Priest followed boyhood pastor’s example
Rev. Anthony Muraya of St. Paul of the Cross Catholic Church
Updated: December 2, 2012 6:03AM
The Rev. Anthony Muraya joined St. Paul of the Cross Catholic Church in Park Ridge this year following his ordination as a priest last spring. The 36-year-old from Nairobi, Kenya was raised Lutheran in a family of nine children, but was drawn to the Catholic faith at the encouragement of his grandmother.
Q. Why did you choose to become a priest?
A. It was in high school as a sophomore that I finally verbalized to my pastor and grandmother, but the desire had been sitting in my heart long before then. My dad had wanted me to become a lawyer while my mother thought I should be a doctor. Attractive as these occupations looked to me, only the thought of being a priest filled my heart with contentment. I saw and admired what my pastor did: the manner in which he radiated the joy of Christ into the life of everyone and how such engagement brought hope and life to the community.
Q. What did your grandmother teach you that made you want to become Catholic?
A. It was my grandmother who taught me … to always align my growth to the character of Christ. She taught me how to pray and how to be personal in my relationship with God. She taught me the value of reaching out to the needy, she taught me how to proclaim the word of God. She was my fifth gospel and her home was the school of love. It was she who fanned in me the desire for priesthood and sacrificed everything to make it a reality.
Q. Share some information about your life in Kenya.
A. I was born to a family of nine: six boys and three girls. My dad, who is now deceased, was in the military until his retirement when he turned himself into a farmer and an exporter of apples. My mother retired from teaching four years ago and now lives in the family farm. I grew up in the city of Nairobi which is the capital city of Kenya. Kenya has a population of about 90 million people. Seventy-eight percent of the population is Christian (about 40 percent being Catholic) and about 20 percent Islam. Religions exist in harmony in Kenya though recently we have seen an increase in Islamic radicalism mainly from Somalia. The church meant everything to me when I was growing up. Most of my friends were drawn from the church. We came together to pray and play within the church compound and the church was like our second home.
Q. Was it difficult to adjust to living in the U.S.?
A. I am well into my fourth year now. I was lucky somehow because I attended the United States International university (run by the U.S. government) in Nairobi, where we had a good percentage of students and professors from the US. The seminary in Kenya, too, had a number of young men from the U.S. and other western countries. Still, there were adjustments that needed to be made when I finally found my way here in terms of food and of course the weather. The latter was especially challenging for me. I was never used to such high levels of humidity or even the cold weather.
Q. What are your hobbies and interests outside of your work?
A. I run. As a matter of fact, I did the Marathon here in Chicago in 2008. I run at least four days a week and I love it. I play a little bit of soccer and volleyball. I love reading, particularly the religious/ theological and philosophical classics.