Dar es Salaam: It is one year since Fr. Theodore Walters,SJ. passed away. I believe some of us remembered him especially at mass and in our individual prayers. Few weeks before his departure from this world, he said, “My life has not always been easy, but it’s been productive, I think,” adding that, “As an old man, I find myself particularly happy in what I have accomplished although I see many things that I could have done that I didn’t do,” said Fr. Walters, SJ.
He was a great priest, very close to the Lord and dedicated to restoring dignity of human beings holistically. He considered himself fortunate to be called to join with Christ in the salvation of souls.
Fr. Walters, a Jesuit from the Chicago-Detroit Province, served in Eastern Africa for almost 24 years. His life continue to inspire many people, especially here in Tanzania, where he lived and worked. Those of us who benefited from his love and service, we find signs of his presence everywhere. In his activity, his wisdom, and material support. Everywhere we see him. I see him in the lives of people he taught and mentored, in his writings, his spiritual works incessantly for the good of this world, the youth of East Africa in particular.
He used to tell us that “the crucial moment for God to reach us is that we learn to pray from the heart,” he said adding, “[It means] to pray deeply in the full conscientiousness of God’s presence.” As one of his closest friends, he used to write special greetings to me every year when I celebrated the day I saw the light of day.
I missed his best wishes this year, but when I read one of his birthday greetings which he sent to me in 2008, it sounded very fresh: “Another year and we’re back to celebrating the happy day when you saw the light of day. God has blessed you greatly over these years and I have great reason to be happy about that along with you. I hope you have a great day! As you proceed in using your talents for the benefit of many people, I hope you are growing in the desire to follow Christ for the good of many people,” Fr. Walters’ email on August 15, 2008 at 3:48 PM.
I attended the Funeral Mass which took place in Nairobi on September 17, 2016 and I was moved by other witnesses, “Ted always trusted in the Lord. He was very earnest in prayer. He was devoted to help people pray better,” said the Provincial, Fr. Joseph Oduor Afulo, SJ adding, “Even when he came to his final retirement at Perdo Arrupe, knowing that in his body he was wasting away, he always longed to go back to work as there was always something not completed,” said Fr. Afulo, SJ.
“I am happy to be here to experience it all,” said Fr. Charles Kitima, former Vice Chancellor of St. Augustine University of Tanzania. He added that “Fr. Walters was intensely hard worker and was really giving himself to gaining prestige and raising funds for the University. You see the results of his activities everywhere, most notably in the young people he nurtured.”
- Father Leo Amani, SJ, the Superior at Perdo Arrupe (Nairobi), said, “Ted was always humble and full of gratitude.”
One year after Fr. Walters’ death, his work is as valuable as he was alive. Thank you for your kind consideration in ensuring that his valuable services continue. For example, there are young people who want to make serious decisions, but the paths seem dark. They need spiritual guidance.
Others need skills which can change their lives. Many of them need a room to read, and some are in dire need of moral support as they grow amidst moral challenges of East Africa. Plans are underway to set up a youth center in Mwanza. You can join with Christ in the salvation of souls.
He died on September 9, 2016 at the age of 90. Some people find it very interesting because his mother also died at the age of 90, on September 8, 1991 in the US which is September 9, 1991 in East Africa.
He was born in Cleveland, Ohio (USA). After administrative posts in the USA, he came to Tanzania in 1992 to assist in upgrading the Nyegezi Social Training Institute. It became St. Augustine University of Tanzania in 1998. He sponsored many people who were struggling to complete their studies; and he kindly guided most of them to choose their vocations prudently.
The author of this article, Josephat Mwanzi, lived and worked together with the late Fr. Walters, SJ. for many years. They came into contact since 1996 in Mwanza, Tanzania. The title of the article (Witness to the End) is borrowed from Fr. Afulo’s homily during the Funeral Mass, on September 17, 2016.