Simeo Ondeto is the spiritual son of an African mystical woman called Mama Maria. The equivalent of Virgin Mary in the Legio Maria and African Context, Mama Maria was one of the founders of Legio Maria of African Church Mission. She was not known to the early members of the Catholic Legion of Mary lay Movement in Kenya, from which the Legio Maria church emerged. When the time came for her to be known to them, Simeo Ondeto sent a band of followers led by Romanus On’gombe and Abala Rafael to go for her at Magacha and bring her to Johannes Baru’s home where members of the movement settled.
Simeo Ondeto Meets Mama Maria
Mama Maria was a very old woman by the time she met Simeo Ondeto at Johannes Baru’s home in early 1960s. Those who picked her from Magacha, such as Romanus On’gombe, have affirmed that she was too old to walk for a mile without resting. But how did she become Virgin Mary? Immediately after Mama Maria met Simeo Ondeto at Johannes Baru’s home, the two people went down on their knees and prayed briefly before they kissed warmly. Prior to this event, kissing in public was not a normal thing and the congregation was surprised and suspected that the two were also practitioners of a foreign culture.
When they greeted, she called Simeo Ondeto son, and Simeo called her mother. From that day on, Legio Maria followers knew that the two were related in a way. Simeo and Mama Maria spent some time talking, just the two of them, in Silvester Okweto’s hut. That was on the same evening of their meeting. But this did not make her the spiritual leader of Legio Maria. What made her acceptable and revered by Legio Maria was the mighty spiritual power that she had. She started appearing in visions to many Legios who were present in Johannes Baru’s home. She exorcised evil spirits only by her word. And she healed the sick and helped the needy. Most importantly, the woman exhibited extraordinary love for all Legio Marias and pronounced prophesies that came true. Equally important, Mama Maria said that she was Simeo Ondeto’s mother and was Virgin Mary.
Simeo Ondeto is pronounced as God by the Holy Spirit
It took a few months before the Legio Maria Pentecostal day came to pass. When tongues fell upon a congregation of more than a thousand people who were gathered at Johannes Baru’s home, Simeo Ondeto was declared Son of God while this woman was declared Virgin Mary. Since Legio Maria was a spirit-led church, the pronouncement by the spirit settled the position of this woman forever as Virgin Mary. When Legio Maria faithful saw the first Legio Maria ordination, this Mother Mary/nun Mary/ Virgin Mary, became the head of the female order of Legio Maria that is called nuns.
Unknown Background of Mama Maria
The family or background of this woman is unknown to Legio Maria to date. This is why they believe she came directly from heaven. Neither Simeo Ondeto nor Mama Maria made any pronouncement that this woman had a family here on earth. Both of them affirmed their coming from heaven. Moreover, nobody visited this old woman or claimed to have known her as a daughter, mother, or sister. This could have occurred because of her age, which could have possibly allowed for time for a number of her relatives’ death. But this is not a plausible explanation because even people in their late nineties can still have family members who are still alive either as sons/daughters or grandsons/ granddaughters. So it is safer to say her background is not known.
Association with Local Myths
Mama Maria is one of Legio Maria figures who are highly mythologized. While she was, indeed, a human being and she died and was buried in Ephesus church, this woman is linked to many traditional luo myths such as Nyamgondho Kombare, Simbi Nyaima, and Min Omolo Kanyunja. In all these stories, Mama Maria is presented as having wandered across several villages of the Luo nation. Most Legio Maria faithful take the myths to be spiritual direction of God and the preparation of the Luo nation for the coming of Simeo Ondeto.
Mama Maria: Saint, Not God
While she is called Mother Mary (Mama Maria) and taken to be Virgin Mary, Legio faithful do not worship the woman. However, she is adored in the same way the Roman Catholic Church adores Virgin Mary. She is considered the greatest of saints and there are special prayers that are held by Legios in reverence to her.
Mama Maria and Gaudencia Aoko
Many people and even scholars have presented a narrative that this woman is similar to Aoko. This is not true. Aoko is still alive (today June 2014) while this woman died in 1966. Aoko’s images are not used in Legio Maria worship, while this woman’s images are used. Even in Aoko’s churches, found after she left Legio Maria, this woman is highly recognized with the placing of her image on the altars. Mama Maria called Aoko to serve in her new religious movement and Aoko was just her follower. Indeed, this is the story of how Mama Maria was related to Simeo Ondeto.