By Don Bosco Onyalla
Nairobi, March 16, 2019: A Catholic priest and a nun along with four Kenyans working with Catholic Relief Services were among the 157 victims of the recent Ethiopian Airlines crash.
The Nairobi-bound plane, Boeing 737, crashed on March 10 near Ethiopia’s town of Bishoftu some six minutes after take-off from Addis Ababa.
The passengers included Father George Mukua Kageche of the Missionaries of Mariannhill and Sister Florence Wangari of the Missionary Sisters of our Lady of the Angels, both Kenyans.
According to Ethiopian Airlines, the pilot had reported some difficulties and had been cleared to return to Addis Ababa.
It was a month-old 737 Max 8 aircraft, having been delivered to Ethiopian Airlines last November. This model of aircraft has only been in commercial use since 2017.
Father Kageche was working in Rome while Sister Wangari was a missionary in the Democratic Republic of Congo, according to Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops.
The four CRS staff were traveling to Nairobi to take part in a training.
The priest hailed from the Nativity of Our Lord Parish, Kagwe, Nairobi Archdiocese and was ordained a priest only two years ago.
One of his parishioners, Sr. Anne Muiruri of the Assumption Sisters of Nairobi, expressed her shock and disbelief through a Facebook post:
It’s a so sad to wake up and hear that a person you (have) known, and this a priest, Fr George Mukua from our Parish Kagwe and neighborhood, has gone to the Lord. It (the news) locks my mind for a moment. I can’t imagine. It seems too soon. But I want to look at it as the will of God and say akome thayu kuu kwega (rest in peace in eternal happiness). And to the Family I say, May God grant you the grace of the moment to grieve with hope even as it hurts most.
“We worshiped in the same local parish church of Kagwe,” Sr. Anne told CANAA, March 11, recalling what she knew about the priest saying, “I saw him born grow and ordained. A humble calm and good person. A bit reserved yet present to you. Associated with all regardless age or status. Family able financially but he lived a humble life.”
Sister Wangari, 35, hailed from Kenya’s Nakuru diocese. She took her first vows in the congregation in December 2017 and was traveling to Kenya to renew her passport.
“She had been working in Kenya before joining the congregation,” Sr. Odetha Mushashi Rwekalema of the Missionary Sisters of Our Lady of the Angels based in Rwanda told CANAA, adding that Sr. Wangari had worked with World Vision and Marana Primary School in Nakuru having trained under the Early Childhood Education program.
“She was a missionary in Congo since last year and was doing pastoral work in a parish,” Sr. Rwekalema who is a formator at the Postulancy and leader of the congregation’s community in Butare, Rwanda, continued, adding, “Sr. Wangari started her formation in Rwanda, then went to continue in Canada from where she went to be a missionary in Congo.”
In a press briefing March 11, Kenya’s Transport Cabinet Secretary James Macharia announced that plans were underway for the government to facilitate the travel of the next of kin of victims to Addis Ababa to help in the process of identifying the bodies.
Meanwhile, the official international humanitarian agency of the Catholic community in the United States, CRS, is mourning the loss of four of its staff who were also on the ill-fated Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft.
The four were among the nine Ethiopians who were killed in the plane crash.
In a Monday statement on its website, CRS revealed the identity of the four staff:
It is with heavy hearts that we share the news that four members of our staff were killed when Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 crashed just after take-off Sunday morning. Their names are: Sara Chalachew, Getnet Alemayehu, Sintayehu Aymeku, and Mulusew Alemu. All four individuals were Ethiopian nationals traveling to Nairobi to attend training on our behalf.