Earlier this year the parish of Mbikko in the diocese of Lugazi, Uganda, celebrated its silver jubilee. Among the many praishes in the diocese founded by the Mill Hill Missionaries Mbikko continues to be served by the Mill Hill Missionaries to this day.
From the Jubilee Glossy:
"In celebrating 25 years today, we as a parish are part of this history of evangelization by Mill Hill. Together with many parishes in Lugazi Diocese, parts of Kampala and Eastern Uganda as well as Western Kenya, we share in that heritage and growth in faith which we received from the early missionaries". (Joseph King Afumaboh mhm, parish priest)
Memories of my time at St Charles Lwanga, Mbikko
After six years of neighbourliness as a ministry among the Muslims in Malindi diocese at the Coast of Kenya both as a student/temporary and perpetual member of the Mill Hill Missionaries, I was asked to move to Mbikko, Uganda to replace my only fellow member from D.R. Congo, Fr. Stan Bondoko. I wondered what it meant... what my ministry would be like... I was coming to a Christian dominated area and traditionally Catholic.
After a while, when Fr. Stan Bondoko left I started questioning. Some of the questions arose like, “why are there no meetings to make decisions?” and some answers that I can vividly remember were such as ' if you(the priest) want us to do something or you need help please tell us during the announcements and we shall do our best”. “When did you meet last as kabondo”? - “ Ohh Small Christian Community does not work in this part of the world, we have tried so many times, to think about them is waste of time”. This indeed animated me more looking back to my experience in other places.
Several people who came for daily mass formed the Sacristy group with the help of Fr. Charles Ssempija and Sr. Patience, fmsa. The regular meetings with this group while sitting on the mats on the grass on the parish compound was a settling exercise. I humbly remain grateful for the dedication of these people. I feel indebted to them for their help rendered to us. Through them we started a fortnight open meetings in Mbikko sub-parish that served as icebreaking.
Young Couples and Single Adults saw the need to share their deep sited ambitions, needs, joys and sorrows as well as their common experiences. This group boosted my energy to go on. I saw leaders of the Church and society in large in making. I hear some of them are included in the leadership of the Church today.
Through Twezimbe centre I came across people of Islamic Faith, other Churches and civil society. Our interactions in order to bring awareness first to ourselves and to the community of the needs of the less included in the society, saw the inception of an advocacy committee My attachment and commitment to this ministry often reminded me of the mission of the mother Church which Pope Francis insists on.
Still in my mind are the many times the members of the two convents (Franciscan Missionary Sisters for Africa and The Sacred Heart Sisters and the parish team(Mill Hill Missionaries came together in the evening for Liturgy or to share meals on birthdays and different occasions. This was a great source of support and encouragement.
From time to time people came to ask for help and I referred them to Kabondo (SCC). What about those who were not residents we asked. With the experience of some people of goodwill an appeal to the whole parish was made to contribute in any form once a month the Needy. A saving was put aside for this. We thank St. Francis Health Centre, Mbikko, its leadership and staff.... for the space provided and the opportunity given to us once a month to pray and carry out this ministry. There we came in touch with some sick people of the community. This group linked us with the missionaries of Charity in Kampala who offered us opportunity to share in their charisma; once in a year we visited and gave them a hand and what we had. Blessed are the merciful.
The steady rise of hospitality ministry to the pilgrims from Eastern Uganda and Kenya to Namugongo was uplifting. The generosity of people from all walks life within the parish touched me. I am now In Kenya and get not only identified by name but also enjoy warm words and welcome from those whom we served.
After pestering parishioners if I could visit them and join in when they meet as Small Christian Communities I was finally invited to for meetings. The use of the Word of God (though I carried my Bible) was not common. I silently observed how the Chairperson(s) interacted with the members. In many cases it was mainly monetary contribution determined who was a faithful member of the Kabondo(SCC).
The time to Take the Church to people was knocking. Fortunately the coming of Mr. Joseph Waswa, a renowned pastoral worker in the AMECEA region from Tororo diocese(with his gentle, simple and yet challenging approach) to our midst took us to a rare travelled path; that of walking together towards seeing the Parish as the community of communities.
We now celebrated sacraments in homes, tents, at times in the open air. We held meetings with animators and selected a handful of those who to go for LUMKO East Africa formation on the role of a Small Christian Communities and the benefits they bring with them to a larger parochial community.
This road took us to where people lived and where they came from not only in terms of location but situation. The birth of mutual understands. We held parties with men's group around bonfire, women's group, teachers and pupils/students, with Small Christian Communities and the Sub-parishes. Enjoyed picnics with the Young Couples and Single Adults, participated in debates and quizzes with husbands and their wives and those associated to them. We hosted the diocesan leadership including the Bishop in Zones, homes, groups, for talks, prayers or Eucharist as well as made friends of the parish within and outside the parish to celebrate life, to give a hand to diocesan vision and plans when/where possible.
Above all the said communities, groups and institutions by the time I left were self-reliant to a greater extent and made the community of communities joyfully rely on them.
I remain grateful as one of the beneficiaries of the joy we encountered as we participated in the Mission of the Church. I learned a lot from the people, experiences and from my own mistakes and confess when and where I offended any member(s) of the community. I promise to remember to pray for this Community full of potentials and request you to pray for me.
Fr. Otto Bambokela mhm