COMING INTO THE COUNTRY
Into Uganda I arrived before dawn on Sunday, September 27, 2009.
It was clear sailing for the 25 mile taxi ride from Entebbe to Kampala. I asked to be taken to the Catholic Cathedral on Rubaga Hill where I could wait peacefully and safely for Fr. Edmond to come after sunup. He came at 9am with the recently professed Brother Emmanuel. The 10am Mass at St. Kizito in Kyengeza was late getting started so I was able to concelebrate with Fr. Charles. I was lucky because I got to hear the choir which recently won a diocesan choral competition and also witness the baptism of four children. The Mass was over two hours long. In the evening the Sisters of Mary of Mt. Carmel came to join the friars to welcome me.
The next day I called on the Bishop of Kiyinda-Mityana only to find that he was in the United States. He was visiting Los Angeles and Chicago where he has seminarians. On Tuesday I celebrated the school Mass for St. Ambrose seniors 1-4. Their Mass is in English so, it was nice to be able to help the pastor, Fr. Edmond. I visited the school afterwards and obligingly signed the guest book where my name was first entered ten years ago on October 19, 1999. It is a bit of a shock to realize how quickly time flies. I was 47 years old back then. There has been a lot of development at Kyengeza since I first laid eyes on it. Speaking of development there is a serious road improvement project of the Kampala to Mityana road. It may take awhile but the day will come when the trip to Kampala takes only 30 minutes and our parish in the bush will be a parish in the suburbs of Kampala.
Speaking of the bush, I had a rather amazing encounter with a woman in the Mwuende area of Kyengeza. I had a letter for her from California. You see, I met this Ugandan woman at the monastery of our nuns in Santa Clara. She said her sister lived in West Kyengeza village and asked me if I would deliver a letter to her. She is not Catholic but her clan name made it possible for Fr. Charles to find her for me. Boy, was she surprised that a white man was visiting her humble abode. She was in her field planting when we arrived. As she knelt before me in the traditional Ugandan greeting, I handed her the letter. She handed it back and asked me to open it. She could not read so Fr. Charles read the letter. Among other things it expressed condolences for a recent loss in the family. The pictures her sister sent elicited delight and joy in the recognition of a sister whom she probably has not seen in years and nieces and nephews whom she has never seen. Imagine that, two sisters living in two very different societies. We should not forget, though, that it is one world we all live in.
Brothers Emmanuel and Augustine are getting on well in Kyengeza under the supervision of Fr. Edmond. One morning we were eating omelets and Brother Emmanuel asked me if I could taste the paper. I said no and asked if it was edible. Yes, he said. Isn’t it hot? Indeed, I did feel the burning sensation and realized he said pepper. The diverse pronunciations of English present many humorous exchanges and sometimes complete incomprehension.
I stayed overnight at the nuns monastery in Mityana on the eve of St. Therese’s feast so I could celebrate Mass with our Carmelite nuns on October 1st. Later in the morning I went back to Kyengeza to attend the entertainment of the preschoolers at Little Flower School, which was started by the Carmelite Mission in Uganda and supported by our wonderful benefactors. Sr. Antonia is the director and Brother Augustine is the school bursar. He had the children listen to a little story about St. Therese when she was fishing with her father and a thunderstorm came. Then they had to answer questions about the story to win a prize. “To such as these belongs the kingdom of heaven.”
Fr. Edmond drove me to Jinja on October 2nd. Thanks to the new beltway around Kampala which just opened the day before, the trip was well under three hours. (I say beltway because I am from the Baltimore-Washington area but there were plenty of pedestrians and bicyclists to contend with.) That evening I was welcomed with a nyama choma which, at least as explained by Fr. Larry, is a celebratory meal of roasted meat (our postulant Patrick roasted goat meat) and song and dance. We didn’t do any singing or dancing but we did sit around the charcoal fire and watch the full moon rise (no howling either). It is the rainy season so we were quite lucky to have such a fine evening. The breeze blowing off Lake Victoria was as delicious as the roasted goat.
On Saturday morning I held my first regional meeting with Fr. Larry and Fr. Edmond. Fr. Paul is still in California with his very sick mother, Terry. Our communities here are praying for her and the Koenig family. On Sunday I accompanied Fr. Godfrey to Our Lady of Fatima, a parish in town, for the 11am Mass in English. I was invited to preside and preach. I spotted four or five wazungu, that is, white persons, in the congregation.
This is my tenth morning in Uganda. One day is rolling into another at a surprising pace and I am once again struck by how time flies. So let us do all the good we can - while we can - as we journey together in faith.
Writing from Jinja, Uganda,
Fr. Stephen Watson, OCD