Fr. Thomas Richard Heath OP, the first vicar provincial of the Vicariate of Eastern Africa, was Teacher, Preacher and Father to so many during his life as a Dominican Friar. He taught in the USA, Lebanon, South Africa, Lesotho, & Kenya. Fr. Tom was a gentle and wise priest who showed to everyone the image of Jesus, the Good Shepherd. He inspired many in the classroom, at the pulpit, and in the confessional.
Fr. Tom’s memory remains in the hearts of many in the village of Mkendwa where he spent the last 8 years of his life serving the people of Kenya whom he loved so dearly. He was pastor, formator, seminary & university professor extraordinaire, teaching & guiding many of the clergy & religious of Western Kenya – even up to the last days of his life.
“THANKS FOR EVERYTHING!”
On January 8, 2005, Fr. Tom was beaten severely by armed robbers who had seized the Dominican compound in Kisumu. Despite his injuries, Fr. Tom was still able to speak by phone with the provincial in New York City, who himself had served the mission in Kenya. Fr. Tom’s words on this occasion serve well as a legacy for all of those involved in the mission at Kisumu: “Thanks for everything!” He died in peace from complications later the night of that phone call.
Because of Fr. Tom’s devotion to the children of the Lake Victoria region, the Dominican Friars of St. Martin de Porres House in Mkendwa Village (Kisumu) chose Fr. Tom as their model and example for the community’s outreach program to orphaned & needy children. The program links African students with sponsors who wish to make a difference in the life of a child through the gift of education. The “Fr. Tom’s Kids Program” memorializes this beloved Dominican priest because of what he passed along to so many during his lifetime.
Fr. Tom inspired a dedication to “Ukweli” (“Truth” in Swahili) by the values he passed on to everyone who met him by his encouragement to strive for excellence for the sake of Jesus Christ our Savior. He was a man of integrity within & beyond his Dominican community, with a special concern for the Poor, the Sick & Children.
Fr. Tom remains our example and father for the Dominican Charities of Eastern Africa. May he intercede for us to be generous to the Poor out of Love for Jesus!
Fr. Thomas Richard Heath OP, Mission Martyr