Joe Healey’s Inculturation Ministry

Proclaiming the Good News

by Joseph Healey

About half of my time is devoted to research and writing on African culture especially African oral literature such as African proverbs, sayings, riddles, stories, fables, plays, and songs and their relationship to inculturation and evangelization. Working with Father Don Sybertz, M.M., Mr. John Mbonde, the Sukuma Research Committee based at Bujora, Mwanza, Tanzania and other research groups we have written a number of books, booklets and pamphlets in English and Swahili including: Towards An African Narrative Theology (Paulines Publications Africa, 4th Reprint, 2005 and Orbis Books, 5th printing, 2004); Kueneza Injili Kwa Methali and Kugundua Mbegu za Injili (Benedictine Publications Peramiho, Tanzania); What Language Does God Speak? (St. Paul Publications, 1989) that is published as Je, Mungu Anasema Lugha Gani? in Swahili (Benedictine Publications Peramiho, 1993); Once Upon a Time in Africa: Stories of Wisdom and Joy (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2004); and African Stories for Preachers and Teachers (Paulines Publications Africa, 2005).

This has expanded into other communications media projects including: producing radio programs for Radio Tanzania, Radio Tumaini, Kenya Broadcasting Corporation (KBC) and Vatican Radio in English and Swahili; scriptwriting and assisting the production of videos for Ukweli Video and Video Tumaini in English and Swahili; and supplying material to Maryknoll media outlets especially on mission themes.

I am the moderator of the African Proverbs, Sayings and Stories Website and E-mail Discussion List at This is an ecumenical Internet project based in Nairobi, Kenya to promote the use of African oral literature in the spread of the Gospel. A major feature is the “African Proverb of the Month” that presently has come from 35 different African countries. The website is updated every ten days and gets about 300 hits a day.

Interested in African Proverbs?  Click here for a PDF version of a Special Calendar for 2011

From 1987 to the present I have been closely involved in the Mission Awareness Committee (MAC) of the Religious Superiors’ Association of Tanzania (RSAT) — first, as the Chairperson then, the Coordinator, and now, as the representative of the Maryknoll Society. Our goal is to promote mission awareness and mission animation in Tanzania through various seminars, workshops, communications media activities, and celebrations. Our hope is that the priority of “Mission Awareness” is taken up by the Local Church in Tanzania. It has been stressed that a Local Church is not a “Mature Church” until it is “sending out” missionaries.

In April, 2005 Ukweli Video based in Nairobi, Kenya produced a 34-minute video on me called Walking with the Eastern Africa Church in Mission. Using the metaphor of the missionary journey” (modeled on Jesus Christ’s words: “I must proclaim the good news of the Kingdom of God to the other towns also because for this purpose I was sent” — Luke 4:43), the video follows my missionary travels from Nairobi, Kenya to various towns in Tanzania — Rulenge, Iramba, Makoko, and Dar es Salaam.

My missionary goal has been to initiate, assist, hand over, and move on — such as the ministries of Social Communications Secretary of AMECEA (Association of Member Episcopal Conferences in Eastern Africa) and Coordinator of MAC (Mission Awareness Committee). As a journalist, writer, and now storyteller I have tried to research and compile the riches of African oral literature and culture and through books, articles, radio, and television share them with wider audiences. In animating Small Christian Communities I has tried to promote the pastoral priority of the Catholic Church in Eastern Africa.

African Proverbs, Sayings and Stories Web Site

African Proverbs E-mail Discussion List

The commitment to spread the importance and usefulness of proverbs and other African oral literature is expressed in the Ganda (Uganda) proverb: One who sees something good must narrate it. This can lead to further research, new collections and fresh applications as expressed in the Sukuma (Tanzania) proverb: That which is good is never finished.