Tuesday, February 19, 2019

The Birth of St Teresa's NEW VERSION


Artwork by Merwin D'Souza

Two aspects of the St Teresa's Church we came to know and love
The first St Teresa's Catholic Church built in Eastleigh Nairobi

ST TERESA’S BOYS SCHOOL – TEACHERSBack Row: Fr. Cremins, Yvonne D'Costa, Winnie DeSouza, Theresa DeSouza, Joanita Alvares, Regina Pereira, Edith D'Souza, Fr. Hannan.
Front Row: Vivian DeSouza,  Lino D'Silva, Peter Thomas, Napoleon DeSouza, Basil Denis, Rudolf Fernandes & Michael D'Silva. (Pic St Teresa’s website)
I remember Napoleon, Peter, Appolonia, Lino and Vivian from own days at St T’s. Vivian had a brother who was also a teacher but he passed away fairly early.

The Birth of St Teresa’s Eastleigh
(Partially sourced from Holy Ghost Mission: The Spiritans in Kenya)

St. Teresa’s church was established as a mass centre in 1925 by Holy Ghost Fathers who were then residing at St. Peter Clavers Parish, at the bottom of /River Road near Mincing Lane market ... a poorer end of Nairobi.
In 1930 the first structure (church ) was established known as Eastleigh mass centre. (Currently Old Hall).
In 1930 the Holy Ghost Fathers in collaboration with Precious Blood Sisters established the first girls’ school.
1936 Lay Missionary Edel Quinn started Legion of Mary.
1947 The current church was constructed.
1953 Two schools were started one for girls under Loreto Sisters and one for boys under Holy Ghost Fathers both under the patronage of St. Teresa.
1955 The current church was officially opened by His Grace Archbishop Kevin McCarthy and was put under the patronage of St. Teresa of Avilla.

The mission at Eastleigh had been started by the Precious Blood Sisters as a training school for girls from St. Peter Claver's (the church built at the poorer end of town specifically for Africans during segregated days).  With the outbreak of war in 1939, these girls were transferred to the care of Precious Blood Sisters in Kalimoni and Loreto in Limuru. It was in Eastleigh with the Precious Blood Sisters that Edel Quinn had set up her base and where she died in 1944. With the end of the war, "and since all hope of reopening the Girls' School was gone" (Eastleigh 19. 5. '47), the Provincial and Bishop agreed that the Sisters would be redeployed and the buildings become a separate parish centre with the other four recently delimited city-parishes: St. Austin's, Holy Family, Parklands and St. Peter Claver's, which would still continue to develop centres in Pumwani, Shauri Moyo and Makadara(1956).

Eastleigh had been a Mass-centre since 1925, but now with the appointment of Frs. Michael Finnegan and Tom Shannon, and later Paddy Hannan, it began several decades of uninterrupted development. In 1947, it also had Mass and catechetical centres at Mathare Valley Mental Hospital and Police Lines, Kayole, Kassarani (where they immediately open a new school), Katani, Kenya Breweries, Allsop's, Karura, soon adding Njiru Quarries and Ruaraka. During the Mau Mau time, the British Forces bulldoze three villages in Mathare Valley: Mathare, Uraparani, Kariobangi, and evict the population. Most, then, of the Catholic people in Eastleigh are Goan or Seychellois; the Corpus Christi procession is described (27.5.51) as a "large and devout Asian congregation." Yet at Midnight Mass (1952) "many Africans attend in spite of the police curfew."
The new school for girls, opened in 1953, was allocated to the Loreto Sisters who had been in Kenya from the very beginning, but their more recent development began in 1921, when they reopened the Msongari school for "European children." They had also assumed the direction of Holy Family Parochial School, already started in 1909, "where we have European, Goan and Parsee children all sharing the same class." Even such a mixture contravened colonial apartheid regulations. The founding diocesan and missionary clergy, though of French origin, had been compelled to follow a school-system racially segregating Arab, Indian, African, European pupils. The early diarist is at first mystified by the word "European." French colonial policy would have equal opportunity for all, regardless of race. Mumford, an English educationalist, wrote in 1935 for London University: "Association of mental capacity with the colour of skin would be placed by France in the same category as judging character by bumps on the head." St. Teresa's Girls Primary and Secondary would, therefore, be classified as Asian, as also the Boys' School which soon followed.

