UCCB Ready, Raring To Host 2019 Feast Of Uganda Martyrs In Boston

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In Summary: The trumpeters are out. The curtains are drawn. The choristers are in position. The drums are throbbing and the dancers are spoiling for a celebratory jig. It is the home stretch for the organizers of the Uganda Martyrs feast in Boston to clinch the gold for the hundreds of their expectant and faithful members and visiting pilgrims to savor the spiritual moment. The UCCB is ready and raring to go! What started as a routine act of murder with impunity effectively turned the global Christian faith movement over its head. The killing of the 22 young Ugandan catholic men between November 1885 and June 1886 was the human sacrifice that resulted in unintended consequences as their martyrdom ignited the flame of Christianity in modern Africa.  Pope Paul VI canonized the 22 Uganda Martyrs in 1964. Two other Ugandan martyrs of a later period, killed at Paimol in 1918, and en route to canonization, were beatified by Pope John Paul II in 2002. Fifty-five years since the first 22 Uganda Martyrs were canonized; the celebration of the Martyrs has taken a life of its own; morphing into an international event to express reverence for the Martyrs’ faith, their courage, and their witness to Christ. In Uganda, the celebration of the Uganda Martyrs at Namugongo Martyrs Shrine has become the largest Christian gathering in the country and June 3 is gazatted as a national holiday. Close to home, since 2003, the Ugandan Catholic Community in the Archdiocese of Boston (UCCB) and pilgrims from across the USA, Uganda, and around the world have been gathering on the 2nd Sunday of June to celebrate the Feast of the Uganda Martyrs. On Sunday June 9, 2019, UCCB members will gather at St. Mary’s Parish in Waltham, Massachusetts, ‘the Namugongo of Boston’ to celebrate the feast of the Uganda Martyrs. Bishop Victor Phalana of the Diocese of Klerksdorp, South Africa assisted by Bishop Sanctus Wanok of Lira Diocese will be the main celebrant during the solemn Mass starting at 1:00PM. Guided by the theme : ‘Holy Spirit, enable us to speak the truth in love, as witnesses of Jesus Christ”, the feast gives UCCB members the opportunity to reflect on the Faith they share with the Uganda Martyrs. As Samuel Muwanguzi writes, the killing of the young Ugandan Martyrs on account of their faith, originally a localized and dark historical, political, and religious event no one wanted to remember has now evolved into a globalized spiritual feast revered and celebrated by all faithfuls. Come, witness, reflect, and live out the Faith you share with the Uganda Martyrs. It is yours to claim!

Archbishop Michael August Blume and Archbishop Christophe Pierre seated outside the St. Mary’s parish church with the 2018 ‘living martyrs’ who re-enacted the roles of the Uganda Martyrs during the celebrations of the feast of the Uganda Martyrs (Photos courtesy of UCCB)

Boston, Massachusetts—the annual celebration of the feast of the Uganda Martyrs is almost here. It will be held on Sunday June 9th 2019 at St. Mary’s Parish in Waltham, Massachusetts, organizers announced here recently.  St. Mary’s Parish Church is located at 133 School St. Waltham, MA 02451.  This year’s celebration will start with a solemn Mass on Sunday June 9 at 1:00PM, the organizers said in a press statement to all Roman Catholic faithful’s in the Archdiocese of Boston and beyond. The Rt. Rev. Bishop Victor Phalana of the Diocese of Klerksdorp, South Africa assisted by Bishop Sanctus Wanok of Lira Diocese will be the main celebrant during the solemn Mass.

Bishop Victor Phalana of the Diocese of Klerksdorp, South Africa and Bishop Sanctus Wanok of Lira Diocese will preside over the celebrations.

This is the second time the South African prelate is being hosted by the UCCB during celebrations of the feast of the Uganda Martyrs. The first time was in 2016 when Bishop Victor Phalana was a Co-celebrant with His Grace Archbishop Emmanuel Obbo, Archbishop of Tororo Archdiocese. Organized by the Ugandan Catholic Community in the Archdiocese of Boston (UCCB), the 2019 feast of the Uganda Martyrs is the 17th celebration since the inaugural event that was held on Sunday June1, 2003 at the now closed St. Joseph parish in Waltham, Massachusetts.  

