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Ugandan experience renewed our faith

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St Aloysius parishioners Dunstan D’Souza and former NSW MP Marie Ficarra joined millions of Ugandan Catholics for the feast day celebration of martyrs St Charles Lwanga and his 12 companions. Photo: Supplied
St Aloysius parishioners Dunstan D’Souza and former NSW MP Marie Ficarra joined millions of Ugandan Catholics for the feast day celebration of martyrs St Charles Lwanga and his 12 companions. Photo: Supplied

Picture 1.4 million Catholics with their leaders, some walking for many kilometres, to pray, sing, dance and celebrate Mass.

And no, it wasn’t Lisbon for World Youth Day, but Uganda, for the feast day celebration of martyrs St Charles Lwanga and his 12 companions.

In the predominantly Christian country the event in Kampala, the capital city, is also a national public holiday each June.

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Roads become footpaths for hundreds of kilometres as people make their way to the three-hour liturgy at the Basilica of the Ugandan Martyrs at Namugongo.

Present this year, from the Sydney beachside suburb of Cronulla were St Aloysius parishioners Dunstan D’Souza and former NSW MP Marie Ficarra.

It was their first time in Uganda—a small contingent but symbolic of the deepening friendship between our two countries.

They were invited to the east African country by Susan Mugwanya from the Ugandan High Commission in Australia and Fr Michael Kasiita, a former student at the Seminary of the Good Shepherd who served as a deacon at St Aloysius before his ordination.

The group met with politicians and government officials, parishioners and Fr Michael’s family.

Ms Ficarra and Mr D’Souza returned to Australia inspired by the Holy Spirit and moved by the lack of of employment opportunities for the country’s young people.

They have begun projects to increase links between Australia and Uganda, including a sister parish relationship, potential partnerships to meet aged and disability workforce needs, and coffee trading opportunities.

Ugandan Catholics walk, pray, sing, dance for the feast day celebration of martyrs St Charles Lwanga and his 12 companions in Kampala, Uganda. Photo: Supplied
Ugandan Catholics walk, pray, sing, dance for the feast day celebration of martyrs St Charles Lwanga and his 12 companions in Kampala, Uganda. Photo: Supplied

“It was overwhelming. Everyone came dressed with colour and they just shone, they radiate a presence,” said Ms Ficarra.

“Eighty-five per cent of Ugandans are Christian and a majority are Catholic. They just love singing and dancing, they are very happy and hospitable people and we thought that’s the way faith should be lived.

“They are not rich people but they have faith, hope and love and are at peace with what God gives them.

“We need an injection of that Ugandan spirituality.”

The Aussies were impressed by the strong faith and family values of the Ugandan people and are passionate about beginning an annual pilgrimage to the inspiring and spiritually-enriching event.

“The Martyr’s Mass was a beautiful celebration and full of joy, it had parts prayed in Latin and it had African dancing so joyful that you just had to get up and clap,” Mr D’Souza said.

“The people we met don’t just compartmentalise their faith to their liturgical worship on Sunday, it’s part of their day-to-day life.

“They are very poor with less than we have, but they don’t focus on what they don’t have, they focus on what they do have.”

An Australian pilgrimage is being planned to the east African country next June, which will include the Ugandan Martyr’s Mass and an option of a safari experience unique to Uganda—gorilla trekking in the mountainside Bwindi Impenetrable Forest.

For more information contact Susan Mugwanya Tiisa from the Ugandan High Commission in Canberra via email at [email protected] or [email protected]

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