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The feast day of Uganda martyrs on 3rd June in Namugongo

Uganda Martyrs are the pride of the Laity in Uganda because they were all lay people. The Uganda Martyrs lived more than 100 years ago. They were martyred within the period 1885 - 1887, by either being burnt to death, speared or beheaded on the orders of Kabaka (king) Mwanga because they refused to renounce their faith in Christianity. They were firm and confident in the Love of God despite being new converts, as most were less than a year in the Faith! So they are our ancestors in Faith so they continue to inspire us Ugandans on the journey of our Faith.

The Uganda Martyrs were canonized and elevated to Sainthood by Pope Paul VI on 18th October1964.

Life Ascending Uganda, a Catholic movement of the retired and elderly have embraced the Uganda martyrs as our Patron Saints. This is because, we the Laity in Uganda perceive and are challenged by the Martyrs in many ways;

The Martyrs sowed the seed, watered it with their blood and produced many followers of Jesus Christ now making up 84 percent of the nation. The Martyrs exhibited total commitment to their new found faith in Jesus Christ and offered their lives totally to the point of accepting to be killed rather than disobeying God’s commandments. Thus they preached by their lives in word and deed, showing insurmountable courage and faith in Jesus Christ.

Therefore we, having lived for more than half a century (50 years and above), are all called to model our lives on the example of the Uganda Martyrs; they are our role models per excellence.

Nearing the end of our lives on earth, we cannot afford to be lukewarm as fore warned by the Word of God “… because you are lukewarm neither hot nor cold I am going to spit you out of my mouth” (Rev 3:15-16).So as elders we are urged to experience a personal encounter with Jesus Christ and transmit the Good news to our families and society.

Though we are probably not all called to martyrdom but not one of us is excluded from the Divine Call to attain the high standard of Christian Living. This entails taking up our daily cross and aspiring towards a higher sense of Christian Discipline.

Our daily prayer through the Uganda Martyrs is: “In Gratitude with the Gift of Age: Uganda Martyrs, most firm and faithful to Christ and His Church: Pray for us”

On 3rd June 2022, all roads in Uganda led to Namugongo once more, for during the Covid-19 Pandemic all gatherings had been stopped. Encouraged by Isaah26:20; “Go into your rooms my people, shut your doors behind you. Hide yourselves a little while until the wrath has passed” we were in lockdown for almost two. The omnipresent God heard our prayers from behind our closed doors, the virus was defeated, and once more Ugandans were at liberty to congregate in praise and worship at Namugongo.

With joy and refreshed energy, multitudes of pilgrims braved the walk of hundreds of kilometers and congregated at Namugongo Martrys’ shrine, the site of martyrdom of 22 Catholic youths and 23 Protestant youths. We also have two other martyrs from Gulu Archdiocese who were executed in 1918. The foot pilgrims included those from our neighbouring countries, namely Kenya, Congo, South Sudan, Rwanda and Tanzania.

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Pilgrims arriving including those from neighboring countries

Each year, one of the 19 dioceses of Uganda leads in the organization, administration and take charge of the main Cerebration of Holy Mass of the day. This year, Fort Portal diocese in western Uganda Graced the day.

High profile pilgrims from Uganda government and the Kingdoms were significant among the Congregation. King Oyo Nyumba Kabamba Iguru Rukidi IV of Toro Kingdom- Fort Portal was significantly present since his diocese was the one in charge.

The speaker of Parliament, Deputy Speaker, Prime Minister, Parliament Opposition leader were all present and participated in the Offertory. The President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, was not physically present, but he was fully in support on the occasion. His speech was read by the Prime Minister. An extract of president’s speech “Indeed the Lord heard our humble prayers and spared our lives……..once more a multitude of pilgrims have braved the walk……..”

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            (L) Entrance procession                          (R) Choir

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(L) The offertory procession led by the prime minister and the Speaker of Parliament

(R) A 14 year old pilgrim Brian receiving a gift from the Speaker of Parliament

Pilgrims are led and encouraged by elders, youths look up to the elders who are usually advanced in age but with Faith to trek and make it. A unique way of evangelization! This year the oldest male pilgrim Mzee Bernado, 100 years old, walked 337 kms from Bushenyi to Namugongo. The youngest pilgrim Brian Kwesiga was 14 years old and walked 312 kms from Fort Portal to Namugongo. Mr Atim Charles, LAU vice-chairman, with some youths walked 40kms from Namagunga to Namugongo. All pilgrims received Certificates.

The good news is that martyrs do not die in vain, their fortitude, resilience and endurance continues to win souls for the Kingdom of God. This is clearly seen in Uganda, as pilgrims brave the walk of hundreds kilometers every year, many miracles are received and Faith is strengthened.

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(L) The oldest male pilgrim Bernado (100yrs old) receiving a certificate from the Prime Minister of Uganda

(R) The oldest female pilgrim (76yrs old) arriving and receiving a warm welcome from the youth for the martyrs day celebration

The Theme of the day was” Baptized and sent to witness Christ with Love and Hope Mt 28:19, Rom 8:35

The main celebrant was Bishop Robert Muhiirwa , bishop of Fort Portal diocese, western Uganda. The theme was chosen on the basis that the Martyrs died soon after their baptism and some received the baptism of blood. The martyrs looked forward to a life after death with Love and hope.

The Bishop urged Ugandans to emulate the martyrs and walk the path of light.

We praise and thank the Lord for the gift of Martyrs.

Presented by: Margaret Atim Mugeni

President of Life Ascending Uganda (LAU)

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The aerial view of Namugongo Martyrs site showing pilgrims around the altar