Brother Giuseppe Argesse with Meru Catholic Diocese’s head Salesius Mugambi (right), when Argesse was installed as a Meru elder. [Photo:Phares Mutembei, Standard]
Brother Giuseppe Argesse, who came to Kenya from Italy in 1957 at the age of 23, has now been installed as a Meru elder.
The missionary christened ‘Mukiri’ by locals was among Italian plumbers, masons and carpenters invited to Kenya by Victor Bessone, the first bishop of Meru, to participate in infrastructure development launched by the Meru Catholic Diocese.
Now elderly, Argesse spends most of his time at the church’s Mukululu shrine and rarely ventures out of the shrine.
The Catholic office in Italy sent the missionary to Meru to help locals get water for domestic use and irrigation.
However, Argesse’s search for water in Nyambene hills was resisted by Njuri Ncheke elders who accused him of “desecrating” their sacred forest.
“I sank boreholes around here because provision of water was part of my work to spread the gospel,” Argesse reminisces, seated outside the huge Cathedral he helped to build.
“The elders did not want me to go up the hills to plan how I could build reservoirs and distribute water to the people below in the villages. It was unfortunate that residents 10 kilometres away had no water, yet it was available in hills nearby,” he said, smiling. He added that the elders used to offer sacrifices to their gods on the hills.
Argesse then sunk boreholes, built dams and water pans, bringing relief to thousands of people who had no reliable source of water.
Today, over 500,000 residents of Nyambene benefit from the diocese’s water sources.
Njuri Ncheke Council of Elders has now installed ‘Mukiri’ (the name locals gave him) as a Meru elder, a show of honour for his work of not only spreading the gospel but also water.
“We have installed Argesse as an elder because he worked tirelessly to ensure people got water. The entire northern Meru had no water but because of him, residents now have water for domestic and irrigation purposes,” said Njuri Ncheke regional chairman Linus Kathera.