Priest who ‘rapped’ church the wrong way suspended

Tom Rachuonyo @PeopleDailyKe

A Catholic priest who broke with tradition in his style of spreading the gospel has been suspended for misconduct.

Father Paul Ogalo of St Monica‘s Catholic Church, Rapogi, Migori county has been using rap music to attract youth to church and spread messages against drug abuse and other vices.Locals came to love and appreciate his unique style of preaching  and mass in the church would always be full.

“I use rap music to attract the youth to church and urge them to shun drug abuse, promiscuity and other social vices. I bring the gospel to the people through this music, “ Fr Ogalo, 45, said in a recent interview.

After mass, Father Masaa, as he was fondly reffered to by his congregants, would change into a pair of shorts, baggy shirt, a red bandana and adopt the characteristic look of rap artiste before rapping to the congregation which would dance along to the music.

Church doctrine

“We need to take care of the interests of youths in our churches,” he was quoted as saying. “We need to change the way we do things.”

While his congregation danced along to his music, his style did not amuse his superiors. They rejected  Fr Ogalo’s practices, saying they were against church doctrine.

Father Charles Kochiel, judicial vicar of the interdiocesan tribunal of Kisumu, said Fr Ogalo has been suspended for a year to allow him to “reconsider his ways.”

“There are ways of doing things. There are certain things the church promotes in the society. If we mix what the secular and church institutions do, then definitely people are going to read different messages,” said Fr Kochiel.

In a past interview, church youth leader Violet Menya said not only did many young people come to church because of the priest’s use of rap music to pass his message across, they kept coming back.

“We are happy that his style of preaching is attracting many youths to church. He has mentored very many youths to leave … drug abuse and embrace farming, business and other activities,” Menya said.

The priest’s exit may not be without consequences to the church. Some fans of his style of preaching now say they will no longer be members of the congregation.

Benard Oketch, 28, said he will stop attending church because of the priest’s suspension. “Fr Paul has been our mentor. He uses the language the youth understand,” Oketch said. “[Fr Ogalo] has saved thousands of youths” from drug abuse.

Norah Akinyi, a youthful parishioner, said that the priest had influenced the youth to shun negative practices.

“The priest has been attracting the youth to church. He has been able to influence us to shun social evils such as drug abuse. He taught us how to take care of the environment. We feel bad that he has been suspended,” said Akinyi.

Those in favour of the suspension, however, argue that his actions were not biblical and could not be justified  because of mere popularity.

“People could be looking at it from the social point of view, like bringing people on board, gathering and entertaining people. But people could also be looking at this from the spiritual point of view: Does it promote spiritual values or is it sending a wrong message?” Fr Kochiel said.

But some officials at the church acknowledged that a lot has changed since Fr Ogalo left.

“Things have changed dramatically. Since the priest left, the church is half empty during mass. He had a way of pulling people to church,” said a church official, who did not want to be named. —Additional reporting courtesy of Catholic Herald.

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