150th Pilgrimage – Day 1 – Lubaga

150th Jubilee - Pilgrimage

Day One - Lubaga

Lubaga Hill is one of the key places in the history of the Catholic Church in Uganda in particular and of Christianity in general. Kabaka Muteesa Ist had his palace on this hill; and the place occupied by the present Cathedral was one of the key areas of that palace. From here, on 14th April 1875, Muteesa wrote a letter to Queen Victoria requesting her to send to him experts in various fields of education and skills to train his people, and also to send teachers of religion.

“… I beg you to send me experts in various fields of education and skills to train my people in those lines you have in your country. Please send me trustworthy persons who will not betray my country and who will not lead my people to bad behaviour. But only those who will give good examples and proper education that can lead us to good administration of my country. Send me some teachers of religion so that I may understand God.” (Kabaka Muteesa Ist, 1875) 

It was here that Muteesa Ist received the pioneer missionaries, both the protestants (1877) and the Catholics (1879). It was here that the first public proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ was carried out during the daily public audiences with the King. Debates between the different groups – Catholics, Protestants and Muslims as narrated in the writings of the missionaries give a similar picture as that of St. Paul in Athens (Acts of the Apostles, 17: 16ff)

St Mary of Lubaga

At the dawn of the evangelization of this country (2nd July 1879), the missionaries consecrated their lives, work and this country to Mother Mary. In a month or so after, in spite of the fact that the missionaries were at Lubya-Nabulagala, (about 4 kilometres from Lubaga), they named their mission St. Mary of Lubaga. This name was kept when they moved to Nalukolongo (1885-1888) and Nabunnya (1889-1891).

At the end of 1891, twelve years since they had named their mission, St. Mary of Lubaga, the mission post finally moved to the very place of its name. For the missionaries, this “announced to the whole of Uganda that Mary has finally taken possession of this country: Regnum Ugandae, regnum Mariae (The Kingdom of Uganda, the Kingdom of Mary). ( Lubaga Diary, 19th January 1891.)

Indigenous Consecrated life

Very soon after the arrival of the White Sisters (1899), the pioneer female religious in Uganda, some indigenous young girls and even middle-aged women got attracted to the way of life of these religious women. Requests were made to join the Bamaria, as the natives called the Sisters (NB: This term could have meant “Those of Mary”, but also “Many Mary’s” since all the pioneer sisters each was called Mary so and so!). Eventually, in March 1901, some of these aspirants were admitted to start a sort of “catechists’ novitiate”. This was the bud of the future Sisters of the Daughters of Mary of Bwanda (Bannabikira), the first local female Institute of Consecrated Women.

