On Saturday 28th July Fr. Pius Anyaja said his vows with five others and one Deacon at Moyo Catholic Paris. The colorful ceremony was graced by the Bishop of Arua Rt Rev Sabino Ocan Odoki
On Saturday 28th July Fr. Pius Anyaja said his vows with five others and one Deacon at Moyo Catholic Paris. The colorful ceremony was graced by the Bishop of Arua Rt Rev Sabino Ocan Odoki
On Saturday 7th July, Tororo Diocese ordained 13 Priests and one Deacon. The Ordination ceremony was held at Uganda Martyrs Cathedral Nyangole in Tororo Diocese. The colorful event was presided over by the Archbishop of Tororo Archdiocese, Most Rev. Dr. Emmanuel Obbo as the ordaining Minister.
The Priests ordained included Pius Omita – Mulanda Parish, Emmanuel Omunyokol – St. Austin, Felix Hinambona – Mulangi Parish, Martin Mutete – Nyondo Parish, Patrick Ocheing – Achilet Parish, Valerian Odoi – Nyangole Parish, Innocent Odong – Achilet Parish, Jerome Olow – Kwapa Parish, John Stephen Olupot – Kwapa Parish, Lino Sinyekwa – Situmi Parish, James Marcellus Owino (MCCJ) – Achilet Parish, John Nabende – Tunyi Parish, Mark Owor (MHM) Nagongera Parish and Deacon Vincent Nagole – Kachonga Parish. In his speech, the Archbishop congratulated the newly ordained priests and deacon; he thanked the parishioners for their support.
The archbishop showed gratitude to the choir for a great job at the Martyrs day celebration at Namugongo in June. He stated that often times, young people struggle because they feel inadequate, they feel they are not trained, or no experience for doing a job. He called upon the young priests to be vigilant because that is an excuse used by many people. “God is always available to help and take care of us however, there will always be trouble in our way, challenges that we fear and road blocks,” said the Archbishop. He also reminded the congregation that, Jesus faced all those challenges. He added: “If they can do that to the master, what about you the servant and your elder priests have had those challenges in life. Young men! Sometimes we have to encounter life’s storms with confidence and remember God walks through these storms with us to rescue us. Like God told Jeremiah to whomever I send you, you shall go, whatever I command you, you shall speak, have no fear before them because I am with you and this is the confidence we have as priests, that we are not alone and we are not doing anything that is not commanded of us and when we do it rightly, God will be with us, protect and guide us.
A priest belongs to two worlds; he is human by birth and granted access to divine presence by his ordination and consecration and today after ordaining these people, I am going to send them back to you. Jesus commands us to be the salt of the world, to be present and give flavor to the society of today. The Archbishop noted that it is the role of Christians and priests to become the salt for the people. He also called upon families to behave like salt and try to penetrate different areas in our communities, appealing to people of Tororo diocese to unite in the sacrament of matrimony, because the newly ordained priests come from families where the sacrament of matrimony has united people and they will not like to see their people without the sacrament.
Archbishop Obbo also warned against tribalism and hatred, urging priests to unite the people and pray for unity. He concluded by challenging people to be careful about the many kidnappers and murders around the country. We must be informed about these killers around and we have to remember what Jesus teaches us “we must love our neighbor as we love our selves. And if there is anything that divides us, let us sit down as wise people; we have elders in our villages so let us have dialogue instead of creating tensions around. Let us pray for those who are trying to sustain peace in our country and in our Diocese, in our areas, neighborhood that we may be brothers and sisters, united for the love of Christ and for the love of God. God will stop all evils that will come,” said Archbishop Obbo. The newly ordained were appointed to their different parishes by the Archbishop.
The State Minister for General Duties Hon. Sarah Opendi applauded the Bishop for successfully leading Mass at the just concluded Uganda Martyrs celebration at Namugongo as well as the big harvest of 13 priests and 1 Deacon. The Minister congratulated the newly ordained Priests and Decon for it’s never an easy journey with temptations here and there but they soldiered on and managed to reach ordination. My message to you is that the journey is still long and we still need to pray for you. I humbly appeal to the parents and all the Christians to continue providing the necessary support to the newly ordained Priests and Deacon. Archbiship, thank you for the message of unity you passed on to the Christians and specifically, the people of Tororo. I know I have shared with you before but I still want to appeal to you to continue preaching to the people of Tororo for there is absolutely no reason why we should be divided along tribal lines, along religious lines.
She also stated that the government funded a team to travel to the UK lead by the Minister of Lands which returned and that government would soon consider the report and a lasting solution to the land problem be found. She advised the people of Tororo to examine themselves and give unity a chance. If the people can’t solve the problems then government and parliament would come to solve the issues of Tororo.
She also reminded the population to participate in the National Physical Exercise Day which the President launched on the 8th of July to prevent Non Communicable Diseases which are on the increase. These diseases arise from what we eat and how we live our lives; diseases like cancer, heart attacks, high blood pressure, diabetes etc The day is intended to inform Ugandans that it will not be business as usual anymore. “People don’t want to do hard work, even where people used to walk a kilometer, they want to sit on bodaboda” the Minister Noted. She advised people to exercise at least 30 minutes a day and more importantly, eat healthy foods and medical checkups at least once a year.
Other Political leaders who graced the ceremony included His Highness kwala Dola, State Minister for Environment, Hon. Goretti Kitutu, Woman MP for Manafwa as well as Members of Parliament from other constituencies including Hon. Okoth Othieno MP Budama west, Hon. Angura Fredrick MP Tororo County, Hon. Oseku Richard MP Pallisa District, Hon. Katusabe MP Bukonzo west (Muko) and Hon. Rose Mutonyi MP Bubulo.
With those few remarks I wish to parish let us continue educating our children cause without education our children will not be great you know what goes in in those other religious sects, that you find someone dreams today and tomorrow he is a bishop and he cannot even read the Bible.
Catholic Parish Angal
P. O. Box 85
Sunday the 4th of February will be remembered in Angal Parish because of the big celebration that took place to thank Fr. Santambrogio and Fr. Audisio for the stability they brought to Angal in a centenary ago (August 1017) after leaving Omach and Orussi and creating the first parish for the Alur. The celebration should have been last year, but due to many pastoral commitments, it was held on 4th February. The preparation started in January 2017 with a pastoral program to renew the faith “RISEN CHRIST IS ALIVE AMONG US”, a theme of the centenary that included catechesis and visits to the villages of the parish. The celebration in the local communities helps to bring back to the Church lapsed members.
