St Joseph Cathedral, situated about 2 KM from the Meru CBD, was built at the height of the Mau Mau uprising. The times were dark for the catholic missionaries seeking to establish themselves in this part of Kenya.
Four years before the cathedral was built in 1957, the mission in Mujwa had been attacked by the Mau Mau who killed a Nun and wounded a Priest. Such is the backdrop of this magnificent cathedral in the heart of Meru County.
St Joseph Cathedral was built by a team of Consolata brothers, including Brothers Joseph Argese and John Comaron. Brother Argese was among those who built the beautiful Mukululu Consolata Shrine.
The brother, nicknamed Mukiri by locals because of the way he kept to himself and talked little, is probably well remembered for starting grape farming in Liliaba and the famous Mukululu Winery which produces table and Mass wines for churches in Kenya. He died recently aged 60 years.
The Cathedral had then been under the leadership of Bishop Bessone who had taken over the Diocese of Meru from Bishop Cavallera on July 24th 1954.
Bessone came in during the Mau Mau uprising that brought with it great persecution of the Catholic church. But the church was not new to challenges.
47 years before the Mau Mau campaign had begun, Bishop Filipo Perlo, the Vicar Apostolic of the Vicariate of Kenya in 1910 approached Edward Butter Horne, the then Commissioner of Meru, to request to be allowed to put up a cathedral in Meru.
Being an Anglican, Horne did not warm too much to the idea – he had in fact already consented to the presence of the United Methodist Church in the Kaaga area a year before, in 1909.
It was not until Bishop Perlo, who had then been stationed in Mathari near Nyeri town since 1902, referred Horne to the Berlin Treaty, which allowed freedom of religion, that the Catholic church was allocated land.
After much bloodshed and struggle, the St Joseph Cathedral was consecrated in 1960 by Archbishop McCarthy. Today, it still stands as a stark reminder of a bygone dark era but equally as a beautiful symbol of what persistent perseverance can give birth to.