Dominican Priest, 84, Dies After Attack in Kenya

U.S.-born Father Thomas Heath

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NAIROBI, Kenya, JAN. 20, 2005 ( A U.S.-born Dominican priest died of wounds suffered earlier this month during a robbery at a religious house in Kisumu, Kenya.

A funeral for Father Thomas Richard Heath, 84, was held Tuesday in Kibuye. The Dominican died Jan. 13 in the Aga Khan Hospital of Kisumu. He was attacked Jan. 4 during an armed assault on his community.

«Father Thomas was a faithful servant of God,» said Father Benedict Croel, who works in Kisumi, 350 kilometers (215 miles) northwest of Nairobi.

«Men and women, religious and laity, looked to him as the wisest of counselors in their spiritual journey,» he told the Vatican agency Fides. «His own Dominican brothers venerated him as an outstanding example of fidelity in their contemplative way of life, and a most joyful and compassionate member of their community.»

Thomas Heath was born June 19, 1920. He made his religious profession May 28, 1944, and was ordained a priest June 10, 1950. He had spent 13 years in Kenya, after 10 years of ministry in South Africa and Lesotho.

Renowned as a preacher and teacher, in recent years he was mentor to a whole generation of young priests in Kenya, who studied theology at St. Matthias Mulumba National Seminary in Tindinyo.

Father Heath’s funeral was preceded by a vigil Monday night in the Dominican Community of St. Martin de Porres in Mkendwa.

The slaying was the second in recent months in Kenya involving a priest.

At the end of November, Father John Francis Hannon, 65, an Irish priest of the Society of African Missions, was killed during a robbery by some 20 individuals. His mutilated body was found at the St. Barnabas Parish complex in Matasia, in the Diocese of Ngong, near Nairobi.

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