Last August, a Central Organizing Committee (COC) was formed to organize the practical preparations for the event with bimonthly meetings, involving catechists, local leaders and government officials like LC1 and LC3, in charge of schools under Angal, authorities of the district of Nebbi and the Alur community in Kampala. The Chairperson of the COC in Kampala was Catherine Akumu Marenjina. As the day of celebration was approaching, contributions and participation in various initiatives was growing. Among them was the marathana Angal-Nuaruvur and vice versa which was attended by the Bishop of Nebbi Catholic Diocese Rev. Sanctus Lino Wanok, the parish priest and many people including adults and children. The association business community of Nebbi, Parombo, Angal and Centenary Bank contributed financially for the event.
Another important activity was the participation in the transmission of Radio Maria with a detailed vision of the history of Angal Parish. The contribution of Comboni Missionaries who were parish priests and collaborators was high lightened from the day of its foundation up to date. Even the contribution of various Comboni Missionary Brothers for the growth of the mission in terms of necessary materials for the future of pastoral agents, was not forgotten.
The outcome of one hundred years of evangelization is mostly due to the close collaboration between the missionaries and many catechists with a dedicated spirit of sacrifice which brought the Good News to all the corners of the parish.
The last week before the celebration, daily prayers and vigils were organized to praise the Lord for what He did, not only in Angal but also for the other parishes of Nebbi diocese. The faithful prayed for more blessings, especially for more missionary vocations “Ad Gentes”. We had the joy of welcoming the Apostolic Nuncio to Uganda, H.E. Michael August Blume, on Friday the 2nd of February with the first Eucharistic celebration in the main parish Church, followed by the visit and blessing of Little Sisters of Mary Immaculate of Gulu (LSMIG). On Saturday, the day after, the Apostolic Nuncio celebrated Holy Mass at
the missionary hospital of “St. Luke” visiting and blessing the sick in various departments and the Catechist Formation Center guided by the Evangelizing Sisters. In the afternoon, there was a blessing of the iron cross, 16 meters long, erected for the centenary in remembrance of the cross of Mons Geyer blessed on March 1910 at Omach. The youth with Alur traditional instruments and dances (aguara) accompanied the Nuncio to the cemetery of Angal where the tombs of many Comboni Missionaries who offered their life in West Nile rest in peace awaiting for the day of resurrection.
The Apostolic Nuncio visited the tomb of Br. Cagol who died in Omach in 1916, of the two priests killed in Pakwach during the war to unseat Amin in 1979: Fr. DAlmaso and Fr. Fiorante and of other witnesses of the Risen Lord, the presence of the Apostolic Nuncio, H.E. Michael August Blume, was honored as well as the presence of J.B. Odama, Archbishop of Gulu, Bishop Giuseppe Franzelli of Lira, Bishop Lino Wanok of Nebbi and numerous diocesan and religious priests, Comboni Missionaries from Ombaci, Gulu, Lira; and Comboni Missionary sisters and Fr. Achiles the Provincial Superiors of the Comboni Fathers.
Distinguished guests from Rome were; the Vicar General of the Comboni Missionaries, Fr. Jeremias Dos Santos and Assistant General Bro. Alberto Lamana. The participation of numerous faithful from the chapels of Angal and other parishes, from Congo and Kampala was also overwhelming (at the moment Nebbi diocese has 19 parishes).
Last but not least, the celebration was honored, as well, by the Vice president Edward Ssekandi, Minister for North Uganda, Mps and local authorities from the district of Nebbi. The rough estimation of those who participated in the Centenary celebrations is around four thousand people. The location for the celebration was prepared with decorations that portray the spirit of praise and thanksgiving to God for His great love. It was prepared by the committee led by Mr. Joswa, teacher of Angal SSS and the nuns of Angal parish. The celebration was joyful and at the same time simple with common songs participated by all which transpired an atmosphere of prayer. There were fourteen couples who vowed Christian wedding welcoming the call of God to live in His love. There were also Jubilee celebrations for other couples who reached their 25th and 50th year and 5 catechists who served for 25 years.
During the homily, the Apostolic Nuncio recognized the important role of the Comboni Missionaries for bringing faith in this part of Uganda with their dedication to their mission with the people. He encouraged the faithful to continue this mission in the future with active participation. After the celebration, there were speeches for the occasion, among them was the message from the president of Uganda Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, read by the Vice President Edward Ssekandi. The president recognized the role of the missionaries in the fields of education, health and gave a consistent financial contribution for the occasion. At 4.00 pm, lunch was served to all. We thank and admire the work done by the various committees who were in charge of preparing food, for their punctuality and the food which was enough and shared by all. The police forces guaranteed order and security to the occasion.
Heartfelt thanks to all who contributed through prayers and material support, to those who dedicated their time to make the occasion a success! May the Almighty God bless all according to your needs!
Another Comboni priest becomes a Bishop as a new baptism in Moroto diocese. The new Bishop is Rt Rev Damiano Giulio Guzzetti who was consecrated on May 24.Born on 15th July 1959, Lombady –Italy. He entered the Comboni missionary novitiate of Venegono 1983-1986, studied English language in Dublin-Ireland; 1985-1986.He did his theological studies at St.Mary’s National Seminary Ggaba Kampala Uganda in 1986-1988 then at Tangaza College Nairobi Kenya in 1988-1989.
After his ordination as a Comboni priest, he was assigned to be in-charge of missionary Animation and vocation promotion of the Comboni missionary in Italy between 1989-1994, after this tiresome work he was again assigned to Uganda in Namalu parish as a curate, Naoi Parish and later on parish priest of matany parish between 1994-2009.In 1999-2002 he was a member of the provincial council of the Comboni missionaries in Uganda. Again in 2009-2013 he was appointed as a formator of postulants in Jinja Uganda.After doing well in the postulancy, the General administration appointed him be the treasurer of the Comboni missionaries community in venegono-Italy from 2013 up to 2014.On 9/02/2014 Pope Francis appointed him as the new Bishop of Moroto Diocese and on 24/05/2014 Fr.Domiano was ordained and installed as Bishop of the Diocese of Moroto.
