By Robert Blackford
MONMOUTH Father Stanislaus Mutajwaha, 53, has come to Aledo and will be splitting time between the Catholic churches in Aledo and Monmouth. He is on the mission of trying to raise funds in order to build a secondary school in Tanzania. "The home diocese is trying to build a school to combat the problem of poverty and ignorance in Tanzania." Mutajwaha said he needs about $900,000 to complete his mission.
Mutajwaha does not know how long he will be here. "M experience last year shows me that I can move at any time."
Mutajwaha’s last name means "Someone who is not lazy" in the local language "Kihaya" of Mutajwaha’s tribe "Bahaya." Mutajwaha grew up in Tanzania, on the west side of Lake Victoria. "My tribe is not very big," said Mutajwaha, only about 800,000. There are some tribes in Tanzania as big as two million.
"My mother was baptized as a Christian," said Mutajwaha "I was baptized into a Christian family. I have grown up in a background of Christianity."
"I made the decision in 1965 to become a priest," said Mutajwaha. "Before that I wanted to become a medical doctor. My family members would fall sick and my mother spent a lot of time in the hospital. I wanted to do something about the prevention of disease."
"I even collected herbs and asked my mother about them," said Mutajwaha. .
Mutajwaha attended a minor seminary in Rubya, then a major seminary in Ntungamo – both in Tanzania.
"I was ordained as a priest in 1977 and assigned to teach in Rubya (the equivalent to high school)." Mutajwaha taught math, physics and chemistry there from 1977 until 1985.
From 1985 until 1988 Mutajwaha taught philosophy in Ntungamo. Twenty-three dioceses sent students to Ntungamo.
Mutajwaha’s duties at the seminaries included getting involved with students there. "I formed them for becoming priests. It isn’t as simple as teaching them logic," he said. His duties there did not offer him as much contact with the people as he has had since coming to the United States.
From 1988 until 1992 Mutajwaha was sent to Rome for further studies in philosophy. "I was being taught western philosophy in Italian." In two years Mutajwaha earned his masters degree and in 1992 he earned his doctoral degree in philosophy.
From 1993-97 he returned to Tanzania to teach philosophy, ethics, methodology and logic at a major seminary.
From 1997 until 2004 he transferred to another major seminary in another diocese Kibosho, at Kilimanjaro.
Tanzania is one of the East African countries that currently is trying to unite by establishing a national language, Swahili, which is not limited to one particular group.
When in Tanzania Mutajwaha speaks Kihaya to his mother but Swahili to the people he meets in the street.
Uniting the country by language is a challenge as there are around 120 tribes in Tanzania alone, each with its own habits and wealth. "Mixing helps us know each other. We learn from one another," said Mutajwaha.
"It is very beautiful, very peaceful. We live together peacefully. Our neighbors look to us and ask, ‘How do we do manage.’ Tanzania is one of the poorest countries in the world, still we live together peacefully. We struggle to come up.
Tanzania is still living in the ideas of its first president, Julius Nyerere. Tanzania earned its independence from Britain in 1961 and its first president, Nyerere was a teacher. "He was very committed," said Mutajwaha. "He had a zeal to create a united country. He brought us independence. We work together to create the dignity of the human being. We work together as brothers and sisters. He knew that divided we could not stand. A problem that faces one faces the whole community."
Mutajwaha said, "He was intelligent, honest and committed. He used a common language to bring us together. Swahili cannot be claimed by one tribe. It is a combination of many languages which is based on Bantu.
Nyerere stayed in power for 24 years and left office while still in power. He died in 1998. The process has begun to canonize him as a saint. After he retired he went back to his village and his garden.
AIDS has devastated Tanzania like many countries in Africa. In the 1980s when not much was known about the disease or how it was transmitted, many people would travel to medical facilities to receive malaria shots according to Mutajwaha. "Sometimes there were 600 patients a day and maybe six needles to use." Inoculations were given, many times with needles that hadn’t been sterilized. "Only later did it become known. It used to be a shame on the person. Now they discuss it openly. There is no stigmatism. There are ways to integrate them into society."
Mutajwaha first came to the United States in on Aug. 31, 2004. "I came to the United States through the Peoria Diocese. "My bishop and the Peoria bishop spoke," he said. He took a year and a half sabbatical in the United States. "They wanted to expose me a little bit more so I know more when I go back. Your eyes are more open. It makes you richer, broader." During his year and a half at the Peoria diocese Mutajwaha spent time in LaSalle, Peru, Metamora and El Paso, Illinois. "In mid-March (2006) I went back home." That was for only a couple of months.
Shroud of Turin
Mutajwaha has spent many years as a student and a teacher. One of his personal passions is the Shroud of Turin. The proposed burial shroud of Jesus Christ. Mutajwaha saw the shroud in 2000 when it was on display. "I’ve written two books on the subject," said Mutajwaha. "It (The shroud) has been carbon dated as being from the 14th century. I’m not a scientist but the shroud has a message. It impresses me so much I don’t think it is nothing. It still has a message that is very moving. It is a message of love. It is a message of suffering, suffering for others and love toward one another. Those two things are seen there. Human beings can be cruel to allow that suffering. It makes me wonder how cruel a human being can be." The second message is "suffering for the sake of others – the person who makes those sacrifices. When you learn what those marks are – you get another meaning. The value overcomes you. You don’t simply see a picture. There is something so profound, something that makes me think, makes me examine myself."
Raising $900,000 for a boarding school requires a lot of resources, said Mutajwaha. "This is a project that has been planned. What do you do without the means?" He is here to ask for ideas from the people he meets. "What can we do to sell my idea and take suggestions. This exposes me to more people."
Students now study for seven years until they are 14 or 15 starting at the age of seven. Then they return to a place where there is nothing there for them. "It’s likely to lead to all sorts of evils when they are told to depend on themselves at 14 or 15 years of age. When I think about those children, they need to be helped."
Mutajwaha repeated an old proverb. "Don’t curse the darkness. Light a candle. Enough candles and there will be light."
Mutajwaha is just trying to bring light to the darkness.