Dr. Fr. Edward Kanyike Mayanja is the former Comboni Provincial superior of Malawi/ Zambia province, a position he held for six years, until December 31st 2019, when his term ended. He returns home to continue his missionary experience at Philosophical centre in Jinja.
Born on 5th December 1957 in Kiganwa village in Mityana district he went to live with his grandparents in Sugezi village at an early age and began school at Sugezi Primary Schoo. At the age of 10, he returned to his parents and went to Busubuzi Demostration school where he was until primary six.
Fr. Kanyike’s dream to become a priest was realised at his grandmother’s home where he expressed his zeal to be like a priest who was at their sub parish, although he could not understand the priest’s job description. In 1971, he joined Nswanjere Junior Seminary where he sat his primary seven examinations in 1972.
In 1973, he was admitted to Kisubi Minor Seminary where he sat his Ordinary level examination at Kisubi, but did not proceed to Advanced level, instead he got admission to Alokolum Major Seminary for a Diploma in Philosophy and higher ecclesiastical studies which he combined with Postualancy.
Fr. Kanyike was oriented to become a missionary priest in 1976, after getting in touch and picking interest with a missionary. He was told about the charism of St. Daniel Comboni and he chose the Comboni missionaries unreservedly. He would later join another novice Fr. Oparagiu in Kisubi as the first Ugandan novices to do novitiate in Uganda for the Comboni missionaries in 1980. After one year, they were moved to Tartar in west Pokot in North West Kenya.
At the end of his novitiate, Fr. Kanyike took his first vows while still in Kenya and joined the scholasticate back in Uganda. In 1985, he was ordained a priest at Our Lady of Africa, church, in Mbuya, by the then Papal Nuncio to Uganda, Archbishop Karie Rauber.
He was then admitted at Ggaba Major Seminary to do a degree in theology and after completion, he began his missionary work in DR Congo and his first station was St. Camil in Kisangani diocese where he worked for two years, but doing only pastoral work.
In the third year, he began teaching at a postulancy in Kisangani. After one year as a formator, Fr. Kanyike joined Faculte Catholiques De Kinshasa for a Master’s degree, which took him three years, where he combined studies with pastoral work.
After his Master’s Degree, he returned to Kisangani, and began teaching at Institute Edith Stein postulancy for four years. Fr. Kanyike was then asked to return to Uganda and assigned to Philosophical Centre Jinja (PCJ) where he taught for three years.
He went to Rome in 1999, to pursue a doctorate course in Philosophy at Angelicum University and upon completion, he was sent to Malawi where he taught for ten years at Inter- Congregation institution Baraka in Mangochi diocese. Fr. Kanyike lived the first five years in Malawi at the parish doing parish work while teaching at the Major Seminary in Kachebere and later made the dean of studies before becoming a Rector of the major seminary.
Six years ago, Fr. Kanyike was elected the provincial Superior of Malawi/ Zambia province a mandate he completed on 31st December 2019. His Superiors requested him to return to Uganda, to Philosophical centre in Jinja to continue his missionary work. Fr. Kanyike said he enjoyed his missionary experience as a Formator for future priests in Congo and when he sees his students become priests and dedicated Christians, he feels the joy of a parent. He learnt different languages and cultures while in Congo.
The challenge he faced was adapting to new cultures and languages but he soon found a solution. Fr Kanyike advises that in order not to make people feel like strangers around you, is to love them. That is exactly what he did being a young priest of 27 years. With the experience from Seminary, combined with the life he had chosen to heed to the call from God, his life was made easy.
In Congo, Fr. Kanyike was referred to as an elder brother by the postulants, because he would not only teach them, but pray and play, solve problems as well as help them to embrace their Christian faith. He embraces the role of culture in people’s lives. He picked interest in tradition after learning that behind different things Africans do, culture was behind it.
While in Malawi, he would go on national Television and teach the Malawians about their culture which made them wonder how he had learnt their culture, easily, and so well and this aspect that always brought him joy.
It is not enough to learn people’s language, but people need to learn culture because language is a bi-product of culture. He did not only embrace the different cultures while outside his country but went as far as leading by example, like embracing the Congolese culture by eating caterpillars, which came as a shock to him.
He also advises that one needs to live the experience of faith with people around you. By doing so, one can overcome prejudice, not to curse their weakness by thinking that one’s culture is superior over others.
After living in Malawi for a long time, it was hard for him to reveal to them that he was leaving. They were heartbroken, but that is who we are; missionaries; spreading the Gospel to all and touching many lives.