Rt.Rev.Dr.Emmanuel Obbo, AJ.Archbishop of Tororo and Apostolic Administrator of Soroti Diocese was the main presider of the wonderful ordination ceremony. The Archbishop encouraged the faithful to work in unity with their new shepherd, to love, respect, cooperate and pray for him. At the occasion, the provincial superior Fr.Sylvester Hatek’Imana and a diocesan priest presented Bishop Damiono and Bro.Daniele Giusti presented the general council/administration in Rome and is a councillor of the congregation.
Locals presented Bishop Damiano with gifts including livestock and other tangible goods. The Bishop, who in an earlier interview said his priority is on the priests, numbering nearly 13(diocesan priests), did not hide his election when they pledged allegiance to him, soon after his installation. Bishop Damiano is said to have a lot of experience, which is expected to up lift Moroto. One diocesan priest was also heard telling a colleague at the Bishops’ ordination that the new Bishop will greatly boost the diocese especially with his diligence and administration experiences or acumen.
I thank the Lord for the gift of my priesthood and missionary life. I was ordained a priest of the Church on 8th July 2017. It’s been 12 years of joys, sorrows and perseverance since I left St. Kizito SSS Bugoloobi to join the Comboni Missionaries. My vocation is deeply rooted from my family i.e. from childhood, when my parents taught me how to pray. When I grew up, I started to participate in Church and used to sing in the choir as a young boy. All this took place in my primary school back in Ibanda. After my primary school, I was brought to Kampala for my secondary school, which I attended at St. Kizito SSS Bugoloobi.
During my secondary school, St. Kizito became my second home up to date. I entered when the school was making the 4th year and we were all treated like children by the teaching staff. We were offered a behavior change program (BCP) for a week before classes, which initiated us to the school. It was from the school that I learnt how to say the rosary in English, learnt to serve during mass and received many other Christian teachings about the Catholic faith.
I remember that when I joined the renewal (prayer group) we used to have youth conferences every holiday and I never even missed one. All these prepared me to make a strong decision that makes me a priest today. Thanks to the Fathers: Mario Imperial who started the school, Fr. Joseph Archetti who dedicated a lot for us. Thanks to Mrs. Odyek (H/T), Mr. & Mrs. Prof. Patrick Ogwok, Mr. Kabagambe and to the entire family of St. Kizito, which formed me to be a good Christian and now a priest. I am proud to be an Old Boy of St. Kizito.
Along side St. Kizito family was Mbuya Parish and Kiswa Christian community where I used to stay. The parish of Mbuya contributed a lot towards my vocation. It was from the parish that I made my final commitment. My vocation towards the Alter of the Lord started in a humble way of being an alter boy at the parish. This strengthens me more to love the missionary life as a young boy. And since the school where I did my secondary belonged to the parish, I always met the fathers from the parish who knew me well.
The search for ta way out
When time came to join the Comboni missionaries, the Vocations Director (Fr. Ruffino Ezama) asked me to go back to my village to pick a recommendation letter but surprisingly, the Parish Priest in the village couldn’t recommend me and instead asked me to be recommended where I was for the past years. I made my way back and told the vocational director who in turn gave me another letter addressed to the parish priest of Mbuya and by that time that was Fr. Joseph. He welcomed me with joy and never asked me who I was because he knew me. He took the letter and opened it. He told me to come back the following morning to pick the recommendation.
This was the beginning of my vocational journey under the parish of Mbuya. And for the many years I dedicated my energy and youthful life in helping at the church in all activities. I don’t remember how many times I cleaned, mopped or wiped the glasses or even pulled the church benches. This gave me a sense of belonging to the parish and I loved to do it with all my heart even during my holidays from the seminary.
The first taste of formation life
Notably, I received an 8 days orientation at the Comboni house and later posted to Kasaala Parish for three months experience. Thereafter, I received a letter admitting me to Philosophical Centre Jinja (PCJ) for formation. When I arrived at Jinja for postulancy in august 2006, everything was different. It took me some months to get used to the programs of the house and other adoptions of formation. So much was introduced to us both in theory and practice, e.g., opening the Breviary (prayer book) to get the right pages of the prayers of the day. Having formative encounters with the priest accompanying you. And the most challenging was writing a self-evaluation: pointing out all the aspects of your daily life. This would be given to the formator who would write his own evaluation about one pointing out the positive and negative aspects of a candidate. Along side the studies, I was also involved in pastoral activities like: the prisons, schools and visiting the needy around.
The second taste of formation
After the three years of the degree in philosophy, I was referred to Lusaka-Zambia for my novitiate. During this stage, there are several talks about our Founder St. Daniel Comboni, religious life, community life and personal prayer/ experience of God. For the two years of my stay in Lusaka I worked in the University Teaching Hospital (UTH) for my apostolate and one of the slum parish. What marked my life here was the suffering of many people that I encountered as they lay on their beds waiting for death in the hospitals. I recall of one incidence of a woman who had been bedridden for two weeks without anyone assisting her. Her body was already pilling and smelling since she was not even taking a shower or changing the position. There we were with my colleague to give help in wiping the dying woman who was abandoned by her children. We visited her several times, but after some weeks of visiting her we were shocked to come back one day and see her bed clean. We asked what had happened and the answer was she’s gone forever. This touched my feelings for some days as I prayed for her soul to rest in peace.
Another experience was the 4 months bush experience in the northeastern part of the country. Just saying ‘bush experience’ you can imagine what it means ridding 50kms on a bike, sleeping on a mat, meeting with wild animals and eating bush meat. Oh how I loved to eat bush meat!!! After the novitiate, we took our first religious vows and I was assigned to go and study in Brazil for the next stage, which was theology or what we call ‘Scholasticate’.
The other side of the sea
I stayed in Brazil for 4 years and a half; first, I studied the language and later started my studies at the Pontifical University of São Paulo. Here, my vocation continually grew as I contemplated on the mysteries of the God-man incarnation. Besides the studies, I also did pastoral work coupled with challenges as far as suffering is concerned. I did prison apostolate and for many times I visited, I was always challenged by the human understanding of justice, peace and love! Mathew (25:31-46) always rang in my mind. The love for the poor and the most abandoned of our society was manifested in the prisons. This was a manifestation of Christ being tortured, imprisoned, beaten and neglected on the Cross. As a missionary, I had to offer all that I could to manifest the love of Christ to my brothers and sisters in the prisons. This always reminded me the words of Comboni; a missionary must learn to contemplate the crucified Christ.
