Saint Margaret's associate pastor, a native of Kenya, prepares for his first Harford County Easter

Saint Margaret's new associate pastor says congregation has welcomed him ahead of his first Easter in Harford

Father Nicodemus Konza has led Easter services throughout the world, from West Africa to Ethiopia to Latin America, as a missionary during his eight years in the priesthood.

Many of the 37-year-old Kenyan native's parishioners have been refugees fleeing civil war, or living in the shadow of drug cartels and street gangs.

This Easter Sunday, however, Konza will be in Bel Air. The newest associate pastor at Saint Margaret Parish, one of the largest in the Baltimore Archdiocese, will help preside over Good Friday and Easter services this weekend.

"Here, you find it's more contemplative, sort of a Gothic expression of faith," Konza said Thursday regarding the American Catholic style of worship. "People are more quiet, reflecting on their own situation."

Konza said parishioners in Africa and Latin America are "more robust, more expressive" during services.

"Here, people are very faithful, you find them deeply in the silence," he said.

Konza has been with Saint Margaret since Jan. 6. He joined the Baltimore Archdiocese in September of 2015, starting in Saint Louis Parish in Howard County. He was later assigned to Saint Margaret.

He spent last Easter with parishioners in Panama, and he was in Columbia for Easter in 2014.

Konza, who grew up in Nairobi, Kenya, was ordained as a priest in December of 2008.

He speaks fluent Spanish and French as well as several African dialects.

He is part of the Colombia-based Yarumal Missionaries organization, which sends members of the clergy on missions all over the world.

Konza was based in the city of Medellin during his time in Colombia.

He spent much of his time working with families and young people who had been affected by Colombia's drug cartels or rebel guerrilla groups fighting in the country's decades-long civil war.

Konza led a mission for vocational promotion "to promote the young people to listen to the call of God, to become good parents, to be good people in the society."

"Someone who is purposeless is a weak person," he continued.

Konza wants to give that same sense of purpose to youth members of Saint Margaret, where they are encouraged to take on leadership roles.

While Harford County is much more peaceful than Colombia or South Sudan, young people are still susceptible to heroin addiction, which has claimed at least seven lives so far this year.

Koza and other Saint Margaret leaders want young members to know they are "surrounded by a community that cares," and that the best thing for them is to keep busy with activities in the church.

"They have a goal, they have an objective and working together you have a sense of responsibility," Konza said.

Saint Margaret has 4,220 active families, or about 12,000 individual members. Konza is one of two associate pastors serving under Monsignor G. Michael Schleupner.

"[Parishioners] really enjoy his homilies, and they think he's been a very good priest and a very good pastor," Schleupner said.

Konza works with 15 parish staffers and more than 1,500 volunteers assisting in the parish and Saint Margaret School, which serves children in grades K-8.

"Everyone has been so welcoming to me," he said.

Konza has been helping youth members prepare to perform the Passion of Christ, a re-enactment of Jesus' arrest, torture and crucifixion. Today – Good Friday – is the observance of his death on the cross.

The priest said a 15-year-old must think about where he or she will be by age 25.

"Our youth needs to be told there is a tomorrow," Konza said.

He said that is incorporated into "the message I give about the death and resurrection of Jesus."

Konza is the youngest of four boys. His father, who died when he was 4 years old, served in the Kenyan Air Force. His mother, who recently retired, was a secretary at a middle school.

He grew up attending a Catholic church where many of the clergy were missionary priests from the U.S., Canada and Europe. He noted the priests were not "visitors" or "tourists," but they became part of the community, which inspired him to follow the same path when he became a priest.

"I felt that is a challenge, an invitation and a challenge, to give my life for the salvation of others in different countries," he said.

His second-oldest brother died in 2006 during an armed robbery. Konza was in his final year of divinity school.

"It was very sad for us," he said of his family.

His brother's death strengthened his faith in God, though, and he continued his studies.

Konza spent several years assisting refugees who had fled to Ethiopia from southern Sudan to get away from that country's civil war.

He said people's basic needs for food, water, shelter and medical help must be taken care of first before any religious services happen.

Konza noted one of the first steps in helping refugees is to dig wells, which helps bring people together.

"You'll see people coming together because the rest of the land has no water," he said.

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