He also focused on promoting human holistically, so he built Wasso and Endulen Hospitals, Soit Sambu and Sonjo Dispensaries, as wellerecting schools in Ngorongoro, Kakesio and Nainokanoka. He did not do these pastoral services alone but rather involved many catechists from Moshi as to help him in spreading the Word of God in different parts of Loliondo. In all the work, he preferred to collaborate with the laity as to make it last. Throughout his life he wanted the laity to be involved in building the Kingdom of God. He ministered Loliondo pastoral activities/missions till he was elected the first Bishop of the Diocese of Arusha. He was ordained by the Archbishop of Philadelphia on 28-05-1963 and was later installed in the Archdiocese of Arusha by His Most Rev. Del Mestri, the Pope’sRepresentative on 08-09-1963. The middle of the Second Vatican Council in 1963, is the year the Catholic Diocese of Arusha was established. This time had a profound effect on the Diocese as the bishop had to leave immediately to join his fellow bishops in the council. Second, the ideas and practices of the Synod focused on the development of the new Diocese, especially the liturgy, theology, the apostolic work, and the relationship with the other denominations. The bishop clearly recognized that the ministry of the Church was for the holistic promotion of human beings, so the bishop strongly emphasized the mission of the laity as to establish the parishes. From that viewpointthe catechists, needed better education and healthcare. Bishop Dennis Durning in his words says “Since the Second Vatican Council and the beginning of our Diocese Christians are to beeducated on their responsibilities and awareness of their apostolic work. We want many to be apostles in the family, in the community, and in their daily environment. Unless we have this kind ofendeavor all our efforts will be in vain.
When he became Bishop of Arusha in 1963 there were only four (4) parishes. These parishes are St. Theresa of the Child Jesus Cathedral Church, Usa River Parish, Monduli and Loliondo Parishes. There were two (2) diocesan priests and twelve (12) religious and missionary Priests, members of the Holy GhostCongregation, and four (4)sisters members of the Precious Blood Congregation.
As we celebrate the twentieth (20th)anniversaryof his death, (this year 2022) we offer our thanks to God for his life and dedication as Priest and Bishop of our Diocese of Arusha. Despite of promoting catechists’ mission in the diocese, he either established the Minor Seminary (St. Thomas Aquinas) in Oldonyo Sambu to nurture young male to become diocesan priests who would serve the local Church. He welcomed religious male and female as to advance pastoral mission, including erecting formation houses and incorporate the faithful in priestly and religiously vocations. He welcomed the laity from abroad (USA and Europe) to help the diocese in various fields. In Dec. 2017 the diocese remembered him for 50th year anniversary of the establishment of our Oldonyo Sambu Minor Seminary. He served in the Archdiocese of Arusha for 26 years and during that time the parishes increased up to 24, with about 22 diocesan priests. In 1989 Bishop Dennis Vincent Durning retired and after 13th years passed away on 23.02.2002 to reunite with God.
Bishop Dennis Durning was known to be a man who denied himself and denounced material attach lived his life with love, humility and happiness. In Loliondo and Sonjo he often traveled on Donkeys as there were no roads in those days. He humbled himself and learned the culture of the people here in Arusha. Bishop Durning will be remembered for his love to the laity and involvement in building up the body of Christ.
As we celebrate the 20th anniversary of his death (this year 2022) it is very fitting to reflect on his life and to remember him. As the founder of our diocese, planted good seeds and now we continue to see its fruits. May we continue to imitate his example and ask him to pray for us to Godso that we may continue to bear witness to God.
The First Mission Emblem of the Arusha Diocese
“I WILL FEED YOU IN GOOD GRAZING”
The episcopal Missionary Emblem in the pontiff of Bishop Dennis Vincent Durning is “IN PASCUIS UBERRIMIS PASCAM EAS. In fact his whole life and mission reflected this MissionSpirit. May we follow this example in our lives as Priests, religious and laymen. Let us continue to feed the good sheep entrusted to us.