Inspired by the Holy Spirit’s unfathomable love for humanity, the Most Rev. Bishop Sixtus Mazzoldi (a native of Nago-Trento-Italy) and the Rev. Fr. John Marengoni (a native of Milano–Italy) founded the Religious Missionary Order of the Apostles of Jesus in 1968. It was the first missionary order to be developed in Africa for the purpose of training and forming religious missionaries, as Priests and Brothers, to participate in the evangelizing mission of the Church. The Apostles of Jesus’ first home was in Moroto-Uganda, but quickly expanded into Kenya, Tanzania, Sudan and then into other parts of Africa, Europe, Australia, Cuba and the United States.
The Apostles of Jesus in the United States
The Apostles of Jesus’ presence in the United States of America began on June 21, 1996, when the newly elected Superior General, Rev. Silvester A. Rwomukubwe, A.J, called a meeting of the five Apostles of Jesus priests studying in USA. This meeting occurred at the Maryknoll’s ‘Fathers and Brothers Center’ in Ossining, New York. This is the official establishment of the Apostles of Jesus Zone in USA.
The USA Zone officially became the USA Region in 2004. The official news of the new USA Region was made public by the Superior General, the Very Rev. Augustine R. Njuu, AJ, during the 9th annual zone meeting held at Mary Immaculate Center, Northampton, PA (July 28-31, 2004). By this time there were 41 Apostles of Jesus missionaries ministering in 16 dioceses. This large region was subdivided into 5 zones, during the 10th annual meeting held at Mary Immaculate Center, Northampton PA (July 27-30, 2005).
Presence in the Diocese of Cleveland
The Diocese of Cleveland like many dioceses in the United States welcomed the first Apostles of Jesus. Our presence in the Diocese began in 1998, when our first priest arrived here for missionary work. The first Apostle of Jesus, Reverend Firminus Shirima, was invited by the Sisters of Charity of St. Augustine to care for the sick, their families and conduct liturgy for everyone on their campus. The Most Reverend Anthony Pilla approved of our ministry in the Diocese. We have been assisting in this diocese for 17 years.
In the year 2000, Fr. Isidore Munishi and several other priests from the Apostles of Jesus community came to the Diocese after Father Firminus Shirma was reassigned to Kenya to work with the disadvantaged men, women and children infected with HIV Aids. (He is now the Executive director of the Apostles of Jesus HIV- AIDs Ministry in Kiserian – Kenya.) Many more Apostles of Jesus Missionaries followed Fr. Shirma and Fr. Munishi’s example and their presence has been of great help to hospitals and other facilities in the diocese. Many of this original group of priests have been transferred to ministry in other USA states. Cleveland has become a home for many Apostles both living and deceased.
As we join with other religious men and women to celebrate this year dedicated to consecrated life, we will never forget the many good people who were and are still involved in making our mission possible and manageable: Most Reverend Richard Lennon, Bishop of Cleveland , Reverend Anthony Pilla, Bishop Emeritus, Most Roger Gries, Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus, the Priests of the Diocese of Cleveland, the Sisters of Charity of St. Augustine, Sister Rita Petruzziello CSJ, Sister Juanita Shealey CSJ, a 2015 honoree of the City of Cleveland’s Black History Month, the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph, the Sisters of the Incarnate Word and Blessed Sacrament, and so many local religious men and women that we cannot name them all, leaders and colleagues of different facilities/organizations/parishes like St. Vincent Charity Medical Center, Holy Family Hospice, St. Augustine Manor and Towers, Mary Mount Hospital, Southwest Hospital, Akron General Hospital, Summa St. Thomas Hospital, Visitation of Mary Parish, St. Mathew Parish, Visitation Church, St. Colman and St. Stephen, where our priests serve/served and the lay persons, who generously have worked with us and recognized the gifts we bring to this great nation, as well as our desire to learn and embrace your rich culture and tradition.