His kind approach, a great sense of humor, and an easily loveable personality makes Fr. Dr. Ruffino Ezama stand out from the crowds. When he made 25 years as a priest, USA was one of the countries that hosted part of a series of his celebrations. On July 13th, 2019, as a homilist for Mass for his silver jubilee, I shared with the congregation how the priest fits almost perfectly the day’s gospel of the Good Samaritan.
Full of impacting life stories, whether of child, adult, woman or man, Ruffino enjoys to share the positives about people he encounters from around the world. No wonder his conferees elected Fr. Ruffino for the top leadership of the Comboni Missionaries in the United States of America and Canada. He is the first African to hold the office of provincial superior for the North American Province (NAP) since inception in 1975.
Many who know Fr. Ruffino can attest, it was just a matter of time for him to ascend to the helm. He is a people person, one friend describes his character. “Be it the poor or rich, the lowly or the elite, Ruffino has no discrimination when it comes to making friends.”
Ruffino’s immediate predecessor Fr. John Converset alluded to the same in his speech, at the reception for the silver jubilee. He said: “If it required simply my decision, I already have handed office (NAP provincial) to Ruffino. He has what it requires to lead.
Ruffino transferred to the NAP from the Ugandan Province in 2009. As one in mission education, and vocations promotions, he also coordinates mission appeals. In this task, he is responsible for organizing for some conferees serving in less advantaged communities around the world to visit the US and/or Canada for financial appeals for their projects back home.
I would like to see more poor people be own agents of transformation toward their full potential
The NAP continues to support hundreds of projects for uplifting Hispanic, African American, Appalachians, and Native American communities living on the fringes of society. Fr. Ruffino tries to make it a priority to identify benefactors to partner with local agents of change for situations like these. Such was the dream founder Daniel Comboni had, to save Africa with Africa – a rejuvenation of peoples.
Born and raised in Maracha District, in West Nile, Ruffino got attracted to joining the Comboni missionaries from some of the members who served in his home parish. One of them, Fr. Jack Rafael Dellagiacoma, with whom he would later serve in the same community, baptized Ruffino as a child. Another inspiration was Msgr. Angelo Tarantino, the first bishop of Arua, who had conferred on him the Sacrament of Confirmation. Others who attracted this youth to the Institute of the Comboni Missionaries of the Heart of Jesus, are Frs. Salvano, and Tonino Pasolini. Ruffino loved to serve at Mass at his local church in Oluvo.
He encountered a great tragedy at the age of 9, when he lost his father Simeo Ariga Onya. The family trudged under the loving care of their dedicated mother, Ursla Draleru Ekaa, whose devotion Ruffino credits for his strong love for the Church, and all peoples.
Ruffino is a 1985 graduate of a diploma in Religious Studies at Alokulum Seminary in Gulu. He also attended Katigondo Major Seminary, where in 1988 he graduated with honors for BA in Philosophy. In 1993, he completed his Theology degree with honors at the Gregorian Pontifical University in Rome, then, undertook a Master’s in Philosophy at the same university, where he graduated in 1995.
Msgr. Enzo Dieci, who was Auxiliary Bishop Rome, ordained him a deacon on January 16th, 1994. Ruffino then returned to Arua, where Bishop Frederick Drandua would ordain him a priest of Jesus Christ, on July 16th, the same year. His first assignment was as assistant parish priest at St. Francios d’Assise, in Cotonou, in the Republic of Benin. Later between 2004 and 2008, he served as vocations promotor for the Comboni Missionaries in Uganda.
He was also a councilor on the provincial board, and as well helped out as chaplain for the Prisons facility at Luzira. Ruffino, a fluent speaker of English, Italian, and French, got assigned to the NAP, where he also served as a Provincial Councilor, Secretary to the Provincial Council, and Procurator. At the same time, he was pursuing a PhD in Philosophy, which he attained from Makerere University in Kampala, January 19th, 2018.