At the geographical heart of Kenya, below the scorching sun of the northern part of Kenya, stands the twin rectangular towers, that have been not only a landmark for centuries but also a moulding ground for the harmony amongst the Isiolo residents. In the colonial regime it was in the Northern Frontier District.
The colonial government never allowed the catholic mission to be established in Isiolo District. They only allowed a priest from Mujwa initially and then later Meru Cathedral to celebrate mass once in a while for the small “Goan” community in Isiolo.
After Madaraka, in june 1963 the bishop of Meru (by then) Rt.Rev. Victor Bessone was given the green light to initiate a mission in Isiolo. He mandated Bs. Luigi Locati (then a priest) to begin the parish in 1964. The mission would grow for decades starting their worship, until later in 1990 when they started the construction of the current st. Eusebius Cathedral which was completed in 1994 February and later consecrated the same year.
It is during the construction period that the coexistence of different tribes would manifest itself stronger by the Christians coming together to help in whichever way they could to help construct the church, and much bond built between the Christians and Bs. Luigi Locati, as the gospel continued to spread.
Bs Luigi Locati was born on Vinzaglio in Italy, on 23rd July 1928. He would later enrol in his studies within the same municipality until when he was ordained a priest on 29th June 1952. In 1962 he was sent to Kenya under the order of Pope Pius the twelvth. He would later be sent to start a catholic mission in Isiolo but operating under the diocese of Meru.
In the year 1965, Locati started a Children house (now the pastoral centre) so as to help shelter Children displaced due to the community disagreements that were experienced at that time. It is during this period that many children would start benefiting directly from the help given. By the year 1967, the number of children under the children house had raised to 200. Bs Locati loved serving the poor despite of their religious, tribal or racial affiliation.
A BRAVE MAN, HE WAS!
Bishop Locati was known to be a man of bravery. Despite being a foreigner in a foreign country at the immediate era of post-colonialism, Locati went on with his evangelization and humanitarian duties without fear. An encounter is narrated of when the Bishop met a lion at his doorstep at night and showed no fear towards the beast, nor did he even think about shifting his residence! Another encounter is told of how he battled a lethal snake which infected him with its Venom!
Despite all the physical challenges mainly due to the insecurity in Isiolo at those times, the Bishop never feared and went on with his services, From Garbatulla to Merti to Oldonyiro.
Bs. Locati was such a football fanatic. He used to support his home team “the azzurri,” Italy. He would walk around the Catholic mission at a times wearing gloves similar to those won by goalkeepers. Apart from his affection to the Gospel, Football and humanitarian service, the bishop was a Hiker. He loved climbing mountains and hills so much that it is said he used to climb Mt. Kenya every year.
END TO AN ERA
All seemed well until the fateful evening of the 14th of July 2005. As it was his routine Bs. Locati walked towards his house after having supper at the pastoral Centre dining hall with other parish workers. Bs Locati left the dining hall in the company of two night guards. Until few minutes later when gunshots sound would tear the air.
The bishop by this time had been shot several times. One of the bullets had torn through his neck causing severe injuries. By the time the local police responded to the incident, the bishop’s life was hanging on a thread. He would later be rushed to the hospital where by that time his soul had already departed to be with The Heavenly Father.
It his 16 years since Bishop Locati rested, but his spirit lives on through the mark of his deeds, his name frequently mentioned almost on a daily basis, his memories still fresh to the residents minds.