The Venerable Canon Hannock Katonga Ng’oma was recently inducted as the parish priest of St. Ambrose Church and the Archdeacon of the Karonga and Chitipa Archdeaconry in the northern part of the diocese near the border between Malawi and Tanzania.
Canon Ng’oma, the youngest of 8 children, was raised in the village of Kande Mkuonda in the Nkhata Bay District by a single mother who worked as a subsistence farmer growing cassava, a root vegetable, while her children fished for their dinner each day. Canon Ng’oma’s father left Malawi when Ng’oma was young and went to work in the gold mines of South Africa, permanently settling there and leaving Canon Ng’oma without a father in the home. It was his mother who brought him to church and encouraged his faith formation.
“Growing up, my mother brought me to church, and as a young man, I started attending an Anglican Church near our home. I sang in the choir and served at the altar, and by the time I was 18 years old, I was preaching in the church, at funerals or even on the streets," said Canon Ng'oma. "From a very young age, people nicknamed me ‘Pastor’ in my village when they saw me preaching in open-air markets, on the buses or along the lakeshore – wherever people gathered in large numbers. I was always preaching a message of repentance, and I felt that God was calling me to the priesthood,” he said.
It was during this time in secondary school, that Canon Ng’oma met a special classmate, Fanuel Magangani who is the current Bishop of N. Malawi, and the start of a 28-year relationship began. Both young men were active in a charismatic group at school and in a fellowship group at St. Peter’s Cathedral on Likoma Island.
“I was greatly influenced by a Christian student group at my school. My schoolmate, Bishop Magangani, also participated in this group, and even back then, he would direct me to lead prayers or to evangelize large groups through preaching,” Canon Ng’oma said.
Both men discussed their calls to ministry together and ultimately ended up at the theological college at the same time but in different classes. Later Fr. Magangani, now Bishop Magangani, was asked to conduct the retreat for Canon Ng’oma’s ordination to the priesthood, and Canon Ng’oma served under Magangani in the Likoma and Chizimulu Archdeaconry. A few years later, the roles would be reversed as then Fr. Magangani would serve under Canon Ng’oma who was Archdeacon of the Nkhata Bay Archdeaconry. Of course, today, Bishop Magangani serves as Canon Ng’oma’s bishop and spiritual father.
“Our relationship goes back so many years, and our roles have changed in a see-saw manner as we have each served under the other. Canon Ng’oma is one of my pillars in the ministry, and I am grateful for his willingness to serve as Archdeacon again,” Bishop Magangani said.
Like so many, Canon Ng’oma’s work comes with challenges. “The people of my parish are suffering,” he said. “They are hungry and sick. They lack education and basic necessities. There are so many needs.”
Canon Ng’oma has experienced challenges of his own. His home flooded last year during flash floods that brought immediate devastation and lingering illness.
“The clergy in Malawi face many difficulties in carrying out our ministries. Transportation to reach our out-station churches is an ongoing challenge. Discipleship training is a challenge in our remote churches where the literacy rate is low. There are many challenges but we persevere with God’s help.”
At St. Ambrose parish, poverty levels are high and many children are suffering due to the death of one or both parents. Canon Ng’oma feels fortunate to give his own children the blessing of living in a two-parent home, and he and his wife, Janet, are excited to be adding to their family. In February, their fourth child is expected to join his or her older siblings including 15-year old Grace, 12-year-old Judith and 9-year-old Elijah.
Canon Ng’oma has known first-hand the rich blessings that have come from the partnership between the Diocese of N. Malawi and the Diocese of Fort Worth. Canon Ng’oma has been matched through the Centurion Partnership Program with Good Shepherd-Wichita Falls, which has very generously provided vestments and financial support toward Canon Ng'oma's university studies. Good Shepherd-Wichita Falls also supported Canon Ng’oma and his parish when he was serving at St. George's in Nkhata Bay by providing funds toward the construction of the church building.
“With the help of our two dioceses, I have been blessed to participate in many projects that have improved the lives of our people," Canon Ng'oma said, "but my most important work has always been – and always will be – growing Christ’s Kingdom. I’m honored to be serving under Bishop Magangani and look forward to the exciting things God has planned for the parishes of the Archdeaconry of Karonga and Chitipa."