Both schools were built and supported through the continued efforts of the parish community and parents, with some small financial subsidies from the Government. After Independence, of course, segregation was abolished. The imposition of a quota system in the secondary school caused some difficulties, as it meant all qualified primary graduates could not find a place. The same community spirit that supported the schools was evident in a rich devotional and liturgical life centring on the Sunday Mass, Easter ceremonies, with all the historic reforms absorbed happily as proclaimed, the favourite feast-days, confraternities, retreats, home-visitation, the sometime 4,000-strong attendance at Corpus Christi or Lady processions, Annual Novena, "Why can't we have Mass facing the people for the Novena?") people ask. The new church had been blessed by Archbishop McCarthy on October 30, 1955. All funds had been raised locally even in these difficult years, the building site being visited at least once by Mau Mau raiders. It was from here that Fr. Joe Whelan, taking over from Paddy Fullen, visited Mau Mau Detention Centres and Prisons, including Athi River, with Fr. Ted Colleton, and assisted at so many executions. In many years of ministry, only once did a group reject his services. In 1957, we find a regular Sunday Mass at Ruaraka, called after its Goan benefactor F X D'Silva, "Baba Dogo" (Little Father). (D’Silva virtually owned the whole of Ruaraka. He made his fortune in various businesses including selling British forces auctioned supplies, clothing, tents, safari equipment, etc.) With Mr. D'Silva's help, a large plot had been obtained and the school expanded. He wanted to see every child in school and was most generous in paying fees.

After the opening of the Junior Seminary in February 1968, on the other side of the Ruaraka River, Fr. John Kennedy informed the Eastleigh Community that he had been appointed to take care of "Baba Dogo" and the new Kariobangi building estate nearby and the other smaller centres to the North and East. His neighbours will be the Maryknoll Fathers in the new Jericho estate parish, bordering on Makadara, which itself neighboured the new Nairobi South parish, where the Dublin Mercies have opened hospital and school. On the far side of the city, the new estates of Woodley and Kibera beyond St. Austin's were allocated to the Guadalupe Fathers. The new parish in Karen, named after the esteemed Danish settler and writer, had been allocated to the Mill Hill Fathers. The oldest parish on that west side of the city was St. John the Baptist Riruta, partly urban, partly rural. What a contrast between Kevin Carey's thriving 18,000 member parish and Frederick Bugeau's solitary struggle 60 years before that with the indifference of the young and the suspicion of their elders. He had stayed there intermittently for three years. When he is withdrawn, Miss Foxley, veteran Protestant missionary converted to Catholicism, volunteered to stay there and organize a school. She does this till her death in 1923. Riruta is re-occupied again in 1938, when the American Spiritan, John Marx, brings the Teacher Training section of Kabaa there, later transferred to Lioki and thence to Kilima Mbogo! Br. Josaphat, as usual, had built new buildings and renovated the old, and the modern history of Riruta parish begins. About the same time, colonial urban rules and rates had forced St. Austin's to disband its "Homestead." 

For decades they had evaded the law of five families per estate. The coffee-farm was a mere shadow of its past. The coffee must be torn up to make place for growing city suburbs. The proceeds will help resettle displaced Homestead families, many of them in Gicharane, a station of Riruta's, and finance mission expansion elsewhere. In the 1960s, Fr. Carey will help build up the nearby Precious Blood Convent and hive off Ruku Parish, and in the 70s, Gicharane. While Fr. Kevin Carey could say that over thirty years he had seen Riruta Parish "grow from a complete backwater to one of the biggest in the Archdiocese," Ruaraka Parish on the opposite side of the city was indeed still a "complete backwater." 

