150th Pilgrimage – Day 1 – Kigungu

150th Jubilee - Pilgrimage

A year ago, a good delegation of the Missionaries of Africa and of the Missionary Sisters of Our Lady of Africa were in Tunisia to mark the official beginning of the Jubilee Year. At that occasion, the delegates had the privilege of participating to a pilgrimage, skilfully prepared by the missionaries of Maghreb, on the footsteps of our Founder, Cardinal Lavigerie, and the first missionaries in Tunisia. A few days ago, it was for the missionaries in Uganda to prepare a pilgrimage, a spiritual journey, in the footsteps of the first missionaries in Uganda, Father Simeon Lourdel and Brother Amans Delmas, as well as the very first seeds of faith, the Martyrs of Uganda, before the celebration of the official closing of the Jubilee Year. 



The Missionaries of Africa arrived in Uganda one hundred and forty years ago (1879) while the Missionary Sisters of Our Lady of Africa one hundred and twenty years ago (1899). Our pilgrimage is going to take us to some places where our predecessors in mission passed, lived and served God and his people. We hope and pray that as we explore and enjoy the glorious past whose impact is visible in the present thriving Christian community, we do not “transform that past into a museum” or, worse, into a ‘cemetery of nostalgia’ (expressions of Pope Francis); but rather make it alive and fully present wherever we are continuing the mission started by our predecessors. May this journey in the past of our Lavigerie Family in this country help us to discover “seeds of an unimaginable future in our apparently barren.” (Timothy Radcliffe).


Day One - Kigungu

How beautiful are the feet of the messenger of Good news (Is. 52: 7)

1. Joseph Augier 2. Ludovic Girault 3. Leon Livinhac 4. Simeon Lourdel 5. Leon Barbot 6. Amans Delmas
7. Joachim Pascal 8. Theophile Dromaux 9. Henry Delaunay 10. Toussaint Deniaud

Some historical notes

Kigungu also known as Kyettale was the biggest port of Buganda Kingdom in the nineteenth century. On the 17 February 1879, the two pioneer Catholic missionaries, Fr. Simeon Lourdel and Bro. Amans Delmas, arrived at this port. It had taken them ten months from Algiers and almost one month from Kageye (Mwanza), the other side of the lake, where they had left their three confreres. After two days of rest and repairing their canoe, they left heading for Lubaga the capital of the kingdom. But, after a few kilometres, at Kaweta (cf. Bugonga Parish), their canoe broke into pieces. This is how Mapeera narrates the incident: “We arrived just in time, our poor canoe, often repaired, was no longer any good except for firewood. It simply fell apart and so completely that we had to give up any idea of using it any further.” So, from here they continued their journey on foot.

Four months later, on the 17 June 1879, the three missionaries left at Kageye also arrived at the same port. These were: Frs. Leon Livinhac, Ludovic Girault and Leon Barbot. Bro. Amans went to fetch them with a fleet of 20 canoes provided by King Muteesa I. It was indeed a joyful and thanksgiving day. This is how Fr. Girault described it in the diary: 

“Last night the mosquitoes once again came back to make war against us… We woke up at four in the morning (4.00a.m) and departure was at five …. Fr. Livinhac and Bro. Amans are still suffering from fever … Before our arrival, Musisi called together all the canoes, and then we slowly moved forward to the shore… The guards fired in the air and the drums were beaten as the rowers were singing. And finally, at twenty minutes past ten (10.20a.m), we put our feet on this land of Uganda for which we had for a long time been longing to reach! We were very happy and deep within our hearts we earnestly gave thanks to God for the unfailing protection which he had given to us throughout our journey. We also asked Him to bless our mission and to convert these poor people among whom we have come to live.” 

They stayed here for four days and then left on foot for Nabulagala where Fr. Simeon Lourdel was waiting for them. Fr. Livinhac was very sick and had to be carried in a stretcher.

Twenty years later, in October 1899, the first group of six White Sisters in this country arrived at this same port. They came with Mgr. Henry Streicher and a group of 12 White Fathers.

Monument and Sub-Parish

The first monument in remembrance of the arrival of the pioneer missionaries at this port was built in 1929 which was the golden jubilee year of the arrival of those missionaries. This monument was slowly submerged in the water – parts of its remains are in the museum at Lubaga.

The present monument with statues of Mapeera and Amans was built in 1933-35. Since 1935, Kigungu is a sub-parish of Bugonga (Entebe) Parish since 1975. Construction works on the new church started in 1994. (Entebe parish, about 3 kms from Kigungu, was founded by M.Afr. in 1902; it was for many years the procure).

Old Monument
New monument

Annual pilgrimage

Pilgrimages to Kigungu started in the sixties (1960’s). Since 2009, this pilgrimage is on the very day of the 17th February, be it a Sunday or not. It is organised in turn by the dioceses making Kampala Ecclesiastical Province and each year the number of pilgrims increases such that the place is getting smaller and smaller!

Remains of the Pioneer Missionaries, Kigungu, 17th February 2011


(From “Listening to Mother Marie Salomé” p. 37-38)

« The Heart of Jesus should be our model and with him, our Mother Mary whom our Constitutions gave us as an example to imitate every day. Look at them very closely, look at them constantly, look at them lovingly; may their example, printed on your heart, make you become radiant with their virtues in all that you are, and may everyone find in you an example of modesty, Christian friendliness, meekness, deep piety and perfect seriousness, all of which were characteristics of the person of Jesus and of his Holy Mother. In this way you will be like a magnet, drawing souls to God; then you will fulfil, through the grace of Our Lord, the words which our Venerable Founder pronounced at the basilica of Our Lady of Africa over his first missionaries leaving for Equatorial Africa: 

“How beautiful, for the children of Africa, are the feet of those who come down from their mountains, bruised and wounded from their journey and covered in dust, to finally bring them peace. How beautiful are they, in the eyes of Christians, those feet which carry them to martyrdom out of love, those feet which sacrifice themselves to save so many victims from their pains.” »

Let us reflect on the way Father Simeon Lourdel, br. Amans Delmas and all of our missionary ancestors were ready to be sent wherever the Lord needed them. What about us? How do we answer our vocation every day? How do we face some difficulties we encounter in accepting the mission and in our obedience to the Lord’s call?

Let us thank the Lord, like Father Simeon Lourdel, br. Amans Delmas, for entrusting us, despite our weaknesses, the mission of spreading His Word to African people.

Song : Tu es le Dieu des grands espaces

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