I thank the Parishioners of Alenga who welcomed me since I was a seminarian, saw me being ordained a deacon and accompanied me to ordination as a priest in Ibanda. The joy of being among the Langi people, learning their culture and customs, speaking their language in one year is the sign of God’s wonders among a missionary who dedicates his life for the people of God. I thank Dr. M. Kasande, family, relatives, Mbuya community, Mr. & Mrs. Peter Kasenene and all friends. May God bless you all in his great mercy.
What does it mean to be a missionary priest?
I always told the people in my homilies that in heaven there would be only one question. And this will not be how many masses did you attend, how many rosaries did you say? But there will be one fundamental question; DID YOU LOVE? If going to Mass everyday or Sunday doesn’t transform us to love one another just as Christ who in the sacrifice of the Eucharist pours Himself for our sake, then we should pause and ask ourselves why do we go for Mass? If saying the rosary doesn’t manifest in us the love of Christ who living on earth gave up everything for the sake of the Kingdom of God, then something is missing. The mysteries of the rosary through the interception of Mary must make us true disciples and missionaries of the Kingdom just as Mary was; present in the beginning of Jesus’ ministry (the first miracles of Cana Jn. 2: 1-12) and present when Jesus is offering Himself on the cross (Jn. 19: 25-27). Why say all this? A true missionary is called to love the people of God where he or she is sent. Because it’s only through Love that one understands the meaning of sacrificing his or her life to God in the missions. When the love of God seduces you like St. Paul, the consequence of everything is true dedication; it’s not I who live, But Christ in me (c.f Gal 2:20).
Fr. Vincent Rutaremwa Asiimwe MCCJ
Jesus said to them again “Peace be with you. As the Father sent me, so I send you.” Jn. 20:21 “You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth.” Acts 1:8b. With these powerful words, Jesus commissioned his disciples and through them all the believers baptized through ages to bear witness to him to the ends of the world. I am highly favored with the gift of consecrated missionary vocation based on a solid foundation that is: Jesus. I am called first and foremost to bear witness to Jesus.
This is the strong power that propels me to go, wherever I am sent to be a witness of the one who was, who is and will ever be until the end of time. And Jesus goes on “I am with you always until the end of the age.” Mt. 28, 20b. What a sure, faithful and comforting companion! He is always there. Mine is only to become conscious of his constant presence, trust in Him and surrender to his power so that he may accomplish his work through me and hence, go… “I have come to make common cause with you.” I gladly borrow from these words of Saint Daniel Comboni so as to express my deep feeling as a Comboni Missionary Sister on the footsteps of Jesus and Comboni.
I am Sr. Esperance Bamiriyo, originally from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and daughter of the world by vocation. I joined the congregation of the Comboni Missionary Sisters in the year 1995 as an aspirant, then postulant and novice. I took my first vows on 8th December 2000, year of the great Jubilee. Since then I have worked as a missionary in the Middle East (Dubai) learning English and doing pastoral work among immigrants and prisoners. My second mission was South Sudan in hospitals among sick people and their care takers. My third mission was in DRC and then Uganda from 2015 to may 2017 as Students. Now the Lord who never stops calling has called me back to South Sudan and I go to witness Him where He is waiting for me. In the course of my missionary life and as the years pass I continually heed His call to cast the net in deeper water for a better catch.
I trust Him and with the heart of a disciple I say if you say so Lord I go because I love you and I know that you are the one accomplishing your work, I am just a channel for you to reach out. It is a special call within a call at this moment when it seems that South Sudan is getting emptied of its population due to internal conflicts. I am going inside South Sudan to be a witness of Jesus among those who have not/cannot escape. Some people wonder as they plainly ask “is it not better to take care of so many Southern Sudanese refugees who are scattered all over the neighboring countries? Why go there while people are coming out of that country?” Are you not afraid of death? What if you die there? “What are you going to do there that you cannot do from outside?”
To some people my answer is just a smile and to others I say: “if people are still there so I go to be there with them.” For sure there is no easy answer for these questions but only a conviction, an inner conviction that carries me there so that I can be a witness of Christ to the people who are there. The great ministry of being; I call it great ministry because as human we easily identify ourselves with what we do, we find satisfaction in our doings and sometimes forget to pay attention to the people in our surroundings.
Our success in life gives a lot of consolation, provides meaning to our being, sometimes procuring us a certain status in society and this keeps us going. Whereas continuous hardships, struggle, failures, lack of appreciation contribute to discouragement and change of direction in life. Although I might have work to do in the mission I want to share with you that what really propels me to my mission in South Sudan in this particular moment is the response to the call of Jesus and the desire of being with the people, sharing in their struggle for peace, sharing their hope for a better future and contributing with my ministry to the building of that desired future of peace, stability, fraternity.
I ask every reader of this short sharing to say a Hail Mary for me so that I keep focused in being a witness. Our Founder Saint Daniel Comboni wrote: “All crosses and adversities will only serve to strengthen the spirit of the members, who are faithful to this holy task, and determined to put the mission on the road of certain prosperity; because the works of God have always been born and have grown at the foot of the Calvary, and must, like Jesus Christ, go through the process of passion and death in order to reach the Resurrection” Message Daniel Comboni (MDC) 238. And “having been made sharers in the Passion of Jesus Christ, we have a greater desire than ever to sacrifice our life for Christ and for the mission” MDC 69 With intercession of Saint Daniel Comboni and convinced of what the Lord wants to manifest through my humble person I go.
Sr. Esperance Bamiriyo
Before I begin writing about my missionary experience, allow me to share with you the scene that changed my life. On 13th March 2013, while I was in the prisons of Vila Independencia São Paulo, Brazil, doing my usual prison apostolate, the world was anxiously waiting for the new shepherd of the people of God. Surprisingly with many expectations, the prisoners who were watching the TV came to me saying: we have a new Pope, and my heart trembled and I immediately stopped the sharing I was giving. This was Francis the man that has continuously challenged my vocational calling and missionary approach. As he was later quoted saying to the ordained ministers, “ Be shepherds with the smell of the sheep”, in other words his call for us to be near the people and to learn from them. These words of Pope Francis have questioned my motivations of why I want to become a missionary and specifically Comboni missionary who’s Charism is for the poor and the most abandoned.