Ronald Kabuye Sebunya, chair UCCB; Josephine Kyazike, vice chair UCCB; Annett Naziwa, secretary UCCB;  Julie Bwete, Treasurer, UCCB;  and Agnes Nansubuga, assistant secretary UCCB

The trumpeters are out. The curtains are drawn. The choristers are in position. The drums are throbbing and the dancers are spoiling for a celebratory jig. It is the home stretch for the organizers of the Uganda Martyrs feast in Boston to clinch the gold for the hundreds of their expectant and faithful members and visiting pilgrims to savor the spiritual moment. A highly choreographed and elaborate UCCB-flagship event, the Uganda Martyrs feast is a showpiece to behold. Now, the UCCB is ready and raring to go!

A cross-section of the congregation during the 2018 Holy Mass to celebrate the feast of the Uganda Martyrs at the St. Mary’s parish in Waltham.

Guided by the theme: "Holy Spirit, enable us to speak the truth in love, as witnesses of Jesus Christ," believers are called upon to live out their faith as the young Catholic Martyrs did in face of their persecution. “Come to the feast on Sunday June 9 at St. Mary’s Parish to witness and seek inspiration to live selfless, faithful, and loving lives as exemplified by the Uganda Martyrs,” Rev. Fr. Charles Mulindwa, the "Chaplain of the UCCB stated in a video circulated to all members of UCCB and other believers in the archdiocese."

The Rev. Fr. Charles Mulindwa, “Chaplain of the UCCB

According to the organizers, the main celebration of the feast of the Uganda Martyrs on Sunday June 9 will be preceded with a novena; 9 days of prayer, which will conclude on the evening of Saturday June 8th, after the Uganda Martyrs Day (UMD) vigil Mass. Later on Sunday June 9, the community and all pilgrims will gather for dinner at the Marriott Hotel located at One Burlington Mall Road, Burlington, MA 01803, according to the press release issued by the organizers.

Members of the celebrated UCCB choir with the Archbishop Michael August Blume, former Apostolic Nuncio to Uganda and Archbishop Christophe Pierre, Apostolic Nuncio to the United States outside the St. Mary’s parish after the 2018 Holy Mass at St. Mary’s Parish, Waltham, Massachusetts. (Photos courtesy of UCCB). The UCCB choir is one of the pillars of the community and a plays a key role during the Holy Mass.

Last year, over 600 pilgrims attended the one-day-long celebrations that started with a main mass and climaxed with a banquet at the Marriote hotel later in the evening. This year, organizers expect the attendance to pass the record-breaking numbers set last year. Sounding upbeat, one of the members of the UMD organizing committee quipped to the EADM: “The more the merrier!”

Some of the elders and former leaders of UCCB during the UCCB banquet to commemorate the feast of the Uganda Martyrs held at the Marriott hotel last year.

Not surprisingly, as the day of the feast draws nearer, excitement and enthusiasm within and outside the Uganda Catholic community in Boston and beyond has already gained more momentum than previously witnessed, organizers observed. And this was not lost on the chair of the UCCB executive Ronald Sebunya Kabuye who said in a brief statement to the EADM: “The UCCB is looking forward to making this feast a memorable event. The Uganda Martyrs are our forebearers in faith.” Mr. Kabuye called upon UCCB members to immortalize the Martyrs in their lives, families, and workplaces. “Let’s make the Martyrs alive in our professions since they were youthful professionals who had a lot to offer for posterity and we are obliged to emulate them, the UCCB supremo Ronald Kabuye said.

Some of the UCCB children dressed in red and yellow entertaining guests during the 2018 dinner at the Marriott hotel.

By all accounts, in the United States and across all Ugandan Diaspora communities, the UCCB has won itself the bragging rights as the vanguard community of Catholics to celebrate the feast of the Uganda Martyrs. Every year, since 2003, the UCCB is joined by pilgrims from across the United States and beyond to celebrate the feast of the Uganda Martyrs in Boston, Massachusetts. It is not going to be any different this year. The 10-man strong committee including members of the Uganda Martyrs Day (UMD) committee, members of the UCCB executive, the chaplain of the UCCB, and some ex-officials, the organizing committee of the 2019 feast of the Uganda Martyrs is now working around the clock putting final touches to the much-awaited spiritually momentous event.

