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.

MISSIONARY SISTERS OF OUR LADY OF AFRICA AT LUBAGA

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).

Cemetery

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

150th Pilgrimage – Day 1 – Nalukolongo

150th Jubilee - Pilgrimage

Day One - Nalukolongo

Nalukolongo Mission was founded in 1885 by Frs Simeon Lourdel Mapeera, Pierre Giraud and Bro. Amans Delmas. It was the second Catholic mission post in Uganda after Nabulagala (1879). The land was donated by Kabaka Mwanga to the missionaries on their return from Tanganyika. Mwanga wanted to give them a piece of land near his palace at Mengo, but they preferred this site because it was more accessible to the ‘poor and the little ones’ (abakopi). The mission’s church served as the first Cathedral in Uganda for Bishop Leon Livinhac. This post lasted for three years (1885-1888).

Hundreds of catechumens were baptised at this place after the martyrdom of Joseph Mukasa Balikuddembe (15th November 1885) and during the general persecution of 1886. Among these were thirteen (13) future martyrs, namely: Charles Lwanga, Denis Ssebuggwawo, Pontian Ngondwe, Athanasius Bazzekuketta, Gonzaga Gonza, Noa Mawaggali, James Buuzabalyawo, Ambrose Kibuuka, Anatoli Kiriggwajjo, Achilles Kiwanuka, Adolph Mukasa Ludigo, Bruno Sserunkuuma and John-Mary Muzeeyi.

It was at Nalukolongo that the first seeds of the indigenous vocation of consecrated life sprouted up in the private vows of celibacy taken by Maria-Mathilda Munaku and Celestin Namusanga, in view of total commitment to the service of the missionaries and the needy. These two did so on their own initiative, before Fr. Simeon Lourdel Mapeera. The latter speaks about Celestin as “our first Black African brother” and about Mathilda as “our first Black African Sister”. Celestin was ransomed in 1885, baptised at the end of the same year; took his temporary vow for one year in 1887; unfortunately he drowned in Lake Victoria when the missionaries were escaping from Buganda after being expelled by the Muslim army in October 1888. Matilda, sister of St. Noa Mawaggali, was baptised in July 1886 and took her temporary vow in the same year; she served in different mission posts and seminaries for all her life until she died in 1934 at the age of 76. She was buried in Bukalasa Seminary cemetery.

Other key historical facts about Nalukolongo:

    • First baptisms of Ugandan women administered by the missionaries themselves were celebrated here.
    • Many young slave boys and girls were ransomed and cared for together with other poor people at this place. This inspired the late Cardinal Nsubuga to found Mapeera Bakateyamba Home (for disabled and needy, 1978) at this place. Two years before (1976), he had founded the Institute of the Good Samaritan Sisters for the same cause with their Mother House at this place. Talking about the vocation of these Sisters, the Cardinal said: “l have abolished the saying that “charity ended with Mapeera”! Let mercy not die with Mapeera, but continue being seen through the charitable works of these girls towards the poor and destitute who will be brought here at Nalukolongo.” (8 December 1978) It is this long tradition of works of charity that in 2015 (28 November) Pope Francis made a pilgrimage to this place in recognition of the importance of the Church’s commitment to reach out to the poor, the handicapped and the sick. On that occasion, he made this appeal: 

“I wanted very much to visit this Home of Charity, which Cardinal Nsubuga founded here in Nalukolongo. This is a place which has always been associated with the Church’s outreach to the poor, the handicapped and the sick. Here, in early times, slave children were ransomed and women received religious instruction (from the missionaries for the first time). | greet the Good Samaritan Sisters who carry on this fine tradition, and | thank them for their years of quiet and joyful service in this apostolate…. Today, from this Home, | appeal to all Parishes and Communities in Uganda and the rest of Africa – not to forget the poor.” (Pope Francis at Nalukolongo)

    • 1886 (13 June): Amidst persecutions and killings of Christians, the missionaries renewed their consecration to B.V. Mary. They signed the act and put it under her statue as they had done at the beginning their mission in Uganda in 1879 (2 July).
    • 1888 (18 October): The Missionaries, after having been imprisoned for five days with the exception of Bro. Amans, were expelled out of the country by the new king Kalema and his Muslim supporters. The mission was completely looted and destroyed such that when they returned in October 1889, they could not come back here.
    • 1893: The remains of Charles Lwanga and Mathias Mulumba which had been buried here in the sacristy of the first church in November 1886, were found after a long search which lasted for many months. Mgr Hirth expressed their joy on that day with these inspiring words:

“I am in a hurry to share with you the joy that Providence willed to fill us yesterday. It is with great gratitude that you will thank the Lord with me. After a number of months of searching, we finally found in the excavations at Nalukolongo, the small box of bones of our Martyrs of 1886. It is five years since it was hidden by the missionaries, at the time of Arab crisis. Surely it is not without divine providence that God has sent to us this precious consolation in the present circumstances.