I am a Comboni young missionary; I started my vocation discernment way back in my early childhood, which continued to grow with the help of my parents and other people. In 2000 I started my secondary school in St. Kizito Bugoolobi where I learnt to be a committed Christian especially in the prayer group and at Mbuya parish with the help of Fr. Joseph Archettie and Fr. Mario Imperial. After two years of serious discernment and prayer life in the noviciate at Lusaka Zambia, I made my first religious vows in May 2011. This made me a member of the Institute of the Comboni Missionaries of which after in August the same year I was asked to go to Brazil for my theological studies for a period of four years. Of course, Brazil is one of the biggest countries of the world with the population of approximately 200 millions of people of whom a good number profess the Catholic faith.
While in Brazil, I liked singing and one of the songs was: “e o pelo mundo eu vou. Cantando o teu amor. Pois disponível estou para servir-te senhor”. Literally translated as: “and by the world I go singing your love and I am available to serve you Lord”. This song always reminded me how far I had come and the joy of being a young missionary who begins to venture in other cultures, which are totally different.
I spent four years and four months in Brazil studying theology. Of course the first challenge I faced was to learn a new language and a new culture. But later I went through the language and began to understand slowly by slowly the Brazilian culture. Although the culture is mixed up with many African traditions that were taken at the time of slave trade, there were a number of elements to assimilate and learn. But as missionary I am called to be open to other cultures in order to be able to bring to heart the word of God to a given group of people.
Let me to share with you my turning point at this formation stage, which I refer to as: “the contrast between the studies I was getting at the university and the reality of people I used to meet during my pastoral commitments.” By the time I started assimilating the theoretical theological aspects, I was already much involved in the pastoral responsibilities in our parish (São Sebastião), in small Christian communities or what they call CEBs (comunidades eclesiais de base), prison apostolate and movements of people without land or what they call “Sem Terra”. Most of the times I found myself not only celebrating the word of God with the people, but also involved in other activities that are deeply and part of the Brazilian people. Such activities included several pilgrimages to the biggest shrine of our lady of Apparition (Santuario Nacional de Nossa Senhora da Aparecida) seeking her intervention in wrong political situations, protests against violence and killing committed to the poor youths who are African descendants, conferences on human rights and justice to all the people of God etc.
Such involvements were always challenging the theology I was having in class. There was a practical theology in the concrete realities of life and the theoretical theology of the books. I was being forced to contemplate more on the study of God (‘Theo’- study of God) with the concrete people who were suffering all kinds of injustices than on theoretical theology. Beautiful as it is, I couldn’t understand theology because it posed me many questions on how the beautiful teachings about God who is all loving and all powerful couldn’t be explained in the greater miseries of many of his children. This caused me a lot of thoughts and I almost left in the second year of theology. I remember talking about it several times with my Formator and Spiritual Director of such difficulties and how I thought it well for me to leave and have other things to do in life. From that moment I begun a journey of serious discernment and decided to give in time and prayer as I meditated on the words of St. D. Comboni, which says: “the works of God are born at the feet of the cross.”
The truth of everything is based on life experiences about concrete contact with the people of God. Some concrete examples that I encountered during my prison apostolate especially the majority of the prisoners being black Brazilians, was a young boy called Kim, 18 years old who was serving a sentence of 5 years for drug trafficking. He shared with me that his mother used strong drugs that she couldn’t stay at home any more. Since Kim and his brother were teenagers, they couldn’t survive and so they moved to their maternal grand mother’s house who was also old without any earning. Kim being the eldest looked for a job and could work the whole day ending up with little money to make them survive for a day. The situation was so hard and some one called him for a well-paid job, but which was to sell drugs. And as tears rolled down, he told me that’s how he ended up being in prison because of looking for how to survive with my brother and grandmother. As he cried extending his hand to me, he also told me about his grand mother being very sick and dying and she could die without any chance of seeing her again. Down hearted he said: I know that she will never forgive me because I went to sell drugs in order to look for her and my brother some food.
Another was a mother of a prisoner whom I called trying to give the news of whereabouts of her daughter. Susan, a South African girl was caught at the airport with drugs and she was taken to prison not knowing the time she will be out. When she saw me, she came to talk to me crying asking me for a favour to call her mother and inform her on the situation of her life. Susan had been in prison for almost eight months and her family was not aware where she was. On calling, it was an old woman and I introduced myself; and the work I was doing in the prisons. I requested her to listen to me and carefully informed her that her daughter was in prison and had asked me to call her. The old woman in rejection said that her daughter had died and the family didn’t know where even the body was buried. Insisting a bit I told the old lady that her daughter was alive and she was in prison with good health.
As I ended the call, she was in deep tears and thanking me for the good news. Then I later received her message saying like this: “brother Vincent you are an Angel sent by God, I thought that my daughter was dead for many months, but now she is still alive. I thought I will never meet her again, but now I have the hope to see her even if its ten years in time. Thank you for brining light back in my life and family. May God bless you in this work you are doing”. I am glad that during my prison apostolate I was able to give a message of hope to many families that didn’t know where their members were. There are many other similar experiences of life, which I can share with you about my apostolate commitments, but allow me to cut them short. Thanks to such experiences that continuously nurtured my image of God and the holistic mission.
I used to believe that God was a policeman or one who always punishes when we sin against him. But when I begun to deepen my prayer life in his word, my experiences with the suffering innocent I changed the way of talking and of seeing things. I now know that God’s name is mercy, love, forgiving and slow to anger. I understood that the God I was studying and reading in the bible had became Man. This very God had assumed a human flesh in Jesus of Nazareth. Therefore, the sufferings of all humanity are in Jesus Christ and as long as mankind continues to suffer, Christ will continue to suffer with it. For this reason I conclude by saying: “a good a missionary is one who doesn’t run away when there are sufferings, but instead stands strong because Jesus Christ is fully present in the sufferings of the people.” Such is the missionary that Pope Francis talks about “a missionary with the smell of the sheep.”