Emmanuel Wasswa Kivumbi, chair; Dr. David Nnyanzi, secretary; Geoffrey Kaweesa, publicity secretary, Ivan Mulumba, ex-official; and Fr. Charles Mulindwa, Chaplain UCCB

The Uganda Martyrs Day (UMD) chair Mr. Emmanuel Wasswa Kivumbi captured the excitement of his committee and the members of the UCCB: “The eagerly awaited annual Uganda Martyrs Feast is upon us. It's a lasting honor to be part of the organizing team and a participant in these highly-sought-after-festivities, Mr. Emmanuel Wasswa Kivumbi stated. He added, “for Christians in North America, Boston is the place to be to taste and see the magnificent varieties of worship and praise for the revered Uganda Martyrs,” the UMD chairman said. The UMD publicity secretary Geoffrey Kaweesa couldn’t agree more:  “As a trend-setter, Boston hosted, and continues to attract several Ugandan choirs around the USA to join us for the celebration, he recalled. “The Uganda Martyrs feast in Boston has since become a major catalyst to other states and cities in the USA to organize their own celebrations of the Uganda Martyrs,” Geoffrey Kaweesa, the UMD publicist said.

The new altar that was constructed at the Namugongo Catholic Martyrs Shrine during Pope Francis’ visit to Uganda.

The killing of the young Ugandan Martyrs on account of their faith, originally a localized and dark historical, political, and religious event no one wanted to remember has now evolved into a globalized spiritual feast revered and celebrated by all faithfuls. In Uganda, the feast of the Uganda Martyrs; St. Charles Lwanga and his Companions at Namugongo Martyrs Shrine has become the largest Christian gathering in the country and June 3 is gazatted as a national holiday. Every year, millions of Christians filled with excitement and joy travel in pilgrimage to Namugongo to revisit the roots of the Christian faithful in Uganda. Last year, over one million pilgrims were estimated to have thronged the Namugongo Catholic Shrine to celebrate the feast of the Uganda Martyrs. The pilgrims came from Uganda, neighboring countries including Kenya, Tanzania, Burundi, Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), South Sudan, and South Africa. Others came from as far as France, Canada, Italy, United States, Britain, Austria, and elsewhere.

Pope Paul VI and  Pope John Paul II

What started as a routine act of murder with impunity has over the years effectively turned the global Christian faith movement over its head. The killing of the 22 young Ugandan catholic men between November 1885 and June 1886 was the human sacrifice that resulted in unintended consequences as their martyrdom ignited the flame of Christianity in modern Africa. Pope Paul VI canonized the 22 Uganda Martyrs in 1964. Two other Ugandan martyrs of a later period, Blessed Daudi Okelo and Jildo Irwa, killed at Paimol in 1918, and en route to canonization, were beatified by Pope John Paul II in 2002.  Historical accounts suggest that it had only been a few years since the conversion of the young Martyrs to Christianity yet some of them, some barely teenagers, engaged in prayer, even for their executioners, and sang songs of praise while on the journey to Namugongo where they were murdered. Their actions greatly inspired people who witnessed their bravery, who in turn also converted to Christianity. In a few years, converts had multiplied and spread, subsequently leading to a steady growth of the Christian Faith in Uganda and across the region.

Thousands of Pilgrims line up for security checks at the Namugongo Catholic Martyrs Shrine on Sunday June 3, 2018. The pilgrims start scrambling for positions in the queue as early as 11:00PM a day before the Holy Mass the next day at 10:00AM

Indeed, the courage and determination of the Uganda Martyrs clearly manifests their understanding and demonstration of scripture as Apostle Paul stated: “Faith comes from hearing, that is, hearing the Good News about Christ” [Romans 10:17]; “Faith which is of the heart, of our spirit; faith which is spiritual and not mental. “For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by openly declaring your faith that you are saved” [Roman 10:10]; and “For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires” [Hebrews 4:12].

This year, 55 years since the first 22 Uganda Martyrs were canonized; the celebration of the Martyrs has taken a life of its own; morphing   into an international event to express reverence for the Martyrs’ faith, their courage, and their witness to Christ.

Archbishop Michael August Blume, former Apostolic Nuncio to Uganda and Archbishop Christophe Pierre, Apostolic Nuncio to the United States receiving gifts from the Sisters of faith after they led the Mass to celebrate the feast of Uganda Martyrs at St. Mary’s Parish, Waltham.