With this unexpected favour, it is a new era of graces and blessings, which is being announced for our Mission of Nyanza. Let us all bring together our prayers so that we may not remain unworthy of the grace which is announcing itself! Let us call upon our Martyrs and often repeat these invocations: Queen of Martyrs pray for us. All Holy Martyrs, pray for us.” (Mgr Hirth, Letter to missionaries in Tanganyika, 14 November 1893).

NB: These are the only relics of the Uganda Martyrs which were identified for individual martyrs and kept safely. They are the ones carried at Namugongo during the annual pilgrimage procession.

    • 1923 (3rd June) : Blessing and laying of the foundation stone of the Memorial Chapel, by Mgr. John Forbes. It was built in memory of the Uganda Martyrs, Mgr Livinhac and Fr. Mapeera, and dedicated to the Mother of Jesus, Patron Saint of Buganda (Ya Namasole wa Yezu Omuwolereza w’Obuganda). This noble work was initiated and supervised by Fr. Raux Modeste who was then the parish priest of Lubaga.
    • 1929 (3rd June): Memorial Chapel was blessed by Mgr. Arthur Hinsley. It was the first chapel in Uganda to be built in memory of the Uganda Martyrs.
    • 1954: Little Sisters of Jesus (Charles de Foucauld) established themselves at Nalukolongo. Left Uganda in early 1970s.
    • 1991 (29th April): Burial of late Emmanuel Cardinal K. Nsubuga (1914-1991. It was his will to be buried at Nalukolongo with the intention that whoever comes here to pray for his soul, would remember to help the sick and needy in this place.

Card. Nsubuga was a ‘true grandson of the Pioneer Missionaries, especially of Mapeera’. He secured many historical places linked to the pioneer missionaries and the Uganda Martyrs. He brought back to Uganda the remains of Mgr. Livinhac from Algiers, Bro. Amans from Bagamoyo in Tanzania and Fr. Barbot from Zanzibar. He initiated the cause for the beatification of Fr. Simeon Lourdel Mapeera in 1987.

    • Pilgrimage Site: Because of its link with the Uganda Martyrs, hundreds of pilgrims come to this place during the annual pilgrimage to Namugongo in May/June.

PRAYER AT NALUKOLONGO

“I wanted very much to visit this Home of Charity, which Cardinal Nsubuga founded here in Nalukolongo. This is a place which has always been associated with the Church’s outreach to the poor, the handicapped and the sick. Here, in early times, slave children were ransomed and women received religious instruction (from the missionaries for the first time). I greet the Good Samaritan Sisters who carry on this fine tradition, and I thank them for their years.” (Pope Francis at Nalukolongo)

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of the brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’” (Mt. 25:40)

God of freedom, beauty and truth we believe that your deepest desire, is that all creation might have life, life in abundance. We seek your divine protection for all who are exploited and enslaved.

Restore their dignity and provide them a new beginning. Help us reach out in support of victims and survivors of modern slavery.

Lord, You came to give honour to the least, those forgotten, overlooked and misjudged. You came to give first place to the last, those left behind, misunderstood and undervalued. You came to give a warm welcome to the lost, those who are orphaned, abandoned and destitute. 

Help us to be your ears to listen to their cries. Help us to be your voice speaking out love and acceptance. Help us to be your feet walking beside those in need. Help us to be your hands to clothe, feed and shelter them.

May You continue to renew missionary zeal in ourselves and in the Church; raise up new missionaries who will follow You to the ends of the world. Make us witnesses to Your goodness; full of love, strength and faith for Your greater glory and the salvation of the entire world.