Nevertheless, unaware of the trauma that might have affected his fellow priests, the newly-appointed pastor found a warm welcome in all the six City Council primary schools in the area. Time and space were made available, and soon he found himself drafted into the ecumenical committee working with the Ministry of Education on the pioneering Christian Religious Education syllabus. It was a novel and inspiring experience.

Ethel (Price) Lingard was one of the first to pass her Cambridge School Certificate exam at the St Teresa’s Girls School: “There were seven of us.  I was the only girl, the others being Steven and Athanasius Lobo, Casimiro Sequeira, Johnny D’Souza, Martin Gunpatrav and Dilip Kumar. My friends were the Almeida girls, Ivy and Clarice, Sarita Menezes, Jean D’Souza, Nina Fernandes. Mother Stanislaus was our teacher. 
Mother Gertrude Gallagher was the head of Cps. And music maestro.
Mother Teresa Gertrude was the principal of St Teresa's.
Mother Stanislaus moved with us (from the Catholic Parochial School attached to the Holy Family Church in the city) to St Teresa's and we also had Mother Thomas More. 

Mother Thomas More goes to a church which I frequent. In fact, the school that I spent most of my teaching life was the school she attended as a girl. How's that for a coincidence?

Oh, another girl that I still see is Shirley Lobo, her bother was in Terry's class. She is Jean D’Souza’s cousin. I am still in contact with Sarita Menezes, Milena Gracias nee Vaz

I have a feeling that St Teresa’s church was in existence before the school.  We moved into the area in the early fifties, say 1951. School opened in 1953 mid-year.  

In the boys’ school, Pio Almeida and Michael D’Silva were amongst the first group to have completed successfully the Cambridge School Certificate exam.

IT MAY have been politically correct in 1933 to suggest that the Catholic Church founded a new parish in Eastleigh to meet the religious needs of the devout Catholic Goans, but that would be wrong. Although nowhere as numerous as the Goans, there was a healthy community of Catholic Seychellois, Mauritians and other Indians especially Tamils from Kerala.
It would not be wrong to say that the Goans were not the backbone of the parish and the community that contributed largely to the growth and expansion of the parish in Eastleigh and elsewhere in Eastern Africa.
There is considerable anecdotal evidence to confirm the above.
Families with young children at the Holy Family Catholic Parochial School were forced to move to Eastleigh after that school closed its doors. Several decades later I think the Cats of pumping station (Catholic Parochial School) (as that mob from the Goan School turned up their noses and used to call us, we never really understood the implied derision) the school reopened. We, of course, were much cleverer. We called them the Goats of Africa (Goan Overseas Association, whose brainchild the school was). Wow, what an insult that was … calling someone a goat. And a cat, what ignominy! Naturally, there was a fierce rivalry between the two schools. Our opponents were brilliant in almost every sport, so much so that for a long time sport was somewhat redundant at St Teresa’s.
 In the early days, a one-armed Kersi Rustomji single-handedly fashioned out a cricket wicket. With the help of Cosmo, the Girls’ schools gardener (the politically incorrect term in those days was shamba boy…garden boy), the two regularly cut with a novel scythe, an l-shaped length of iron with the bottom six inches flattened to make the whole look like L, sharpened both sides. One used it as a swinging action cutting in both actions, forward and reverse. But cricket did not last very long, because soon it was an all-girls school because there were no senior boys left and the primary school boys were moved across the road to the boys’ school.
There was also an influx of Colonial Government employees and their families from the Government quarters in Ngara.
Nairobi was segregated on racial lines. The Goan community was also segregated … in the occupational sense. The white collar workers from the Railways and Government were provided housing in Ngara. The catering staff of the Railways lived on the other side of the tracks from Nairobi Railway Station (quite close to the city centre) where they could walk back and forth at odd hours to comply with train schedules. 

