Fr Andrew Mukulu mhm, General Councillor
My journey into Mill hill has its origins in the path of life I took and experiences I went through. I was born to the family of Mr and Mrs Mukulu in Nakasongola town, Uganda. I would describe our homestead as traditionally catholic. Attending mass on Sunday was a compulsory part of the family rhythm. My father was a senior civil servant which meant for the Uganda of the seventies a regular move from one town to another due to transfers. But wherever we went we lived a similar rhythm.
After my primary school I felt a desire to become priest and applied to join the minor seminary at Bukalasa, in Masaka Diocese but by then we lived in a town that was not in my diocese of origin, so was recommended to apply in my home Diocese of Tororo. Not long after that we moved to another town and the idea of priesthood faded too. In the course of our growing up, my father often talked about the Mill hill founded schools that he went to during his youth days. For his ordinary level education he attended St Paul's college Mbale, and for his advanced level he attended St Peter's College Tororo. He talked of the men who taught him in these schools. It was his common habit for him to drop names around such as Fr. McGrath, Van der Salm, Whelan. His conversations often started with…"During my time…'', or ''In those days..''. It was clear he had high admiration for them. We were often fascinated by the stories he told.
When time came for my secondary school, he sent me to his former school of St Paul's Mbale. At the time the principal was Colin Dempsey mhm. What struck me with him was his simplicity, often moving around in shorts with his tiny dog, Tuchi, and smoking most of the time of course! He was a meticulous time keeper. We were always sure that at exactly 8 am he would be getting out of his room to the office. He was a mathematics teacher and he was known to make a joke that he was the best mathematics teacher in the country and the only other person who equals him in the country only beats him by speed! During my time there I met others who used to pass around, Donal Harney, Andrew Nagler, Bernard Phelan, Jim Daley, Len Wiedemayr and others. The simple, rugged, dedicated, approachable and most witty style of these men most of us found attractive.
They did what we considered mighty things and yet remained simple. After my four years In Mbale College I joined St Peter's Tororo which also was Mill Hill founded. Here yet more I entered Mill Hill history. One of the missionaries I met there was Christopher Fox, who we often saw jogging past our school fence. He often called us out to join him but we didn't.
View of Kampala, Uganda
In St Peter's Mill hill history was written even on the buildings. One of the Dormitories was called ''Reesinck'', after the name of Bishop John Reesinck. Although for us we pronounced it 'Lesink'. Another was called ''St Joseph'', and another ''Mill Hill". Because of all these monuments and characters, Mill Hill talk was part of my early experience. I often reflected on and found admirable the dedication of these missionaries who had left European comfort to come and do the work they did.
However after many years being close to worship and religion, I ran into a period of serious church fatigue. I lost interest in any of that stuff, attending mass became a serious chore, I ran into bad company and we did our own fair share of bars and night clubs. I lost interest in schooling. All part perhaps of adolescent confusion and big headedness. At some point my health began to deteriorate, and I was emotionally in a bad state getting fed up with life itself. This took a period of about a year.
It was during that time that one day in April 1989 I had an experience that marked a turning point in my life. I still remember it vividly. It was one day in April 1989 while in St Peter's; I got up in the morning and headed to class like the rest of my school mates. At some point in the middle of this economic class I lost interest and asked the teacher to be excused. I went to my room which I found locked. I then decided to go to a friend's room that was open. There I lay on his bed in my frustration. While lying there an idea crossed my mind to pick up the bible which was on his book shelf and began flipping the pages. I ended up opening 2 Cor 4,7-11. That text spoke to me at that moment in a very powerful way to what was going on within me. It said to me that despite what I was feeling physically or emotionally the Spirit of God remains alive in me. I got out from the room and instead of going back to class went to the Cathedral church which is adjacent to the college where I sat for about an hour reflecting and looking at the portraits on the wall of the church tracing the history of the church. At the end I remember a thought of inspiration running through my mind that ''for two thousand years people have believed in Christ who helps, surely they can't all be wrong''!
So I decided that I was going to turn to prayer and hold onto this God to help me. After a while I got out from the cathedral and got back to the school compound; by now it was midday break. On my way back to my room I met two colleagues who were having an argument about some religious pamphlet that was circulating on the school compound. I took interest and begged to read and look at it. The narration I read in the pamphlet was like a mirror of exactly what was going on in my life! It also gave the steps to take if one found oneself in this situation. It was at that moment that I came to the conclusion that there is a God, a divine being that is trying to reach out to me, and felt an inner conviction that my way to recovery is to hold onto this personal God who seems to know me personally, and is trying to reach out to me. I embarked on a period of personal prayer. For a number of the months that followed I felt very strongly the presence of God in the many events that where happening in my life. By the end of the term I was feeling a deepening peace in myself that God was with me, is journeying with me and I felt the strong desire to serve him. For I concluded that serving him would be my path to recovery. That if I give of myself totally then he would heal me. A kind of bargain with God! It is then that my thoughts of becoming a priest re-emerged.
Mill Hill Formation Community, Jinja
During the holidays I became a member of the parish youth group. One day the parish priest called me and asked me whether I had ever had an aspiration to become a priest. I told him that that was exactly the thought running through my mind at that time. First I thought of joining the Diocese but on the other hand felt the desire to be like the men I had met. I had left my secondary school life in the midst of a Mill Hill experience and their simplicity, selflessness, sacrifice and non clerical approachability I found attractive and admirable. I saw in them a spirit of total dedication.
I first became an aspirant for the Diocese but after 6 months was informed that the Mill Hill missionaries where recruiting candidates and was told the contact person for Vocations was Christie Fox, the tall old man I often saw jog past our school. I was introduced to him by my parish priest. After a few sessions I was accepted for a period of orientation during which was sent to Gangama parish under Len Wiedemayr MHM. While there I felt at home in my spirit with whatever I was involved in. My time there consisted not only in a life of prayer and youth ministry but also in working on Len's many building sites, digging holes and breaking stones, with Len as one of the workers. In him I found a lot of what I admired in the Mill Hill missionaries. We often came back rough and dirty. This ''cowboy'' type of life I enjoyed. Some people at the parish often asked what kind of 'seminarian' I was. They felt I should be perhaps at the parish pacing up and down in my cassock saying the breviary! But for me I found the life I was living uncomplicated, simply about service.
From that period of orientation, I was accepted to begin my formation, and on the 15th August 1998 was ordained to the priesthood as the first Ugandan Mill Hill missionary. My missionary work during the last 18 years has taken me to Cameroon, South Africa and other parts of the world.
I write this piece as a member of the General Council. The desire to serve the loving God remains unquenched as it was at the start. I thank all those who have been with me along this journey so far travelled.
Andrew Mukulu mhm
(grateful acknowledgement: Friends of Mill Hill Magazine)