Endless Quest: The Vocation of an African Christian Theologian. Essays in Honor of Laurenti Magesa

Authors: Jesse Mugambi and Evaristi Magoti (editors)

Number of pages: 341 pages

Price: KSH 1,500

Year: 2014

Publisher: Acton Publishers, Nairobi, Kenya

Contact: P.O Box 74419-00200, Nairobi, Kenya



Reviewer: Francis Njuguna


Call it a rare happening!

A group of theologians, including three women have published a book in honor of Catholic priest Father Laurenti Magesa who marked his 40th ordination anniversary of priesthood in June, 2014. Professor Magesa, currently lecturing at Hekima College Jesuit School of Theology and Tangaza University College, both constituent institutions of the Catholic University of Eastern Africa (CUEA), Kenya as well as at the Maryknoll Institute of African Studies (MIAS) is ordained for the Catholic Diocese of Musoma in Tanzania.

The new book — Endless Quest: The Vocation of an African Christian Theologian. Essays in Honor of Laurenti Magesa contains 18 essays and was officially launched on 9 July, 2014 in Musoma. Each of the 18 essays opens up with a quotation from Magesa’s recent book — What is Not Sacred? African Spirituality (Nairobi: Acton Publishers, 2014). Published by Acton Publishers, Nairobi, Kenya, the new book has been co-edited by Professor Jesse N. K. Mugambi, a lecturer in the Religious Studies and Philosophy Department of the University of Nairobi, Kenya and Dr. Evaristi Magoti Cornelli, a lecturer in the Philosophy Department of the University of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. The book project has been sponsored in part by the Catholic missionary society of the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers.

In an interview Professor Mugambi explained, “It’s a unique way of recognizing the good work our colleague Professor Magesa has done for the last four decades with particular reference to the African Christian Theology.”

In the book’s Foreword, Father Alyward Shorter, Emeritus Professor of Anthropology, Catholic University of Eastern Africa, Kenya and a member of the Catholic missionary society of the Missionaries of Africa says Laurenti’s communication skills transcend language and conventions of theological writing. “This was because he always acknowledged that theology originated with the faith community and with a life lived in love for others,” says Professor Shorter adding that, “Not only did he address the academic community in theological writings and lectures, but he remained in touch with ordinary Catholics through his continuous pastoral work” (page i-ii).  “He practices –it has been said — a conversational theology, “a palaver theology” that uses a story-telling method,” explains Shorter, a prolific author on inculturation. Professor Shorter describes Laurenti as a prophetic theologian. He says the Tanzanian Catholic priest uses a genuine catechetical method, one in which his hearers are real interlocutors.

“He makes his theological discoveries with them. It is this theological method that makes communication with him easy. It is the method which underlies the kind of exchange which characterizes this book and makes it a ‘celebration of love and friendship’ as one contributor has expressed it” (page ii), stresses Father Shorter.

In his essay on “The Future of  Small Christian Communities, SCCs in Africa,” Father Joseph Healey, MM quotes Magesa: “The rise of SCCs as new way of being church has brought most powerfully to the fore the truth of the principle that the church’s needs should determine ministries and not ministries its [the church’s] needs…the fundamental reason why new forms and styles of ministry should be encouraged and developed is that this development is as much an intrinsic part of the nature of the church as it is an appropriate response to the signs of times” (page 114).

Father Healey has also said Magesa has always supported and encouraged various efforts in developing African Narrative Theology. “There is mutual illumination and mutual enrichment when African stories and biblical stories are used together,” stresses Healey.

Other contributors include: Paulinus Odozor; Peter Kanyandago; Philomena Mwaura; Paul Gifford and Douglas Waruta.

Endless Quest can be purchased at the Keswick Bookshop on Banda Street and at the Catholic Bookshop, both in Nairobi City Centre.