Many bank and Power and Lighting employees, and non-Government, workers lived in Parklands and the Forest Road area where the whites vacated following a recession in the 1920s.

Dr Rosendo Ribeiro was given a chunk of land in Pangani which he sub-divided and made available to his countrymen for a nominal cost. Pangani was higher in the pecking order but below Ngara and Parklands. We are not yet talking about South B, South C and Nairobi West which came much later.

Everyone else who did not fit into the categories above was relegated to Eastleigh. Goans who came from Eastleigh were often looked down up; even the Dr Ribeiro Goan School had some snobs, often insulting someone as coming from "Eastleigh - Section 3"! Section 3 bordered on the African areas: Racecourse Road, Shauri Moyo, Kariokor, Starehe …

A friend writes: “Our family went there sometimes for obligatory visits: to fellow villagers from back in Goa.  This often led us kids to pray more intensely on coming home. That the Creator would not take our Dad too suddenly.  The house would have to be given up and we would have to go and live in Eastleigh!  Religion had a high component of self-interest.

“Life was what it was:  neither bad nor good. Not too many lived in abject misery and if they did, the rest of us as a community did very little to ameliorate hardship. Of course, in DRGS, if you were from a brood of 4 or more, the school fees were progressively reduced. At Teresa’s, there was always a helping where it was needed and many survived to such help as well as from St Vincent De Paul.”

In the Goan clubs and other Goan places of social graces, it was not quite form to discuss the plight of needy in the community. On the contrary, everything possible was done to keep them out … side … even out of sight.

Many in Eastleigh saved their way to material success. First, they built their homes while making sure St Teresa’s did not want for anything. A handful of tailors and carpenters were very successful. The children of Eastleigh went out into the world and did great things. Great contributions to the parish were also made by the Mauritians, Seychellois and the small Parsee community.

MEMORIES of St Teresa’s

GODFREY LOUSADO: Patrick Hannan was the St Teresa’s Boys School Principal. He was a strict individual, fond of plays and encouraged the boys to take part in elocution and inter-school plays: Blind Andy  which won interschool competition as best play  (some actors being Ernest, Vic De Souza , Larry...), Marriage of St Francis in which I played a small role. Annie Get Your Gun. Money raised through plays went to the school extension building fund.
Fr Cremmins: A superb Latin teacher and Vice principal, others were Lino D’Silva (why did we ever call him Lucha?) History; Regina De Souza – English; Peter Thomas – PT and Maths (I thought he only taught Science, buunsun bunna was his nickname)

St Teresa’s Boys’ always had good grades at GCE (O Levels) and many students went to join Strathmore College to do their A Levels. Many Asian kids proceeded to UK, Canada, Australia and others to India like me to pursue University Studies. All emigrated to other pastures post Independence in Kenya. Most cherish fond memories of their school days at St Teresa’s. 

-   1976 White Fathers arrive at St. Teresa. The First was Fr. Arnold Grol then shortly after Fr.  John Slinger. Fr. Grol was born on 6th Feb 1924 in Groningen, Northern Holland. 1943 joined the Society of Missionaries of Africa at the age of 19 years. In 1951 was ordained a priest.  When he first came to Kenya he was appointed at our lady of Visitation Makadara and was the founder of street boys and he was nicknamed “the oldest parking Boy” Fr. Grol started a band with the youth in the neighbourhood and collected street boys and founded Undugu Polytechnic Mathare 10. Fr. Arnould Grol died in Mombasa August 1997 at an age of 74.