150th Pilgrimage – Day 1 – Kisubi

150th Jubilee - Pilgrimage

Day One - Kisubi

When Mapeera and Amans left Kaweta (Bugonga) on foot heading for the capital, Lubaga, their first night was spent at Kisubi (19 February 1879).

Oral tradition says that the following morning, when they removed their tent to continue their journey to Lubaga, they forgot one of the pegs which later grew into a big tree, now named Mapeera Tree. This tree is now in the compound of Mapeera Senior Secondary School.

The whole hill of Kisubi was given to the missionaries by Kabaka Muteesa I in 1880. This gift was later confirmed by Muteesa’s successor Kabaka Mwanga.

Kisubi Parish (Our Lady Queen of Virgins)

It was founded in 1895. The construction work of the present parish church started in 1911 and completed in 1913. This church, besides being built as a parish church, was also built as a ‘pilotchurch’ for the future Lubaga Cathedral.

NB: The White Sisters opened their first community in Kisubi in 1905 (see below).

Pilgrimage to “Mapeera Tree”

This pilgrimage started in the 1980s and since three years, there is an annual pilgrimage on 19′” February, the date on which Fr. Simeon Lourdel Mapeera and Bro. Amans spent a night at this place on their way to Kampala.

Mapeera Seminary (1981-1985)

The Missionaries of Africa started their first seminary (phase) in Uganda here at the parish. It was named ‘Mapeera Seminary’. Before that, their candidates were studying at Katigondo Major Seminary in Masaka.

The Parish team was also among the staff of Mapeera Seminary. While the first group had enough rooms within the presbytery, those who followed were accommodated in containers transformed into rooms. The seminarians participated in the parish pastoral activities. This experience lasted up to 1985 when it the seminary was transferred to Kalangala (Tanzania) in 1985.

Cemetery

A number of M.Afr. and Msola are buried in the parish cemetery. Among them, there are two M.Afr. Fr. Demers Jean-Paul (+60yrs) and Fr. Perreault Gerard (+55yrs), who were shot dead at the airport during Idi Amin’s coup d’Etat on the 25th January, 1971.

Kisubi Hill: Symbol of Church’s Integral Evangelisation Mission

Since the foundation of Kisubi parish, many other church institutions have been established on this hill. These institutions include: religious houses, schools and health care centres. This variety of institutions point to the integral nature of the church’s evangelising mission. This mission is not only limited to the soul, but also the body and mind.

Some of the past and present institutions on Kisubi Hill

    • Kisubi Hospital founded by the Msola in 1905. Before, the White Fathers had transformed part of the buildings that belonged to the seminary which had been transferred to Buddu, into a LAZARET (of St. Antoine), a centre to look after people with “sleeping sickness”. This lasted until 1908.
    • St. Joseph Technical School, started in 1911 by M.Afr. It is the first technical school in Uganda.
    • The Printing Press started by the M.Afr., handed over to the Sisters of St. Peter Claver in 1957. The sisters named it “Marianum Press”.
    • St. Mary’s College started at Lubaga in 1906, was transferred to Kisubi in 1924. The M.Afr. handed it over to the Brothers of Christian Instruction 1927.
    • St. Theresa Girls’ Primary School, started by MSOLA 1926.
    • Mother House of the Sisters of The Immaculate Heart of Mary Reparatrix (Gogonya Sisters), since 1948; and their Generalate in the old regional house of the Msola near to the parish church. Their Novitiate is near their Mother House. These Sisters were founded by Mgr Henri Streicher and Mgr Joseph Cabana.
    • Kisubi Minor Seminary started in 1952 where a number of M.Afr. taught. The minor seminary which had been started at Lubaga in 1895, was later transferred to Kisubi where it remained up to December 1903 when it was transferred to Bukalasa (Masaka). The construction of the new seminary started in 1949, during the episcopate of Mgr Joseph Cabana (M.Afr).
    • Provincial House and Novitiate of The Brothers of Christian Instruction. Note: These Brothers were invited to come to Uganda by the M.Afr., to run the colleges founded by the latter, for example, St. Mary’s Kisubi and St. Henry’s Kitovu (Masaka). Mgr. John Forbes, the first Canadian White Father, by then co-adjutor of Msgr. Henri Streicher, was key in getting these Brothers.
    • Mother House of the Brothers of St. Amans located next to St. Joseph Technical School. These Brothers, were founded in 1984 by the late Emmanuel Cardinal Nsubuga, inspired by the M.Afr. Brothers whose predecessor in this country was Bro. Amans Delmas.
    • Generalate of The Good Samaritan Sisters located next to the Marianum Printing Press.

