First Place Award for General Excellence, Catholic Press Association, 2013-2016

Father Casmir Mung’aho
Ordination will bring native of Tanzania full circle
Chris Sheridan

Growing up in Tanzania, Father Casmir Manyonyi Mung’aho admits he didn’t face the societal or cultural obstacles that many young men with a calling to the priesthood face here.

For one thing, in Tanzania, the priesthood is not considered an unusual career choice. For another, the Church in Tanzania is held in very high esteem.

“The support and respect for the Church in general is very high,” he explained. “And the ministers are respected. So, you don’t feel like you are going to be attacked in the process of responding to your call. Usually you are being encouraged that you are doing a good thing.”

In fact, he said he doesn’t recall a time when he did not want to become a priest. The son of Alexacha Cacha and Zita Kasigwa Mung’aho, he grew up with 10 brothers and sisters in Nyagasense Village, Tramba parish. He was around the Church and the priesthood his entire childhood; his brother is a priest back home.
“I think it just had been in my life,” he said. “I’ve always been in Catholic schools. We start our day with morning prayer. We say the breviary and then Mass and then school. I went to Catholic college, the same thing.”

Father Mung’aho, 33, has been in the United States for about five and a half years. His home parish is Sacred Heart of Jesus in Highland Falls, where he assists in bringing Communion to the homebound and participates in funerals. He has also taught sixth-graders at St. Joseph’s School in Bronxville and has served at Calvary Hospital, the Bronx, as chaplain. He admits to a degree of culture shock when he first arrived in this country.

“When I was in Tanzania I used to hear about America. I used to think everybody had a mansion. But I was amazed when I visited South Chicago to see the homeless and the poverty,” he noted.

He has also found that priests here have to work that much harder to overcome the negative perceptions of some in the community. Unlike in Tanzania, respect isn’t a given.

“Here, there are more challenges to the priesthood with all there is out there,” he said. “I see myself here being a model. It’s being an example every day.”

In a sense he sees his ordination as closing a circle.

“This is a time when I understand what the Universal Church really means,” he said.

“My home parish was founded by Maryknoll priests. My first pastor was from Ossining, New York, and now today I am in New York. It’s all about how God takes care of his Church. When you are ordained, you are not ordained for yourself. You are ordained for the Universal Church.”

Father Mung’aho will celebrate his first Mass at Sacred Heart of Jesus Church in Highland Falls on Sunday, May 15, at 11:30 a.m. Father Freddy Washington, C.S.S.P., will deliver the homily.


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