The Catholic Church in Uganda
The White Fathers (now called The Missionaries of Africa) introduced the people of southern Uganda to the good news of Jesus Christ in 1879. By 1905 the Comboni Missionaries, commonly known as the Verona Fathers, had begun to make evangelization inroads into northern Uganda via Sudan. These missionaries established the first schools to educate the people. Even today the Catholic Church is responsible for most of the schools that exist in Uganda. Today primarily African clergy run the Church. There are still some missionaries in Uganda but they are a minority and their numbers diminish every year. The African Church is now sending missionaries to other parts of the world.
In northern Uganda the Church operates differently from what we experience in the United States. Since the people move primarily walking because transportation is not available, the priests of the parish have to reach them in their villages. There are 26 parishes in the Archdiocese of Gulu. The average parish serves an area about 20 miles in diameter. Each parish will have a church, where the priests reside, and from 15 to 50 chapels. Each chapel has a catechist or two. The catechist’s duties are as follows:
• Do prayer services at the chapel and in homes.
• Prepare parents for baptism of their infant children.
• Prepare children for First Eucharist and Confirmation.
• Prepare couples for marriage.
• Visit the sick.
• Contact their priest for anointing of the sick.
For these services the catechist is paid a token remuneration of about $2 per month. The rest of their time is spent working to support their families.
The pastor of a parish meets with all his catechists monthly to receive the reports of the pastoral activities from their chapels, arrange a schedule of his visits to the chapels to offer Mass and administer the Sacraments. Having reliable transportation for the priests to visit their outlying chapels is extremely important in their ministry.