It was the St. Dorothy’s parishioners’ first contribution to St. Massimo Parish in the Diocese of Meru, Kenya, which resulted in the construction of a new church and a Catholic school named after the Glendora parish, whose congregation learned to love Kenyan children through their direct contact with Father Bernard Njeru.Father Njeru had served in residence at St. Dorothy’s, welcomed by then-pastor Msgr. Michael Meyers, former archdiocesan Mission Office director. Thus was a bond established between the African priest and St. Dorothy’s congregation, and in 2006 they started sponsoring students through the Kenyan Children’s Project Meru. Tuition, books, clothing and food are paid via $360-per-year sponsorships. About 400 children have been sponsored to date, and five have already gone to college, Father Njeru told The Tidings during a recent visit to his sister parish. A few weeks later he would welcome Lay Mission-Helpers Jeff and Dorothy Flint to St. Massimo, where they will serve for the next three years.In Glendora, a huge container parked behind the church is slowly being filled with books, dental chairs, computers, tables and school supplies, all donated by St. Dorothy parishioners and the larger community. Once a year the whole community gathers for a potluck, the year’s largest fundraiser to support Kenyan families.The Diocese of Meru is part of the Mikinduri District, an area with little to no running water or electricity that suffers from droughts at least once a year. It is mostly populated by peasants who grow bananas and coffee beans. About 89 percent of the population never advances beyond eighth grade (if that far); only six percent graduate from high school and just two percent attend college.Although the government subsidizes public schools, the quality of education is very poor, said Father Njeru. St. Dorothy’s School at St. Massimo, on the other hand, provides food and basic medical assistance (not provided by public schools) along with school tuition, uniforms and supplies.The situations faced by his parishioners are quite familiar to Father Njeru. Born in 1957, he was the fifth of 11 children whose parents struggled to provide for their education (his dad did masonry work, his mom took care of the children). Young Bernard attended public elementary schools and, with the support of generous contributions, graduated from a local Catholic high school. (A brother is also a priest and a sister entered religious life.)Two years after his ordination, Father Njeru was named the vocations director of the Diocese of Meru, serving 15 years. Then he pastored Kariakomo Parish from 1990 to 1996, where he oversaw two elementary schools and one high school. From 1996 to 2001 he pastored Igogi Church, where he built two primary schools and two high schools.He was, therefore, a logical choice to build a church in the rural area of his diocese at the request of his bishop. Both St. Massimo Church and school were built with the assistance of Glendora parishioners.“It is a very meaningful church,” St. Dorothy parishioner Sarah Flores told The Tidings. She has visited the Kenyan parish a couple of times, witnessing how locals “own the church. I think the Church gave them back their dignity,” she said.Efforts to improve people’s lifestyle are also being made, according to Father Njeru. Together with Kenyatta University College, the church is teaching people to grow soy beans and plant watermelons, a fruit they came to know after Father Njeru planted some seeds he took from the U.S.Since establishing the church in Meru, several missionaries have worked there in the medical field as well as in education, paving the way for the Flints.“We are very excited,” said the couple, who will contribute to the church with their nine years of expertise in youth ministry at St. Rita of Cascia Shrine Church in the Bronx, a mostly Hispanic parish. They are also looking forward to help build the school’s library once the container arrives in Kenya from L.A. To contact St. Massimo Church in Kenya, write to P.O. Box 36, Mikinduri, 60607, Kenya. For Kenyan Children’s Project Meru at St. Dorothy Church in Glendora, call Beverly Cardona, (626) 335-1439.{gallery width=100 height=100}gallery/2011/0729/kenya/{/gallery}