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From Maasai Land to Jesuit Centre

The land where Mwangaza Jesuit Spirituality Centre is currently situated was once part of the Maasai land. In the late 1920’s it became part of the 3000 acre Bror and Karen Blixen Coffee Plantation. After the coffee plantation failed, the two plots on which Mwangaza presently exists were transferred from Karen to Muriel Hickman in October 1939. On December 15th, 1944 Mrs. Hickman transferred the land to Mrs. Phyllis Morton Talbot. The later subsequently sold the property to the Jesuits. 
The Birth of Mwangaza Jesuit Spirituality Centre

The story starts with Fr. Alfred Fernandes, an Indian Jesuit from the Calcutta Province of the Society of Jesus. Answering a request from Maurice Cardinal Otunga, archbishop of Nairobi, Fr. Fernandes planned to set up a retreat house. In April 1974, he bought a property at the outskirts of the city of Nairobi, in a place called Nyahururu. While alone, he started to receive a few retreatants. In 1975, Fr. Tony Sequeira, an Indian Jesuit from the Goa-Puna Province, came to work with him. This first Jesuit retreat house in Eastern Africa was called Manresa. But, the house soon proved to be too small to respond to the needs for spiritual renewal.

In September 1979, Fr. John Stack joined the first group. He was a Jesuit from the United States of America and a member of the New Orleans Province of the Society of Jesus. The three Jesuits could now think of a bigger project for the purpose of promoting Ignatian Spirituality.

Fr. John Stack SJ and the then Jesuit Superior of the Independent Region of Eastern Africa, Fr. Polycarp Toppo SJ, bought a house built in 1938 and a newer, neighbouring house from Mrs. Talbot and Mrs Diana Denison, her daughter. The property was facing the Ngong Hills, near Karen town, a suburb of Nairobi: 38 acres of beautiful land, in a quiet area.

This is how, on 15th October 1978, Manresa became Mwangaza, a Swahili word meaning “light, knowledge, knowhow”, three terms that define the idea of “wisdom”.

At present, the property is covered with indigenous and fruit trees, shrubs of many kinds and flowers. A great variety of birds of all colours fill the air with their harmonious voices. In the grounds the retreatant will also find a Way of the Cross and a Labyrinth.  Over two kilometers of pathways allow the retreatants to walk leisurely, pray and relax in the beauty of nature. Such a quiet and natural environment of Mwangaza has for years proved to be helpful in creating conducive environment for prayer and contemplation.