By Julian Routh | Asst. News Editor
A priest who studied at Duquesne over a decade ago was shot and killed outside of a church in Zanzibar, an island off the coast of East Africa, on his way to morning Mass on Feb. 17, police said.
Rev. Evaristus Mushi, 56, was killed by two men who followed him to Mass on motorcycles and blocked his entrance to the church, according to Tanzanian police.
Mushi graduated from Duquesne with a master of science from the School of Education in May 2001, but did his undergraduate studies elsewhere, spokeswoman Rose Ravasio said.
After graduating, Mushi served at the St. Frances Xavier Cabrini Parish in Spring Hill, Fla., according to a release from the Diocese of St. Petersburg. In November, he served as the parochial vicar for the St. Benedict Parish in Crystal River, Fla.
Rev. Theobald Weria, parochial vicar at the Our Lady of Grace Catholic Church in Beverly Hills, Fla., grew up within three to four miles of Mushi. The two served at neighboring parishes, and Mushi attended the same school as Weria’s sister.
Weria, who exchanged e-mails with Mushi the week before the shooting, said he remembers Mushi as “kind and loving.”
“We lost a very good and great man, and one for the people,” Weria said. “We pray for his family, the people he was serving, his bishop and the people of Zanzibar. I know he’s in a better place now. He’s praying for us.”
Mushi was a “quiet guy” and “quick to laugh, but not very forward,” Rev. Lou Vallone said.
Vallone, from the St. John of God Parrish in McKees Rocks, met Mushi in Zanzibar. When Mushi studied at Duquesne, the two lived in the same rectory.
Vallone said Mushi prepared himself for the religious climate in Zanzibar by studying the culture and making connections.
“He was well aware of the situation he was going to return to in Zanzibar, where the church is under serious oppression,” Vallone said.
“We lost a very good and great man.”
Rev. Theobald Weira
Parochial vicar at Florida’s Our Lady of Grace Catholic Church
St. Petersburg Bishop Robert N. Lynch, who visited Mushi’s home on his Catholic Relief Services tour of Africa in 2004, remembered Mushi in a web posting on Feb. 20, saying the details of the murder were “astounding to me and crushing.”
“We remember Father Evaristus as an extremely kind, generous and genuinely holy priest,” Lynch wrote. “He may well be a martyr for the faith.”
Frank Murphy, director of communications for the Diocese of St. Petersburg, said a memorial mass for Mushi will be held at the St. Benedict in Crystal River on Saturday.
In a Feb. 18 statement, U.S. Ambassador to Tanzania Alfonso Lenhardt said the United States “strongly condemns the senseless murder of Father Evaristus Mushi.” He also acknowledged the prevalence of violent acts toward Zanzibar religious officials, citing three in the past four months.
“The people of Zanzibar and all Tanzanians should reject the violent hatred spread by a very few individuals whose actions threaten to tarnish the peace, security, and image of this wonderful land,” Lenhardt said.
The last documented attack against a religious official in Zanzibar was Dec. 25, when two gunmen shot and wounded Father Ambrose Mkenda in the Tomondo area.
In a 2013 report by the non-profit World Watch List ranking the countries where the persecution of Christians is most common, Tanzania is ranked 24th, deemed an area of “moderate persecution.”
Vallone described Zanzibar’s climate as “hostile.”
Both Mushi and Mkenda filled in for Father Vince Morton while he was on sick leave for two months, according to a bulletin by the Diocese of Zanzibar.