that has been achieved over a period of 12 years of the Mill Hill Missionaries presence in Loyoro parish and over 50 years since Comboni Missionaries opened Loyoro parish. The community now boasts of four qualified primary school teachers serving in different schools within Kaabong district one of them is the head teacher of Locherep primary school. Locherep community has produced five dedicated catechists serving in different chapels within Loyoro parish. Such success has attracted a seed secondary school nearby being built by the government that will serve the two sub-counties of Loyoro and Sidok. Hence saving secondary school students from traveling 30 kms to Kaabong for studies.
The joy in the people of the Locherep can only be compared to the joy of Mother Mary at the Annunciation. The joy with which the Locherep community celebrated was indeed their Magnificat song to God. For the first time all roads led to Locherep and indeed the sight of the new Church looked like a wonder of the world for many who saw it for the first time. In Locherep, the Magnificat has been fulfilled, the humble have been exalted thanks to the generosity of the people of Locherep, the donors and the parish apostolic team.
MARK OWOR MHM