After four years and half of all these missionary experiences in Brazil I am happily looking forward for the new mission that awaits me in Alenga community in Lira Diocese. I hope that this missionary service may be fruitful to my missionary life and the church that I am called to serve as Comboni Missionary. So I encourage you young men and women who have this call to respond happily trusting in God and seeking the help of Mother Mary. “Young people don’t fear, go and preach the word of God” these were the words that Pope Francis said to us on the Sunday 28/07/2013 as he concluded the world youth day at the beach of Copa Cabana in the city of Rio de Janeiro- Brazil.
As a young Comboni Missionary, I believe that the Lord transforms everyone, as he transformed Moses and David from being animal keepers and killers to being leaders of his people, as he transformed Paul from being a persecutor of his church to being his instrument that took the message of Jesus to the gentiles.
I have lived in these almost 20 years sharing my faith and my life has helped me to experience the love, kindness and tenderness of God manifested through the many people He has put before me. Irrespective of the fact that missionary life is not all roses, there are also spies, I have seen more roses than thorns. The difficult times were well assumed with the help of God’s grace and mercy as they have been a learning experience that drives me to grow more in Christ, humanly, spiritually and also to mature my faith by looking at the life of St. Daniel Comboni and our first sisters, comparing what was being done to carry out the Lord’s command “go all over the world and preach the good news …. And I will be with you all the days until the end of the world “ (Mt 28,19-20). After a year of my religious profession, I was destined to go to Mexico. It was my first time to hear about it and I was scared. Neither did I know where to locate it on the map. And when I inquired about the language they speak, the more I became frustrated and emotional.
All along I thought they would only post me to an English speaking nation where I could work wherever I wanted but this totally changed. After a couple of days and reflection, I decided to go to Asmara to talk to the Provincial to show her how annoyed I was and surprisingly, I had completely forgotten about the virtue of obedience. However, the Provincial was not available and I only spoke to the vicar who was my formator at the postulancy. She calmed my heart down and informed me that I shouldn’t worry about this as they were going to speak with the general director. I returned to my mission with the hope that my destiny would change. However, I was made aware that one cannot carry out missionary work from the country where she has studied the language and studio professional from.
I was left with no choice but to depart for Mexico as my final destination. I recall, on the day of arrival, I entrusted myself to the Lord because I did not know even a single word in Spanish nor the country. I only convinced my self to say “thank you” to everything that was asked of me! But knowing a little English has helped me a lot on the trip. However, with my native language no body could understand. The first year was meant for learning the language and gradually assume the cultural shock, after continuing with the academic study for 4 ½ years. In 2003 I was assigned to the mission where I was very much awaited with great joy to an indigenous zone (Maxaticos) Jalapa de Diaz. This is found at the south of the country and my main work here was mainly to work with the youth ministry and formation of leaders, provide catechesis classes to the children and also visit the sick and elderly.
I have had a beautiful experience meeting with with all kinds of people. This has helped me to feel like a saint and like St. Daniel comboni, as everyone has had the same access in my heart; the young and the old, the poor and the rich, the sick and those in need because they all have the same cause. For sure I have also benefited a lot from them. Their way of life is so simple, kind and they are too close. I feel I have not only opened doors to their homes, but also their hearts. It is at this point where I also understood that to evangelize, is to know how to enter the heart of the people. In 2006 we delivered the community of Jalapa de Diaz to the local sisters – the Daughters of Good Shepherd and we transferred to the community of Teutila to the closure of Oaxaca, which was a completely different reality from that of Jalapa in many ways. In this New community, at first it cost me a lot to adapt and read the signs of the times and there were many needs and realities that needed our attention.
I together with the diocesan Father and a Sister did a reality analysis by visiting all communities and listening to the People. This helped us to decide where and how to start at the same point, which was not easy at first with other communication problems and means of transportation. There were no adequate roads, and we had to use a lot of money from one community to the other and somewhere we used to foot or ride on horseback. Most interesting was the great interest and thirst of God that people had. It gave me greater great satisfaction despite the tiredness and despair because the situation. It was something worthwhile and fulfilling.
My experience in Vocational Training and Missionary Animation: When I was asked for the Vocational Guidance service, I was very happy to accept it, because I was very much involved in the mission of the Oaxaca Teutila closing because I knew very well what it meant to work in this field and I did not want to leave the mission with the indigenous Cucatecos since we were just trying to organize in different pastoral fields and my desire was to give it continuity. However, the provincial superior instructed to look for someone else to take up my position and I was thus transferred to another service in Mexico city. Thus, I had to leave my beloved mission with all its beautiful people. In performing this service of the OV, God has manifested Himself that He wanted me to accompany, and guide the lives of the young women by discovering their vocation and to respond to God’s call with serenity and generosity in their personal project.
The collaboration with the Comboni family in the few times we have done Missionary Animation and also in some occasions vocation promotion has helped me to work with confidence and with the sense of familiarity with the same ideal and language that we express according to our Comboni charism with the sense of fraternity with an ideal of being able to open new ways to respond from the gospel according to the reality that challenges us. The collaboration with the local church and missionaries is to work together and this has developed within me and my vocation as consecrated for the mission today. A strong ecclesial sense and to work with a purpose that is for the construction of the kingdom of God from here and now fighting together for the well being of the person and wanting to live in an environment full of peace, love, solidarity and justice with a desire to reestablish a more humane, just and fraternal society that deserves to restore its dignity to the people who suffer the most just as Jesus Christ did.
For me to work in an inter-congregational group with its multiple colors and flavors has been a very beautiful experience that has helped me to express the richness of the church that has challenged me to live my vocation faithfully and to represent my Comboni missionary charism with great clarity, feeling great Responsibility for the trust that has been given me and also trying to give the best of me with much passion and enthusiasm for this very delicate and upright but beautiful service.
I thank the Lord and my sisters in the congregation for this opportunity and trust that they have given me. It has truly been a personal and vocational growth and fortifying my faith. It was also a moment to live my missionary consecrated life with love and dedication. Has allowed me to perform. My invitation to all the people who are going to read this article, to strive for something that is worth and very important, because the one that costs a lot is worth more and not to be afraid. The Lord has made our life for the mission pure, merciful and lovely. I confess that the missionary life has made me become part of my beloved people of Mexico: leaving a family but finding a family that looks at me as a daughter! You find friends who are so close and full of trust. This only calls for God’s intervention and guidance through his paths to bring the Good News to all humanity in need.