Key historical dates and events

    • 1879 (23 February): First encounter between Kabaka Muteesa Ist and Fr. Simeon Lourdel Mapeera. Muteesa gave permission to the Pioneer Catholic Missionaries to stay in his country and to teach their religion.
    • 1881 (10 March 1881): Muteesa left Lubaga Palace for Kasubi-Nabulagala because of the plague and he never came back.
    • 1890: Kabaka Mwanga gave Lubaga Hill to the Catholic Missionaries.
    • 1891 Beginning of the building of the first church on the top of the hill. The mission post by then was down the hill at Nabunnya, the place where Fr. Lourdel Mapeera died on 12th May 1890 and was buried the following day. The transfer was completed at the end of that year.
    • 1892 (24 January): Destruction of the first church during Catholic-Protestant war. Six more churches were built after the first one, between 1892 -1901.
    • 1895 (28 October): Ordination of Bishop Antonin Guillermain (3rd bishop of the Vicariate of North Nyanza) by Bishop Henry Hanlon of Nsambya. It was the first episcopal ordination in Uganda.
    • 1899 (18 October): Arrival of the pioneer Missionary Sisters of Our Lady of Africa (White Sisters). They established their first convent on Lubaga Hill, not far from the Cathedral on the side of Lubaga Hospital.
    • 1899: Foundation of Lubaga Hospital, the first Catholic hospital in Uganda. It was started by the White Sisters.
    • 1906: Foundation of St. Mary’s College, the first Catholic College within the White Fathers’ Vicariate. It was transferred to Kisubi in 1924.
    • 1906 (15 March): First ordination to priesthood in Uganda, of a Consolata Father from Kenya, ordained by Mgr Henri Streicher. (In 11th church)
    • 1913: Beginning of the construction work of the present Cathedral (12th church) under the supervision of Brother Cyprian Jozef van Grinsven. The contribution of the local Christian community to this work, under the leadership of Stanislaus Mugwanya need to be recognised.
    • 1917 (November): Episcopal ordination of Bishop John Forbes, coadjutor of Bishop Henry Streicher. (In the 11th church). Mgr Forbes, the first Canadian WF was key in fundraising for building Lubaga Cathedral.
    • 1925 (31 October): Consecration of the new Cathedral. Kabaka Daudi Chwa was present for the occasion. It coincided with the centenary of the birth of Cardinal Lavigerie who sent the pioneer missionaries to Uganda.
    • 1941: Two White Sisters were miraculously cured of bubonic plague (kawumpuli) through the intercession of the Uganda Martyrs. This miracle made possible the canonisation of the Uganda Martyrs in 1964.
    • 1966: Death in Lubaga Hospital and burial in the Cathedral of Archbishop Joseph Kiwanuka, 1st African Bishop (1939) in modern time.
      NB: Bishop Michaud Edouard WF (+18th June 1945) is also buried in this Cathedral.
    • 1969 (31 July): Visit of Pope Paul VI. He presided the concluding Mass of SECAM. In his words pronounced in this Cathedral, we see the realisation of our Founder’s dream: “Missionaries must be in the first place initiators. The enduring work can only be carried out by the Africans themselves, once they become Christians and apostles.” The Pope said: “By now, you, Africans, are missionaries to yourselves. The Church of Christ is well and truly planted in this blessed soil… ‘Missionaries to yourselves’, in other words, you Africans must now continue, upon this Continent, the building up of the Church.”
    • 1984 (28 January): Visit of Archbishop Robert Runcie of Canterbury.
    • 1993 (9 February): Visit of Pope John Paul II.
    • 1998: Visit of Archbishop George Carey of Canterbury.
    • 2015 (28 November) : Visit of Pope Francis.
    • 2016 (6 November) : Official opening of the cause for the beatification of Fr. Simeon Lourdel Mapeera and Bro. Amans Delmas.


Arrival at Lubaga

October 18 1899 will remain a key date in the life of the religious life in Uganda. It was on that day that the first group of six Missionary Sisters of Our Lady of Africa (White sisters) arrived at Lubaga. These were: Sr. Joachim, Sr. Mechtilde, Sr. de l’Esperance, Sr. Dorothee and Sr. Restitute. They arrived from Algiers with Bishop Streicher. They established their first convent on Lubaga Hill, not far from the Cathedral on the side of Lubaga Hospital. On 26th November they started to learn the language and, not long after, started teaching catechism and singing lessons to girls. From 1901, some of these girls were being trained as teachers.

Foundation of Lubaga Hospital

The Foundation of Lubaga Hospital dates back in the very year the Msola arrived in Uganda, that is in 1899. It is the first Catholic hospital in this country. It is also in this hospital that two Msola – Sr. Richildis and Sr. M. Aloyse – were miraculously cured of bubonic plague (kawumpuli) in 1941 through the intercession of the Uganda Martyrs. This miracle was a major step forward in the cause for the canonisation of the Uganda Martyrs in 1964.

Lubaga Girls School

In January 1968 the former Junior Secondary School of Lubaga was changed into a private Senior Secondary School. This was in answer to the request from the parish priest and the parents. Sr. Luce Tessier was the headmistress of both the primary and secondary schools. Among the many things she did, was the installation of a well-equipped science laboratory.

In January 1969 the administration of the school was handed over to the Institute of the Daughters of Mary (Bwanda Sisters).


Many of White Sisters are buried in the old cemetery downhill behind the Cathedral. Some White Fathers had been buried in the same cemetery, including Father Simeon Lourdel, but their remains were removed and interred at Nabulagala in 2015.

Psalm 66: A Song of Praise and Thanksgiving

    1. Praise God with shouts of joy, all people!
    2. Sing to the glory of his name;
      offer him glorious praise!
    3. Say to God, “How wonderful are the things you do!
      Your power is so great
      that your enemies bow down in fear before you.
    4. Everyone on earth worships you;
      they sing praises to you,
      they sing praises to your name.
    5. Come and see what God has done,
      his wonderful acts among people.
Concluding prayer:

God of all people of the world, you sent your Son to show us the path to yourself. We thank you for the missionaries who came to our land in Uganda and lived here to bring the Good News of Jesus to his people. We thank you for the missionaries who taught our people and who healed them and worked beside them. Help us to honour their memory by living our lives as people who bring the Good News of Jesus to others and continue to entrust into your hands all your faithful children, students, the medical staff and all people who came seeking for treatments. We ask this in the name of your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

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