Fr Rosner was ‘baptised’ Abooki
By Matthias Mazinga
In its “Celebrating Life” section of Sunday, October 25, 2020, the first Ugandan daily newspaper “New Vision” published, under the pen of its journalist Matthias Mazinga, a tribute in honor of our confrere Father Gotthard Rosner, who passed away on September 2. Thanks to Otto Katto for sending us a copy.
Rev. Fr. Gotthard Rosner
From: May 5, 1941
To: September 2, 2020
The Very Rev. Fr. Gotthard Rosner Abooki, in Uganda in the 1970’s, was one of the confreres of the Catholic Missionary Society of White Fathers (alias Missionaries of Africa), who served the congregation and the Church in Africa with total love and dedication.
Subsequent to his priestly ordination in 1968, Rosner was posted to Mugalike Catholic parish in Hoima, where he worked as the assistant parish priest and later parish priest from 1969 to 1973. He later taught future priests at Alokulum National Major Seminary in Gulu (1977-79). Rosner subsequently served the congregation and the Church elsewhere in Africa, Europe and the US.
The time that Rosner spent in Uganda was evidently the most memorable of his life. He kept in touch with the local Christians at Mugalike and Gulu, even after being transferred from Uganda. Rosner is generally remembered as a pious missionary, who preached the gospel with admirable devotion. He reached out to the people wherever they were and preached to them the gospel of salvation. Rosner enabled people to know and experience the goodness of God by his words and examples.
Owing to his virtuous life and admirable sacerdotal qualities, the Christians of Mugalike gave Rosner (whose name they pronounced as Gotihati) traditional names such as Atalyeeba (the one that can never be forgotten), and Abooki, a popular pet name (empaako) of the Banyoro. The locals also named their children after Gotthard in appreciation of his sacerdotal ministry.
Josephine Kasaija Bigabwa, a parishioner of Mugalike (who is also the reigning vice-president of Hoima Diocese External Residents Association), is one of the Christians who remember Rosner with great admiration. “He was a down-to-earth priest, who mixed freely with the locals and also lived their culture. He learnt and spoke Runyoro even better than some Banyoro. He always spiced his homilies with interesting proverbs. His mesmeric homilies attracted people to the Church. His generosity was also enormous. He helped hundreds of needy children and vulnerable women. He supported children’s charitable homes. His commitment to children was so solid that children never wanted to go away from him after mass. The children also wanted to go with him whenever he would be moved to another mission station.”
Peter Bernard Kidega, a parishioner of Layibi Catholic Parish (Gulu), also admired Gotthard, referring to him as a “wonderful priest of sweet memories. He was a selfless and diplomatic priest. He served the Lord with all his heart. He was a real Missionary of Africa, who loved Ugandans and all Africans.”
One Christian, who lived at Lacor in the 1970’s, also spoke sweetly about Rosner. “Fr. Rosner paid my son’s school fees from Primary One to Senior Six. When our home was looted during the 1979 war, he brought us cups, plates and saucepans from Nairobi and helped us to rebuild our life.”
Bishop Vincent Kirabo of Hoima Diocese called Gotthard a dedicated servant of God. “I got an opportunity to interact with him when he was still here. He had that unique ability to maintain interest and keep in touch with the places and the people he met.”
Surprisingly, he gave enormous support towards the construction of Mugalike Health Centre III, long after he left the parish. He wrote letters to Christians, requesting to be given updates on the parish, Christians and church projects.