Tutu's daughter becomes a priest: Mpho Tutu ordained in Episcopal Church

February 10, 2004

As the daughter of a clergyman who was the public face of the antiapartheid movement, Mpho Tutu was accustomed to living in the shadow of her father, Archbishop Desmond Tutu of Cape Town, South Africa. But on January 17 in Alexandria, Virginia, the elder Tutu ceded the spotlight to his youngest daughter as he ordained her a priest in the Episcopal Church.

When Mpho (pronounced M-poh), 40, decided to follow in the family business, it came as a surprise to both father and daughter. “If you look at my bank balance, she is not so smart,” the elder Tutu joked after Mpho and three others were ordained as priests. “Her sister said, ‘You lived in a priest’s house and you want to be a priest? You must be crazy!’ We’re glad she is crazy.”

Entering the colonial Christ Church, where both George Washington and Robert E. Lee once worshiped, the younger Tutu was clearly moved, wiping a tear from her eye, as a procession of 60 people ushered her to the altar. The elder Tutu, 72, was equally moved after the service, when he removed his bishop’s miter and knelt with three other bishops to be blessed by the new priests. Mpho smiled, placed her hands on her father’s cheeks and gave him a small kiss.

“It was awesome,” she said, seemingly unable to find the words. In many ways, the two Tutus are mirror images of each other, with the same impish smile, contagious laugh and lilting accent of their homeland. Asked what she hopes to inherit from her Nobel Peace Prize–winning father, now retired, she said without pausing, “Prayer. What kept his ministry alive, what sustains him, is his prayer.” Mpho, who will work at the bustling Alexandria parish for two more years as part of a three-year Lilly Endowment internship, for a long time tried to avoid the call. “On a list of the top ten things to do, becoming a priest was about 570,” she told the Washington Post. She is married to a Boston Globe sportswriter and has a seven-year-old daughter, Nyaniso. While working at an after-school program at an Episcopal church she realized she couldn’t shake the call to ministry. –Religion News Service

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