Another of the Society’s pioneers in Kenya passed away on January 15, 2010, at the age of 81. Fr Tony Prunty, a native of Clontibrit, Co Monaghan, came to Kiltegan in September 1946 after completing his secondary studies in St McCartan's College. He and his twenty classmates, spent their first year in Humewood Castle in the village of Kiltegan. Tony went on to the Society Hostel in Cork and graduated from the National University with a BA degree, three years later. He studied theology in St Patrick’s College, Kiltegan for four years and was ordained in 1954 with ten colleagues, six of whom have predeceased him.
Tony was appointed to the Society’s new Kenyan mission. At the time, the Mau Mau uprising was in full swing and security was a constant concern. Tony and his fellow missionaries were there primarily to serve the indigenous population but they had to keep in with the white settlers whose permission was required to enter the farms and engage with the workers. Outstation masses and the provision and supervision of Catholic primary schools in the rural areas depended on the goodwill of the farmers. Tony was well equipped to bridge the gap. Handsome, charming, courteous and formal in manner, he was very acceptable to the white settler-community to the great benefit of his missionary work.
Tony was totally committed to missionary work on the ground. He believed that the foundations of the christian community were laid in the outstation. When the idea of the basic Christian community came to Kenya from Latin America he seized on it and made it the main vehicle for his subsequent ministry. The small christian community is an independent unit with its own leadership but it is also part of the wider parish. This suited Tony’s vision of mission but also his passion for structure and order. He took the diocesan pastoral plan very seriously, ensured that his catechists and community leaders were well trained and well disciplined. Tony’s talent for mission work was appreciated by the diocesan authorities and he was always assigned to large centres of population, ministering in Nakuru Town, Kitale, Eldama Ravine, Bahati, Njoro and Subukia. He was also a great believer in the opportunities for religious instruction offered in the primary schools and always had in place a well-structured programme taught by himself, his catechists and Catholic teachers.
Tony was never a man to spend undue time away from his mission or to waste time that could be devoted to the apostolate. However, he was careful to take a free day each week in order to play a game of tennis or golf and to relax with his comrades. He was a gifted sportsman and his skill in gaelic football was much admired in his native County Monaghan and in the colleges he attended. Later on, arthritis curtailed his participation in sport but he remained an enthusiast and when Sky Television became available in the Society house in Nakuru, he took full advantage of sports coverage on his free day and would occasionally make a special journey in for a big game.
Family and friends in Ireland were very important to Tony. He always kept in contact with them and visited them during his home leave. They in turn helped and supported him throughout his life. Tony’s final two and a half years brought a total reversal of his style of life. He became ill quite suddenly while on a visit to Ireland, in 2007. He lost his independence and his ability to converse freely and was reduced to near-total dependency. But, after the initial shock, he appeared very reconciled to his situation displaying great dignity and courtesy throughout his illness. His death was quiet and peaceful, an appropriate way to draw the curtain on an illustrious missionary career.
Place of Rest: Kiltegan