Feast of the Uganda Martyrs 3rd June 2012
Dream for a new era of Graces and Blessings for Uganda
Remains of Charles Lwanga and Mathias Mulumba
The Shrine (Basilica) of the Uganda Martyrs at Namugongo is built at the very place (placement of the altar) where St. Charles Lwanga was killed on the 3rd June 1886. It is from here that five months after his martyrdom on the 1st November 1886 his remains were collected at night by Baazilio Kamya and Leo Lwanga and taken to the missionaries at Nalukolongo. They were then put in a small box and buried in the sacristy, the place where the memorial chapel at Nalukolongo stands now. Later on the remains of Mathias Mulumba were brought from Old Kampala and put in the same iron box. These are the only two martyrs whose remains were recovered. All the others were either eaten by the wild animals or buried together with those of their fellow protestant martyrs with whom they were burnt at Namugongo.
Let it is also be remembered that Charles Lwanga had been baptised together with many other catechumens at Nalukolongo on the 16th November 1885, the day after the martyrdom of Joseph Mukasa Balikuddembe. Mulumba, together with Luke Baanabakintu, were baptised by Fr. Ludovic Girault on the 28th May 1882 at Nabulagala.
The box which contained the remains of these two martyrs remained buried in this place for 7 years, two years when the missionaries were still living there (1886 - October 1888) and five years (1888 - 1893) underneath the ruins of the mission which was destroyed during the Muslim-Christian war (1888-1889). Listen to what Mgr John Joseph Hirth, wrote about the joyful event when they were finally discovered on the 13th November 1893:
"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).
At the time when the remains of Lwanga and Mulumba were found, the missionaries were living in the fourth mission post at Lubaga Hill. This hill, where the palace of Muteesa was at the time of the arrival of the pioneer missionaries in 1879, was given to them by Mwanga in 1890 and they moved there at the end of 1891.
The first three missions, Nabulagala, Nalukolongo and Nabunnya were now all in ruins and even this one at Lubaga hill was under reconstruction after having been destroyed during the Protestant - Catholic war (1892). It is in the midst of these persecutions, destructions and ruins that the discovery of these remains came as a sign of hope of the beginning of 'a new era of graces and blessings' for Mgr Hirth.
A year before, another missionary had expressed the same hope and courage in the midst the same situation in these words: "In the afternoon, I went up to Lubaga. How sad it is! Some ruins still stand up silently in the middle of the jungle. A leopard came out of the forest and ran away. Flocks of doves flew up from everywhere. Six months ago, two to three thousand people frequented every day this plateau and now all is in ruins, devastations, dead silence! And to say that we have to rebuild all this! Oh yes, courage! With the help of God we will manage. We shall again sing praises to the Most High on this hill. I have the hope deep within my heart and this hope almost makes me joyful." (Fr. Antonin Guillermain, in Lubaga diary, 30th June 1892)
The celebration of the Uganda Martyrs Day this year falls at the time when the country is preparing to celebrate its 50th Anniversary of Independence. Many Ugandans today dream of 'a new era of graces and blessings' for this country which has more than once been betrayed by its political leaders! If today there are no recent material ruins in Uganda due to war, the ruins of corruption and thefts of the national wealth meant for the common good are beyond comparison! Arrogance, belief in might-is-right, violation of human rights by those whose duty is to protect these rights, individualism, tribalism and nepotism, etc., are to be found everywhere in our country on the eve of the beginning of the second half of the Centenary of our independence.
My heart's desire and prayer to God, therefore, is that the celebration of this year inspire in all the Christians, the same joyful and empowering spiritual experience like the one that the missionaries felt when they discovered the remains of Lwanga and Mulumba at Nalukolongo. That this celebration marks for us a new era of graces and blessings for our Country immersed in these 'moral and spiritual ruins'. Graces and blessings made visible in the unity and solidarity of its citizens as it was shown by the martyrs, both Catholics and Protestants, from different tribal origins, on their journey from Munyonyo to Namugongo.
Graces and blessings made visible in our civil, political, religious leaders who, following in the footsteps of Charles Lwanga and Mathias Mulumba, will seek first not their own good but the good of the people put under their care without any discrimination based on tribal, religious or political affiliations. Lwanga and Mulumba were both civil and religious leaders. Lwanga was the leader of the royal pages and the Christians pages, both Catholics and protests, after the martyrdom of Joseph Mukasa Balikuddembe. Mulumba was assistant county chief, first of Bulemeezi and then of Ssingo and was also chosen to be the leader of the Christian community in Mityana when the missionaries left Uganda for the first time in 1882. It is narrated that Mulumba died crying out: thirst, thirst, thirst! May this thirst of Mulumba be transformed into thirst for justice, peace and reconciliation in the hearts of all Ugandans.
Fr. Richard Nnyombi M.Afr
3rd June 2012
Statue of Denis Ssebuggawo (in our crypt at the Generalate -Rome- )
The king grabbed his spear and flung it violently through the young mans throat.
Photo N° 2His mother who was baptized in 1937
See explanations on the picture N° 3
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List of the 22 catholic Uganda Martyrs
9.Denis Ssebuggwawo Wasswa
13.John Maria Muzeeyi
14.Joseph Mukasa Balikuddembe
* Album photos : Canonization of the 22 Uganda Martyrs 18th October 1964
* Let us Be Courageous as our Ancestors, the Uganda Martyrs : Feast of the Uganda Martyrs 3rd June
* More about the Feast of the Uganda Martyrs
* Africa /Uganda - Crowds attend the festival for Ugandan Martyrs 2008
* The beginning of the Mission in southern Uganda an the organization of the catechumenate 1879-1914
by Marinus Rooijackers
* Les Débuts de la Mission au sud de l'Ouganda et organisation de son catéchuménat 1879-1914 de Marinus Rooijackers