Through many years of preparation, William willingly followed the faithfulness of God who had called him to the priesthood. And with such powerful help, he fulfilled desires and hopes he had nourished since his youth. The day of his ordination is briefly described by his brother Alex ljjo: ”I stood in the same row with Deacon William, my mother Katerina and my uncle Arkangelo nga, who represented my deceased father. Monsignor Frederick Drandua the Bishop of Arua Diocese in Uganda ordained William to the priesthood on 20th August 1988 in an open air Mass in the mission of Moyo.” “The presentation of William by his parents to the Bishop was not done in the long procession that was then becoming customary and popular. William walked with long and confident strides to the altar when the bishop called him. His mother and uncle followed closely behind”. ”There were several people for the Mass, maybe because William’s father’s clan is situated just behind Moyo mission. The occasion passed on smoothly. The choir was good and people were visibly happy and hopeful. in the afternoon during the presentation of songs and plays to mark the occasion, William joined the ”kore” traditional dance and made people laugh by his enthusiasm and funny way of dancing.”
William’s first Assignment
Although Fr. William had been asked to work with ’Leadership Magazine’, he was quite happy to start his priestly activities with pastoral work He was appointed to work in Morulem Parish in Kotido Diocese Uganda. Administratively, the parish depends on Kotido District, where the Karimojong people are the majority. Morulem itself is the centre of the Labwor, a Lwo speaking ethnic group. William was very familiar with Lwo languages, so he did not find it difficult to start his pastoral work and he put all his energies into it. After his death, different people witnessed to his successful ministry. Fr. Klement Otim, a native of Morulem, the then Vicar General of Moroto Diocese wrote: ”I do not know what particular problems Fr. William faced as a priest, but one thing I know is that, whenever I met him, he expressed to me as a native of Morulem, his concern about the Labwor people as his people. In other words, the problems, the sufferings, joys and frustration of the Labwor among whom he worked, were his problems. No wonder he was so dear to them! My own experience of Father is of a kind-hearted, good and intelligent person.
I saw him listen to those who came to see him. I read compassion and understanding, love and concern in him. Where he had to be firm and say no, he did it respecting the other person’s dignity. l was impressed; it reminded me that Jesus must have been something like that, even if this was only a shadow. I found Father Willie to be a prayerful man. To me this was his secret; he was able to integrate his faith, his learning and his African roots in an admirable way.
I believe that Fr. Willie’s contribution to the Church is the example and witness that his life was and is. This remains a challenge for his institute as missionary in the world of today. For the faithful among whom he worked, he certainly was a taste of God’s goodness and love. The general refrain when he died was, ”Why did God take away such a good person?” Many expressed aloud the irony that ”Good people often die soon.” Whatever value one can give to such sayings, it showed who Willie was to his parishioners, and how they missed him. ”
The Sudden End
When people die after a long illness or in other similar circumstances, people around them come to know at least something about their attitude towards death. In the case of Fr. William, we can only interpret a comment he made about death that may reveal his attitude. He was in Kampala when Bishop Caesar Asili, relative of his, died after a short illness. ”In the late afternoon, we went to Nsambya Hospital where the body of the Bishop was. i was struck by the serenity with which Fr. William looked at the whole reality. We returned for the celebration of the Eucharist where he was the presider. William told us that in the three months after his priestly ordination, this was his third funeral Mass. He began the homily by stating that: ’Right from the beginning of the history of humanity, death has always been a threatening reality. But for us Christians, we have hope in life after death by hxing our eyes on Jesus our Saviour, who died and was raised from the dead. Without this hope we would continually be crashed by this threat.’ These words remained as a souvenir of my beloved William seeing how his faith helped him and others to face realities in this world.”
However, this attitude is explained in the clearest way possible in the quote he chose for his ordination card, a quote from the writing of St Daniel Comboni himself”. ”The happiest of my days will be when I shall be able to give my life for you.” As it turned out, he met his death as he was travelling by motorcycle for the sake of his ministry among the people entrusted to him by the One who had called him. The details of his death were given in full by the Comboni Sisters of Morulem Parish, ”His sudden death is a great loss and at the same time a great asset. If Africa is saved through sacrifice (and in Christ and Comboni’s perspective, we cannot think otherwise!), an African Comboni Missionary has now given his blood contribution in Uganda.” (Fr. L Carraro).
The ultimate Sacrifice
On Friday 25th October, 1991, around 9 am, Fr William told Brother Gregori that he was about to go to Moroto by motorcycle, a distance of 120 kilometers, to pick up the tithing forms that had to be distributed in church the following Sunday. It was quite common for the missionaries of Momlem to cover that distance by motorcycle and be back before dark. Nothing had ever happened along that road and no one had ever even been robbed there. However, by evening of that day, William was not yet back and everyone was worried. During the 20.30 radio call appointment, various missions were asked about William, but no one had seen him. By then it was dark and nothing could be done until the next morning when another call was made but to no avail. At that point, search parties set out on three different roads. Fr. Ciapetti led a party from Matany, Fr. Grandi one from Moroto, while Sr. Silvia, Bro. Gregori and four orderlies set out from Morulem. At about 1 1.30 am. the parties from Morulem and Moroto met. At 12.00 Fr. Ciapetti sent word that he had found nothing.
A short time later, the two parties saw skid marks that could have been made by the braking of a motorcycle. To the right, the six-foot tall grass was bent as if someone had walked through it. Sr. Silvia, Fr. Grandi and two men followed the tracks through the grass. After about 50 meters, they found the motorcycle properly parked on its stand and undamaged, so much so that the engine started at once. Not too far off, they found William’s helmet. Sr. Silvia, Fr. Grandi and the two men exchanged shocked, desolate looks, as they sensed that something ‘had gone terribly wrong. Sr.Silvia, unable to hold back her concern, began to call out, “William! William!” About ‘ 100 meters from the road, they found William’s body, lying face down in the grass. He had been stripped, except for his underpants. His arms and hands were crossed to support his head. It looked like a position taken deliberately, carefully, serenely, even though imposed by others. That is how he was found, and that is how he was laid on the stretcher and carried to Morulem! Everyone who saw him noted the serenity of his face. The memory of that face will not fade.
At his supreme moment, William had prostrated himself on the ground and laid his forehead on his crossed hands as he had done on the day of his ordination. The calm of his face leads us to surmise that he was aware of his sacrifice, and that he had offered it with Jesus to the Father, for the good of many. His heart was transfixed by a bullet, shot through his back and the ground below was still wet with his blood. There were no friends to witness his sacrifice. Fr. William died like Jesus, the Good Shepherd whose Heart was pierced! The sacrifice was consummated. William has carried out the command of Jesus: ”Do this in memory of me.” Priest and victim, Missionary of the Gospel, martyr with Christ for his brothers and sisters, now William is a priest forever for eternity thank you, William. Thank you for the joy that you have left us as an inheritance, to better serve our brothers and sisters.