-          1977 – 1978 small Christian communities started by Fr. John Slinger and the first Jumuiya was Mathare 2A.
-          1978 the society of White Fathers took over the parish administration from Holy Ghost Fathers with Fr. John Slinger as the Parish priest. The handing over was witnessed by the then Archbishop of Nairobi Maurice Michael Cardinal Otunga.
-          1988, sisters of St. Joseph of Mombasa joined White Fathers at St. Teresa's.
-          1985 Fr. John Slinger lays the foundation for the present day classrooms i.e. St. Monica and Kizito. There was only one catechist (Francis Kumuri) Later on catechist Peter Gichuru (retired 2004)-          Fr. Hermut started printing posters for church on Sundays.
-          11982 Fr. Willy Schoofs arrived at St. Teresa. He started adult catechists, recollections, other ministries and medications.
-          11985 Fr. John C. Lemay arrived in St. Teresa from Gaba pastoral Institute Eldoret where he was the administrator.
-          1987 the big hall (Aula magna) together with the present day classrooms was built.
-          1987 Fr. John Slinger was transferred to Tanzania and Fr. John C. Lemay took over as the parish priest.
-          1991 Administration block of the parish was built

-          1993 – Extension of the current church was done.
-          1989 Watoto Wetu Project started by Fr. John C Lemay with 3 teachers, 3 cooks and 2 security guards.
-          1993 – Prayer houses in the small Christian communities built like Mathare 4B, Mathare 3 kwa mbao, St. Veronica Millenium etc.
-          1997 – St. Teresa Dispensary started by Fr. John C. Lemay to cater for the local poor.
-       2000 Water project started by Fr. John Lemay at Kosovo (Millenium)
-          Fr. John C. Lemay was born in 1929 in Canada.  In 2002 he died in road accident on Mombasa Road.  He was buried at St. Austins Cemetery Nairobi.
-         2003 the white Fathers handed over the administration of the parish to the Archdiocese of Nairobi.
The local ordinary then H.G. Archbishop Ndingi Mwana ‘Nzeki appointed Fr. Michael Kimani as the parish priest, assisted by Fr. John Njoroge and later Fr. Fulgence Mudacumura.
-        2005, St. John & Paul Mathare Ten was started as an outstation of St. Teresa it is built on a piece of land approximately 1.3 acres jointly bought in 1991 by Comboni Missionaries at Holy Trinity Church Kariobangi and Missionaries of Africa in Eastleigh. It was officially opened in May 2005 by the then Auxiliary Bishop of Nairobi His Lordship Antony Ireri.
-          2007 Fr. John Kimiri joined Fr. Mwaura at St. Teresa’s as an assisting priest.
-          2008 St. Veronica Millenium was started as an outstation by Fr. Wilfred Mwaura.
-          2009 Fr. Kimiri was transferred to Kikuyu Parish and Fr. Peter Migwi came as an assistant to the Parish priest.
-          In October 2010, Fr. Stephen Gitau came to St. Teresa as an assisting priest. There are three priests working in the parish
-          Since 2007, Fr. Mike Owuor has been residing at St. Teresa while working at National Chaplain for National Youth Service at NYS Headquarters.
-          Fr. Wilfred Mwaura left  January 2015 and Fr. Emmanuel Kariuki Njuguna currently the Parish Priest.
-          Our population is about 4,000 Christians.

-          2016 The Adoration Chapel (Prayer house) was constructed to accommodate at least 70 people.


  1. you have just given a history of my childhood parish I have been looking for, for a long time. Thank you.

  2. Thank you for that comprehensive history. It really educated me..
    I went to St Teresa’s school.
    Do you still have family in Kenya.
    Keep safe. Great to find you in a search.

  3. My parents attended CPS and then St. Teresa's in the 1950s. To find this was like reliving all the stories I heard growing up about Mother Gertrude and Mother Stanislaus! I loved reading this! I shared with my Mom who was overwhelmed!! I believe the Casmiro Sequeira mentioned is my uncle who lives in England now. My mom grew up in Railway Quarters as her Dad worked in the bar on the trains that went to Mombasa and Kisumu. This was absolutely wonderful. Thank you so much for posting!



  This invaluable collection of photos was sent to me by David Mungai. He says it is “for the acknowledgement of Kenyan History, the celebra...