MISSIONARY SISTERS OF OUR LADY OF AFRICA AT KISUBI

Kisubi was the third Ugandan foundation of the Missionary Sisters of our Lady of Africa. As early as 1903, the white Fathers had set up a health Care unit at Kisubi affected by sleeping sickness.

Soon the number of “Mmongoota” (sleeping sickness) patients was rapidly increasing and a dispensary was needed. Bishop Henry Streicher, the then Apostolic Vicar of the Uganda Vicariate, decided to send a team of sisters to Kisubi to combat the plague.

ln December 1905, first five Sisters: Mother St. Honorat, Paula, Anna, Rodolphe d’Aquaviva and Jean Nepomucene arrived from Lubaga. In January 1906, after a day of recollection, the work of starting a health care unit was immediately embarked on and with the assistance of local people; a few huts were built in which patients with sleeping sickness were nursed. Sr. Paula and Sr. Anna took care of the “sleepers”, Sr. Jean Nepomucene took over the children and the sacristy, while Sr. Rodolphe d’Aquaviva was in charge of the house.

Although the Sisters had wanted this foundation mainly to care for the “sleepers” they also undertook works of charity, like everywhere else: dispensary work and the education of the nearby children.

The sisters recognised the value of education and religion. In 1908, they penetrated into the local community and encouraged the girls to come and be taught some skills and religious values. In 1915, they opened up a Girls’ school at Kisubi. A few parents allowed their daughters to go to the sisters for instruction. Much emphasis was put on the teaching of catechism and this way they put a great influence on the children’s education in regard to Christianity.

Most significant, in the history of the school, was 1922 when parents felt that their sons were left out in the education system and requested that at least the small boys be taught the church rituals. In 1931 the boys were formally enrolled in the school under St. John’s Kindergarten and that is when boys came to be within a Girls’ school.

In January 1970, the headship of the primary school was handed over to the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary Reparatrix (Gogonya Sisters) and in February 1988 the management of Kisubi hospital was effectively passed on to the sisters of the same Institute.

Ggogonya Sisters’ Generalate (Former Regional House of the White Sisters)

PRAYER AT KISUBI

“Go and teach them….”

In the footsteps of Christ the Teacher

Biblical Text: Mt. 28: 16-20

“… 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 I, 1875)

King Muteesa requested for “teachers of skills and religion”. Kisubi hills is one of those places where visibly those who responded to this invitation, among them the sons and daughters of Lavigerie, implemented that wish and their successors are continuing to do the same. Today, Kisubi is one of the big centre of education and learning in technical skills, religious-spiritual studies and secular studies. The presence of the “Brothers of Christian Instruction” (Kisubi Brothers) and St. Mary’s College on this hill, is another reminder for us how much the Missionaries of Africa treasured formal education. Because of their expertise in this field, the White Fathers invited these Brothers to come in Uganda help them in this noble work. St. Mary’s College was the first college founded by the White Fathers.

We praise and thank God for the Church’s tremendous contribution to the education system of our country.

Our thoughts of gratitude also go to all the past and present men and women involved in this noble work of educating the children of our respective countries. May God grant them the spirit of Christ the Teacher, so as to make these children true “disciples of Christ”.

“We swear that the Blessed Virgin Mary will be our guide and teacher so that we can understand through her and with her in order to fulfil the work of her Son Jesus Christ….” (Pioneer Missionaries, 1879)

We too, like those pioneer missionaries, entrust this noble work and all those involved in it to Mother Mary to be their guide and teacher…

Our Father, a decade of Hail Mary’s, Glory be to the Father

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. 

TO ALL THOSE WHO COULD NOT TAKE PART, WE PROPOSE TO ENGAGE INTO THE SAME SPIRITUAL JOURNEY BY FOLLOWING THE PUBLICATION – LITTLE BY LITTLE OF THE “PILGRIMAGE BOOKLET”.

Introduction

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).

