Monday, February 11, 2013

Nicholaus Kiwango Marenga

Honoring the Memory of Nicholaus Kiwango Marenga
Story by Raul Barriga; photos by Norman Apo

You may be aware of the recent passing of Nicholaus Marenga, a seminarian from the Archdiocese of Portland, on July 10, 2012.  During a camping trip, Nicholaus went swimming at a lake and drowned; a nurse tried to revive him, but he passed away on his way to the hospital.  Nicholaus had just finished his first academic year at Mount Angel Seminary at level one in college.

Nicholaus originated from Africa in Tanzania, and he spent one full academic year with seminarians at this seminary, taking part in events and gatherings, as well as being a blessing to those with whom he became friends.  This article is drawn from interviews of two of his diocesan brothers, Zani Pacanza and Norman Apo.

Nicholaus Kiwango Marenga

According to Zani, he and Norman met Nicholaus for the first time in their vocation house in Portland when Nicholaus had just arrived from Tanzania.  Nicholaus did not know anyone, so Zani and Norman introduced themselves and became friends with him.  During my interview with Zani, he mentioned that this is where his relationship began with Nicholaus.

Norman said that the encounter between himself and Nicholaus was a "normal course [because] those who were in the same boat of adjusting to a new environment were clinging to each other as a support system."  Mount Angel Seminary receives diocesan seminarians from different countries, so like other seminarians at this seminary, Nicholaus left his family back in Tanzania.

Norman's first impressions of Nicholaus were that he was a "very humble and jolly person."  I, Raul, having met Nicholaus at the seminary, also remember this particular characteristic of his personality.  Further, Zani pointed out that one reason some of the people at the seminary may not have gotten to know Nicholaus was that "he only went to people that he was comfortable with.  He did not really talk to people that much . . . because he was pretty shy."  Nevertheless, due to the fact that there are not a lot of seminarians from Africa at Mount Angel Seminary, Nicholaus was very open to friendship.

Norman said that "everyday [Nicholaus] would bother to greet [him] and those he would meet."  Norman continued "I think it was too natural of [Nicholaus] to make an instant connection."  In fact as I, Raul, got to know Nicholaus, he would be very attentive when I spoke to him.  He would follow my conversation with a continual "uh-huh" after every thought I uttered.

Nicholaus with Archbishop John G. Vlazny

One friendly memory that Zani shared about Nicholaus is that when taking photos, Nicholaus would frequently pose as a "noble prince."  Zani noted that Nicholaus would frequently pose "with his back straightened."  This seemed amusing to Zani since he said that he himself would slouch when taking photos.

Norman said that he remembers Nicholaus having a big collection of rosaries in his room at the seminary.  He mentioned that Nicholaus prayed the rosary everyday and encouraged Norman to do the same.  Also, Norman mentioned that "for a non-American to come here in the US, I think one of the biggest assets was to easily appreciate other [cultures]."  He said, "Nicholaus would always request me to cook some Filipino cuisine and enjoy it too much."

Nicholaus with Norman Apo

It is worth adding a final bit of insight from Norman.  According to Norman, before Nicholaus passed away, he had invited Norman to go camping with him.  Norman had to decline the invitation since he had pastoral duties to attend to at a parish assignment.  Norman said this was the last time he spoke with Nicholaus.

Norman also said that he received a voice message of greetings from Nicholaus during the morning of the day he passed away.  Norman said that he mourned his loss.  He said that Nicholaus' "strong sense of adventure and missionary desire led him here in the United States but the same sense of adventure caused his death."  In spite of his loss, Norman said that he is grateful to God for having met Nicholaus Marenga.

I share the gratitude with Norman and Zani of having had the opportunity to get to know Nicholaus Kiwango Marenga at the seminary.


  1. My name is Yustina Kiwango, Nicholaus was my cousin, here in Africa we say "brother". I was so sad by his death and we said Holy Mass for him as soon as we got the news. I have been very comforted to read this post, because I saw him last several years ago, later was so proud to hear that he was studying for the priesthood. I believe that now he is with the Lord. My prayers for you good people of God.

    1. Yustina, thank you for your kind words about the story about Nicholaus. Nicholaus and all of his family have been and continue to be in our prayers.

    2. my name is br.andrew i was nicholaus friend and i once shared a room with him when we were postulants in the order of conventual franciscan friars both in kenya and tanzania. rip in peace nicho.

  2. Br. Andrew, I'm glad you found our story about Nicholaus.


    Sister Hilda