I encourage you to evangelize with joy as Pope Francisco says in his document.This is the life lived and shared with my dear brothers and sisters from Mexico who have given me much more than what I have said. It is true of what Saint Paul says “there is more joy in giving than receiving”.
Sr. Saba Embay
Fr. Larem has lived and worked in Uganda for over 52 years and his love for missionary work began at a tender age. At the age of 10, He had already become an altar boy at Cadorago Parish in Italy and it was at this time that he felt the zeal of serving the Lord, God. He narrates that one-day, as he came out of the sacristy; he met with Fr. Giovanni Meloni who asked him if he wanted to join the Comboni. He was so excited about the idea that after a few days he could not hide his excitement anymore. He shared with his mother who was also more excited and encouraged him to go for it. Fr. Larem’s father was not excited about the news since he preferred him becoming a diocesan priest and he did not want to hear of the Comboni Missionaries!
Since Fr. Larem’s father was so bent on him joining the diocesan priest, he went to visit the monsignor and to ask him if his son would join the diocesan priests because he did not like the idea of his son becoming a Comboni priest. Nevertheless, the monsignor told him to leave the boy to make his own decision. And if he did not like to become a Comboni missionary, then he would return to being a diocesan priest and thus his father left his alone. At 10 years, Fr. Larem was admitted in the seminary at Crema. Fr. Larem completed primary school and had three years of junior school before joining the novitiate in 1954. When he was preparing to go to the noviate, his Spiritual Director took him to Lourdes and this is where his spiritual life begun. Unfortunately, in 1961 he lost his father but this did not stop him from pursuing his dream. His mother was a strong pillar in his life and vocation. She was always there to ensure that he was okay.
In 1963, Fr. Larem was ordained priest in Verona at the age of 27 years and was immediately assigned as a prefect at a Minor Seminary in Sulmona. It was a life changing moment for him since he was dealing with young boys yet the youngsters seemed not to listen and instead were more disobedient. When he was relieved of his duty as prefect, he told the Provincial Superior that he wanted to work in a mission. After a week, he received a letter to his new workstation, which was Uganda. He recalls that this was one of his happiest days in life since Uganda was a home of the Uganda martyrs and above all he was happy that he was going to work in the home of Jildo Irwa.
In 1964, him together with other newly ordained priests, were sent to London to learn English. When he advanced in English, he was asked to come to Uganda in 1965. His coming to Uganda was one of Fr. Larem’s happiest moments since his dream of working as a missionary had become fulfilled. Travelling to Rome to catch a flight to Uganda, he met a confrere who gave him the relics of St. Matia Mulumba and St. Kaloli Lwanga. This excited him the more because Uganda martyrs had been cannosised in 1964. They were nine priests who came to Uganda from Italy in 1965. When they arrived in Kampala, some were assigned to West Nile, others to Kabale, while he and a friend were sent to Gulu.
On reaching Gulu, they were taken to Kitgum to learn Acholi before being appointed to the various parishes they would work. Fr. Larem says, his memorable moment was on August 15, 1965 when they reached Kitgum and found the parishioners in a procession of Mary. There, he met with the late Fr. Romano Angelo who was supposed to be his Luo teacher. After a few months, Fr. Romano picked him from Kitgum and took him to Opit his appointed mission. He said that he lived in Opit for two years but life in Opit was so tough, but since it was part of his mission work, he was happy to stay there.
After those two years, the late Bishop Cesana appointed him as director of the Crusaders in Gulu diocese. Every Saturday and Sunday, he would visit different parishes where young boys and girls would gather for the crusader mission. His first meeting with the Crusaders was with Fr. Raphael Dibari who was killed in 2006. The young boys and girls used to call his predecessor Fr. Ladiro. So, when he left, the young boys and girls decided to give the new Director a nickname and they called him “Fr. Larem” literary meaning “my friend”. Thus his real name Fr. Clerici Giuseppe became unknown to many people he worked with. He was happy with the name given to him, and he adds that everything happens for a reason. His love for the people culminated into being named “Fr. Larem” and this name was his mission in Uganda and the Mission. In 1970 he returned to Italy for a break and upon his return to Uganda, he was appointed to found a new parish at Madi Opei in Kitgum district. He started building from scratch since there wasn’t any Fathers’ house. He opted to live with the people around the parish rather than a designated place for him. His experience in Madi Opei was a very interesting as it was the reason as to why he had come to Uganda. One of the problems there was lack of water: “Madi Opei lacked water and we used to go to a nearby army barracks to get water,” he said.
From the community, they moved and slept in a small chapel for three years until a house was built. A well was also dug up so they could get water. The other problem at Madi Opei was the long spells of drought, which caused hunger amongst the people and many people died because of hunger. Fr. Larem stayed in Madi Opei for 10 years and one thing he loved about Madi Opei were the people who were very good catechumens, who helped in evangelisation and humanitarian work. In 1976, Fr. Larem received a letter from then Minister of Internal affairs asking him to leave Uganda in three months or pay a fine of UGX: 10 Millions. At that time, 25 priests had been deported back to Italy, there was an acholi priest called Fr Odida Ceaser who loved him so much and promised that he would pray for him and that Fr Larem was not going to leave Uganda.
Fortunately, he never left Uganda as the Bishop of Gulu diocese then, Late Cyprian Kihangire intimated with the wives of Ali Fadul then an Army Chief of staff who intervened and he did no leave Uganda. Amidst his preparation to leave the country, he received a phone call from Gulu informing him not to leave but wait for a letter that two Sisters were bringing from Ali Fadul to the ministry of internal affairs. However, given the incident, Fr. Larem opted for a holiday in Italy and on return he completed the church he had started building in Madi Opei in 1978. In the same year, a war broke out and people ran away from the war. He noted that, building the church at Madi Opei was not easy since they had very little money, but it didn’t stop them from going on with the project. He added that it was a hustle but in the end, they received more money.