PILGRIMAGE IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF THE PIONEER MISSIONARIES

Day One - Kigungu

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

FIRST CARAVAN TO EAST AFRICA 1878:
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

PRAYER AT KIGUNGU (MSOLA)

(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

White Fathers mark 150 years

White Fathers mark 150 years

By Nelson Kiva in NEW VISION (December 9, 2019)

The leading Ugandan Newspaper “NEW VISION” covered both the great celebration in Namugongo and the pilgrimage which preceded the feast.

Here is an article from Nelson Kiva, of NEW VISION, which appeared in the edition of the Newspaper on Monday 9th December.

Hundreds of missionaries from different parts of the world yesterday thronged Uganda Martyrs Shrine, Namugongo to mark 150 years of African evangelisation. This was in honour of the Uganda Martyrs.

The first Catholic missionaries to come to Uganda belonged to the White Fathers. They were Fr Simeon Lourdel popularly known as Mapeera and Brother Delmas Amans (Amansi), who taught religion to the 22 Uganda Catholic Martyrs.

The Society of the Missionaries of Africa (White Fathers) and the Congregation of the Missionary Sisters of Our Lady of Africa (White Sisters) are held in high esteem across Africa, for not only helping in evangelisation, but also their support for the education and health sectors.

The White Fathers and White Sisters missionary movements originated in 1869 when Cardinal Charles of Lavigerie, the Archbishop of Algiers in North Africa, called young men and women to form the two societies. The missionaries hailed from France and England.

The superior general of the White Fathers, Fr Stanley Lubungo, said the Uganda Martyrs are key, since they obeyed the word of God. “They did not forsake God and this makes them a blessing and a key pillar of faith,” he said. “They lit the candle and it is us to carry it forward by furthering the gospel,” he added.

Sr Carmen Sammut, the superior general of the Missionary Sisters of Our Lady of Africa, said: “We thank God for the Uganda Martyrs and for the joy many men and women and children who on this continent have given their lives to Christ and for others.”

Apostolic Nuncio to Uganda, Luigi Bianco, the chief celebrant of the Mass to thank God for the 150-year milestone, said the Church in Uganda had special reason for deep gratitude, because the two missionary institutes were the pioneers in bringing the good news to the country.

“Indeed, it is a moment to thank God for many missionaries, fathers, brothers and sisters, who dedicated their lives to the proclamation of the gospel in Africa and other continents and at the service of the human promotion of the people,” he said.

“The anniversary offers a good example and inspiration that nobody is excluded from the Church Mission,” he added.

“Even Pope Francis invites the Church to rediscover its fruitfulness in the joy of mission and to be witnesses of the love of God for everyone.
The Archbishop of Kampala, Dr Cyprian Kizito Lwanga, said: “When I consider the abundant fruits of the missionaries, I am prompted to ponder a number of questions. For instance, Where would we be if you were not founded? How would Africa be without your missionary activities and commitments? How would Uganda be without the miracle of the Uganda Martyrs?” He said the Uganda Martyrs were the first fruits of the evangelism work in Uganda.

The head of the Catholic laity of Uganda, Gervase Ndyanabo, said the laity should think about the sacrifices the missionaries made, including putting their lives on the line for the sake of evangelisation.

“We, therefore, join the rest in praising God for them. We shall forever be grateful to God for the true joy we were given through them,” he said.

President Yoweri Museveni, who was represented by finance minister Matia Kasaija, told religious leaders that the solution to the evils of corruption and senseless killings, was in joint efforts to deal with the growing trends of immorality in the country.

The Kabaka of Buganda, Ronald Muwenda Mutebi, in his message paid homage to the missionaries, saying Uganda and Africa were proud of them for producing the first African bishop in the modern times.

Bishop Joseph Nakabale Kiwanuka, was consecrated in 1939. The Kabaka, who was represented by Prince David Golooba, said this anchored the Catholic Church in Uganda.

BETWEEN THE LINES

President Yoweri Museveni reminded the Church that its role to fight immorality was immense, saying: “Evils such as corruption and senseless killings are an indication of bad perception, lack of honesty and immorality in our people.”

Read online the coverage of the same NEW VISION newspaper on the “pilgrimage on the footsteps of our predecessors”.

Kampala Closing Mass

Jubilee Year Closing Celebration in Namugongo

In almost all provinces, sections and sectors, the Jubilee Year has come to an end. A time to celebrate, to thank God and count the graces that will take us forward to continue the Mission with the charisms which are ours. 

