Our History – Foundation of the Congregation of Our Lady of Kilimanjaro

History Of Our Founder - Rt. Rev. Henry A. Gogarty

Rt. Rev. Henry A. Gogarty was born on the 9th of September 1884 in Cavan, Ireland. He was a student at Rockwell in 1897; he entered his junior seminary in 1900. After perfecting for two years at Rockwell, he took his vows on October 3, 1909 at Chevilly, where he completed his seminary studies and was ordained priest on October 28, 1913. As he desired, he was appointed to East Africa.

mother felicitas
The Rt. Rev. Henry A. Gogarty

The outbreak of World War One, however, delayed his departure for the Zanzibar Vicariate until May 2, 1915. Bishop Neville placed him in Nairobi. In 1918 he contracted smallpox. He was repatriated in March 1919 via South Africa. Six months later, he returned to Kenya and took charge of the Mombasa mission. Then, in 1922 he became the Apostolic Administrator of the Kilimanjaro Vicariate. He set to work “at top speed” to rebuild, repair and expand operations as he knew he had tuberculosis. In 1924 the Holy See appointed him Vicar Apostolic of Kilimanjaro; he went home to Ireland to be ordained bishop at Cobh on June 8, 1924. While fundraising, he secured the return of the Precious Blood Sisters to South Africa (who were previously expelled but highly admired — the best sisters in the mission).

He spent a few months in the Montana Sanatorium of the Congregation to take care of his tuberculosis and then went to the USA for more fundraising. Meanwhile, the St. James Intervicarial Seminary and the St. Patrick’s Teacher Training School he had ordered had been built at Kilema and at Singa Chini, respectively. By 1930, there were about 340 teachers serving the Vicariate’s school, who also doubled as catechists.

Bishop Henry Gogarty C.S.Sp. asked for Rome’s permission to start a Religious Congregation for indigenous sisters in the Apostolic Vicariate of Kilimanjaro. His letter of application of April 14, 1927 was approved on June 7 of that year, by a letter from the Congregation of the Propagation of Faith (Ref. No. 2072/27).

S. Congregazione “DE PROPAGANDA DIFE” ROMAE, DIE 7 JUNII 1927. Protocollo N. 2072/2
Litteras ab Amplitudine Tua die 14.p.t. mensis Aprilis datas recepi, quibus hanc Sacram Congregationem certiorem reddis Tibi in animo esse Institutum Sororum Indigenarum a Nostra Domina de Kilimanjaro in isto Vicariatu Apostolico condere.
Dum de hac fundatione, maxime bono animarum profutura. Tibi ex corde granulo, per praesenter facultas a Can. 492 requisita, libenter A. Tuae conceditur.
Interim DEUM O.M. precor ut Te diutissime servet, laboresque tuos pastorales, divina sua gratia, in dies fortunet.

Amplitudinus Tuae
Addictissimus servus
(Signed) G.M. CARD. V. ROSSUM
Archiep. Seleuciens.

R.P.D. Henrico Gogarty
Vicario Apostolico De Kilimanjaro.

On June 29, 1931, Rt. Rev Henry Gogarty founded the Congregation of Our Lady of Kilimanjaro. In October 1931, his exceedingly frail health forced him to return to Montana. He died on December 8, 1931, a few weeks after his arrival, leaving the memory of a saintly life wholly dedicated to the service of his beloved Africans.

A Short Biography Of Mother Felicitas Tirpitz C.P.S
mother felicitas
Mother Felicitas Tirpitz C.P.S.

Mother Felicitas was born in February, 1895 in Bavaria, Germany. She was baptized with the name Elizabeth. Her parents were good Christians who loved God dearly. They died early while Elizabeth was in school. Since her childhood, Elizabeth had a very amiable character.

Her smiling face radiated the joy and peace of her soul. She was hardworking in many fields including school. This healthy and beautiful girl with a wonderful voice became a teacher. She also knew how to play harmonium. When she joined the Congregation of the Precious Blood Sisters she got the name Sr. Mary Felicitas, a name which she embodied, as she imitated Mary Mother of God, and was always happy.

She took her first vows on August 15, 1922. She was later sent to East Africa and arrived in Tanga in February, 1925. In the beginning, she was a teacher and a catechist at Mkuu Parish. She was also appointed to instruct the girls who wanted to become religious. She took her perpetual vows at Mkuu parish on August 15, 1925.

Sr. Felicitas was also appointed to be the formator and at the same time the first Superior of the Congregation. She lived a life of virtue — patience, humility, love to all and prayer. She emphasized the importance of faithfulness in the vows. That is why she wrote these words on the Huruma Convent Chapel wall so that every member could read and meditate on them:

“It is better not to take vows than to take them and not remain faithful to them” - Ecces. 5:5

She also emphasized the importance of human growth and maturity as she wrote:

“Your thoughts and intentions reveal who you are.”

Mother Felicitas led the Congregation for forty-two years (1931–1973). Then, she handed the leadership over to the indigenous nuns. Having given up everything, thanking God, she said “I can now say, I am no longer herding the flock in the leadership Office. What is left is love.” Two years after handing over the congregation, Mother Felicitas became sick. She was sent to Nairobi for a thorough medical treatment. She then lived in one of her communities in Riruta, Nairobi. She died on September 15, 1982.