Father John Antony Kaiser
When I was a seminarian one of the priests asked my class what the most important virtue a priest should ever have was. We gave him all the textbook answers such as humility and dedication. Dissappointed, he banged the table and told us “No! It’s courage! If you don’t have courage you will never be a good priest!”
Courage was the virtue that Father John Antony Kaiser brought from his native Minnesota, USA, to Kenya, where he made his home for more than three decades.
Born in November 1932, Kaiser first found his calling at St. John’s Preparatory School, a Catholic school in his home state. He then joined St Joseph’s Order and was ordained as a priest in 1964.
Kaiser’s landed in the newly-independent Kenya in the same year, and was posted to Kisii, before he was reassigned to Albany, New York, in 1969. He returned to Kenya in the 1970s.
In early 1993, Father Kaiser was sent took up a new posting at Maela, what proved to be the epicentre of so-called ethnic clashes in the Rift Valley Volunteering as the priest for the Maela camp for the displaced, Kaiser neither shirked nor shied away from implicating the State in displacing its own citizens.
On August 23, 2000, Kaiser was carjacked and shot him in the back of the head. The death was officially declared suicide by both Kenyan and American authorities. In 2007, a government inquest concluded that Father Kaiser had not committed suicide.
The 2011 movie, The Rugged Priest, directed by Bob Nyanja, and the book You Will See Fire Christopher Goffard, record Father Kaiser’s inspiring story.