Many photos of the various celebrations were posted on Facebook or circulated by email or by WhatsApp. These are coming late due to poor Internet Connection in Namugongo, Uganda, where the official closing of the Jubilee Year took place. They come mainly from Brother Vitus Abobo, but I suspect he also collected photos from other photographs. 

It is more difficult to give an account of what happened for your servant was not in Namugongo and did not receive anything from those who had the chance to be there. But the photos themselves give a beautiful account of the celebration.

Sharing of Sister Rosetta Rossi, msola

Sharing of Sister Rosetta Rossi, msola

Sister Rosetta Rossi is a missionary sister of Our Lady of Africa (White Sister) who has worked for many years, especially in Burundi. As part of the Roman conferences marking the 150th anniversary of the foundations of our two missionary institutes, Sister Rosetta agreed to give her testimony as a missionary. This was done in French during a “Roman conference” on the 6th November 2019.

Jubilee Climax in Ghana Nigeria

Jubilee Climax in Ghana Nigeria

At the end of the year long celebration of our 150th anniversary of fondation, the province of Ghana Nigeria had a Climax Celebration on the 26th October in the Cathedral of Our Lady of Annunciation in Tamale (Ghana). For the occasion, they had edited a brochure with the highlights of all that happened in the province during the year’s celebration. You will enjoy going through this brochure, which you can open following this link.

Pilgrimage to Bayonne

Pilgrimage to Bayonne

Sunday, 20th October, 8 am, the older confreres of the EHPAD of Billère should have barely started their day and yet, while it was still dark, a good twenty of them rushed into a bus that would take them to the very origins of our foundation, the birthplace of Charles Martial Allemand Lavigerie. It was there that he was born, there that he grew up, there that he was baptized, then educated, before leaving, at the age of 17, for Paris to complete the minor and major seminary.

Patrick Bataille, the Delegate Provincial of France, and his assistant, Bernard Lefebvre, had come from Paris especially to celebrate this penultimate French event of the Jubilee Year. The closing Mass will be held later this year around the community of Toulouse.

They are the most valid of our EHPAD confreres who had registered. Yet the day would not have been possible without the support of about twenty HBB volunteers (Basque-Béarnaise Hospitality) who helped them all day long to get on and off the bus and to get around during the various stops of the pilgrimage.

First stop, Bayonne Cathedral. The local bishop, Father-Bishop Marc Aillet, was waiting for us to celebrate World Mission Day 2019. During his homily, the Father-Bishop first greeted the evangelization effort of the Missionaries of Africa, men and women who dedicated their lives to evangelizing what he calls the Continent of Hope, because it is in Africa that the youth of the world are found and that the Church knows the greatest expansion. He then reminded us that every baptized person must take ownership of Christ’s mandate and radiate faith wherever he/she is. And with the help of the ubiquitous social media, Mission Ad Gentes is here, at our doorstep! His homily was punctuated by a key sentence from today’s Gospel: “When the son of man comes, will he find faith in hearts? »

The Mass was followed by an aperitif in the beautiful cloister of the cathedral and a meal at the diocesan centre. After lunch, visit to the statue of Lavigerie, erected in 1909 on the “Place du Réduit”, to honour this local child who had become extremely popular.

On the other side of the bridge over the Ardour, stop at the Church of the Holy Spirit where the cardinal was baptized on the 5th of November 1825, only 5 days after his birth. The priest in charge of the church was waiting for us to tell us the story of this small Gothic-style church, which was elevated to the rank of a collegiate church by Louis XI at the end of the 15th century. After praying Vespers, we gathered around the baptistery.

We got back in the bus that took us to the Saint-Etienne cemetery where we saw the family vault of the Lavigerie family, and especially the tomb of the Cardinal’s parents, restored in 1955.

The last resort, the neighbourhood of the “Domaine de Huire”, of which a piece of the Cardinal’s birthplace still exists. It is impressive to step on the ground that the Cardinal stepped on in his tender years. It was then time to get back on the road to Billère where we arrived shortly after 7pm. It was a very beautiful day blessed by God who, in fact, spoiled us with intermittent rains.

Philippe Docq, M.Afr.

You will find below an interactive map with the different places we visited. Then some pictures of the day. And after the photos, an article published in 1992 in Nuntiuncula (Belgium Sector) on the history of Cardinal Lavigerie’s childhood.