Bearing in mind that his mother was a strong pillar in his life, in 1977 before his threatened deportation, Fr. Larem’s mother, and his Parish Priest surprised him with a visit to his parish in Madi Opei. After completing the church at Madi Opei, he went for another holiday, when he returned to Uganda, he was transferred to Anaka with the late Fr. Aldo Pieragostini. The outspoken Fr. Larem said Anaka was his best mission, “Anaka was my best mission, I spent six years in Anaka and I was very happy”. Anaka was another place, which had many catechumens and he was happy that people would come in everyday. Fr. Larem recalls profoundly one expectant mother from Anaka who liked him so much during her pregnancy that she never missed mass. She once told her that when she gives birth, she brings forth the child to him. When she returned home on that day, she gave birth and named the baby Clerici Giuseppe Larem! He added that he has been very close to the people and interacted with them freely. “These people want to recognize my presence among them,” said Fr. Larem.
In his sixth year in Anaka that was in October 1986 at the height of the war the army convinced Fr. Larem and his colleague to leave the mission but they would not hear of it because they were worried about the people they would leave behind who always ran to the mission for security. They also got worried about who would run the mission if anyone wasn’t there. One day, on Christ the King Sunday while Fr. Larem was celebrating mass, a group of soldiers from Olwiyo came and surrounded Anaka mission. The soldiers walked up to Fr. Larem and Fr. Aldo and asked them to go with them but told them to carry their blankets because they would not return that night. They were put behind a track and driven away. While in the truck with the soldiers, he cried and talked to Jesus, “When I was in the truck, I was crying and told Jesus that you said, you had overcome bad things, why are we suffering like this,” Fr. Larem lamented. He however noted that, he got the reply from Jesus and he heard a voice telling him, “Dear Larem! My throne is a cross, my robe is my blood and my crown is made of thorns”. “The following morning, a soldier shouted at us to get ready, and we were then put behind a big truck and driven off to Gulu army barracks. We met Katumba Wamala and he was very kind to us. He asked the soldiers to release us but his juniors told him that we were Prisoners of War and they refused to release us,” added Fr. Larem. He added that they were accused of many crimes of financially supporting the rebels, giving them food and medicine. They told everybody who had come to visit them at the barracks that there was no mzungu there.
He also noted that while still in Anaka, a group of rebels raided the mission shooting at every door looting whatever they came across and they put him at gunpoint asking him to give them money or they would kill him. After a while, the brigadier informed them that they were going to be released but on condition that they leave Acholi sub-region and Anaka. It was then that they were taken to Atapara in Aber Mission after one week. The rebels looted the mission of Atapara but he had already gone to Italy for holiday. While in Italy, he was convinced by some family members to visit Medugorje after all the trouble he had gone through. After a stressing time with the rebels in Anaka Parish and detention by the army in 1986, Fr. Larem decided to go to Italy for a holiday. While on holiday, some of his family members convinced him to go visit Medugorje. Fr. Larem notes that one evening while participating in a prayer of apparition led by one of the priest in one of the rooms at the Friar’s house, in Medugorje at 5:00 p.m. in the evening, one of his relatives asked him why he hadn’t gone inside the house of friars to assist in the apparition since he was a priest.
Since there were many people standing outside the house, he refused to go saying that Mother Mary could see him from wherever he was even outside the house. He noted that immediately after saying that, a friar came back and tapped his shoulder and said; “you are a priest come with me and see what is going to happen”. At that moment, he knew it was Devine intervention! At that time, he straight away thought to himself that it was a sign and a call from Mother Mary to do the will of God. So he couldn’t reject the call anymore but he just got up and joined him in the house. After his holiday in 1986, Fr. Larem was assigned at the Comboni Noviate in Vulgano Italy as a mission animator from 1986 to 1993. Fr. Larem asserts that the time he lived with the Comboni novices was a time of renewing his spiritual life. After his service at the noviate, he was re-appointed to Uganda.
However, the year in which he had planned to travel was the year in which his mother was seriously sick. The fact that he was so worried about his mother’s illness, he could not travel immediately. Every Sunday evening, he would celebrate mass for her at home. He said, one evening while having a conversation with her, he told her that he could not go back to Uganda even if he had been re-assigned to the mission, because he felt sad leaving her and was worried about leaving her when she was very sick and weak. Since his mother had always been a strong pillar in his
vocation, she told Fr. Larem that he could go back and if anything happened to her, his brothers would arrange and organize for her burial. “Go back to Uganda, your brothers will provide for my burial,” Fr. Larem’s mother told him. Unfortunately she died on August 5th 1993.
Fr. Larem said that after his mother’s death, he felt he should return to Uganda and continue doing God’s work, that is what his mother would have loved to see him do.
As soon as he returned to Uganda, he was assigned to Layibi Brothers Postulancy and with the commitment to rehabilitate the building completely destroyed by the insurgency. In 2010, Fr. Larem developed a complication. When he visited the hospital, it was discovered that he had an in
fection in his intestines; he came to Kampala so that this case could be investigated further. A diagnosis was done immediately and he notes the pain was so bad for him then. After the diagnosis, it was discovered that he had a cancer. After some time, Fr. Larem said a barium enema test was done and it came out with good results, everything was okay. At that time, he wanted to go back to Gulu for Christmas but the superiors told him that he needed to rest and he could not travel to Gulu. Fr. Larem said that was one of the sad days for him because he wanted to go and celebrate the birth of Jesus with people in Gulu. He said “I was so much discouraged that I went back to my room and I was complaining with Jesus telling him that, why don’t you want me to go to Gulu and celebrate your birthday with your people”.
Fr Larem narrated saying that he heard a voice speaking to him and he was sure it was Jesus who was answering him and telling him, “Larem! Once upon a time you were a good hoe and I used you for many things, now you are worn out like an old hoe, why don’t you accept to be old and rest? I was the one who used you for my Kingdom!” Fr. Larem admits that this was a great lesson of faith for him and he accepted to be a pure instrument and not a protagonist. He goes on to say that after receiving the message, he changed his mind about going to Gulu and decided to remain in Kampala for Christmas.
In 2013, Fr. Larem was re-assigned to the Provincial house in Kampala where he is still serving the confrere and visitors. He thanks God for the many gifts he gave him and notes that God has done many marvelous things with him. “In 2013, I was asked to move to the provincial house where I am serving the confreres and visitors. Like many, I must thank God for the so many gifts he gave me; He has done so many marvelous things with me,” Fr. Larem concluded.