Close to home, last year, the Uganda Catholic Community in the Archdiocese of Boston (UCCB) hosted the annual feast of the Uganda Martyrs at the St. Mary’s parish in Waltham. The celebration was graced by His Excellency Archbishop Michael August Blume S.V.D., the former Apostolic Nuncio to Uganda, who was the main celebrant. The celebration was also honored with the presence of His Excellency Archbishop Christophe Pierre, Apostolic Nuncio to the United States. Hundreds of pilgrims including priests, religious, and laity from across the United States, Uganda, and beyond attended the celebration. More pilgrims are expected to attend the feast this year, organizers said.

Standing at the Altar behind Archbishop Michael August Blume are some of the Priests who assisted the prelate as the main celebrant during the 2018 Holy Mass at St. Mary’s parish

Like those who annually journey to Namugongo in Uganda on June 3, Ugandan Catholics in Boston Archdiocese and other pilgrims  who join them at St. Mary’s Parish (‘the Namugongo of Boston’) on the 2nd Sunday of June, savor the opportunity of reflecting on the Faith they share with the Uganda Martyrs. “Since we are the hearts and legs of the Martyrs, let us make the Uganda Martyrs work to make a difference in our community through us,” Dr. David Nnyanzi, the founding chair of UCCB and secretary of the UMD committee told the EADM about the purpose and relevance of celebrating the feast of the Uganda Martyrs by UCCB.

Prof. Aloysius Lugera Mugerwa Muzzanganda and wife Chaplain Mrs. Agnes Lugera

Although Ugandan Catholics in the archdiocese of Boston have celebrated the Feast of Uganda Martyrs as the Ugandan Catholic Community in the Archdiocese of Boston (UCCB) annually and in ever-increasing numbers since 2003, the celebration of Uganda Martyrs’ Day (UMD) in the Archdiocese of Boston is not a new idea, information available to the EADM suggests. In the late 1970s, Dr. Aloysius Lugira, Mrs. Agnes Lugira, Sr. Mary Ndagano, together with other friends, organized a celebration for the Feast Day of the Uganda Martyrs for the first time in Boston, Massachusetts. The Holy Mass was celebrated at the Church of St. John/St. Hugh in Roxbury, renamed Saint Catherine Drexel Church. A side altar of this Church was dedicated to St. Charles Lwanga and companions.

Fr. Dr. Emmanuel Katongole presided over the maiden celebration of the Uganda Martyrs organized by the contemporary UCCB in 2003.

However, since 2003, the contemporary and more dynamic UCCB has organized the Celebration of UMD in Waltham, where the majority of its members reside. Indeed, it was at the now closed St. Joseph Parish in Waltham, where the magnanimous Fr. Jacque Rogers presided as the parish priest, that the first UMD Mass organized by UCCB on Sunday June 1st, 2003 was held. The inaugural UMD mass was presided over by Fr. Dr. Emmanuel Katongole.

Since then, the UCCB-organized UMD celebration has never looked back. Rather, it has grown, both spiritually and in more other ways, from strength to strength. The 2003 feast propagated a vibrant growth in attendance and the Celebration has since attracted catholic faithfuls from all over the USA and other parts of the world to join ‘The Boston Martyrs’ Day Celebration.

The congregation during the 2018 solemn mass organized by the UCCB-UMD at the St. Mary’s parish in Waltham.

More importantly, the celebration of the feast of the Uganda Martyrs lent itself as a unifying and rallying point around which future programs of the Uganda Catholic Community in the Archdiocese of Boston (UCCB) would revolve. As a faith-based community, nothing offered the UCCB more ‘spiritual capital’ than the feast of the Uganda Martyrs as a strong foundation on which the constitutional formation, growth, and development of the community would be built and strengthened. “The UMD was and remains the center and heartbeat of UCCB; no other Ugandan Diaspora event compares with the Uganda Martyrs feast,” Dr. David Nnyanzi, secretary to the UMD organizing committee told the EADM in an interview. It was hard to disagree with him.

Who said priests don’t dance? Here, visiting priests (Fathers) from Uganda took to the floor to showcase their dancing strokes in response to the irresistible sounds of the traditional Kiganda bakisimba beat during the banquet at the Marriot hotel last year.

In addition to the feast of the Uganda Martyrs as an irresistible catalyst towards the formation of the UCCB, inherent in the feast of the Martyrs was the lay apostolic choir and the key role it played and continues to play. The membership of the lay apostolic choir boasted some of the most talented composers, directors, conductors, and singing voices in Uganda who had migrated and settled in the Boston archdiocese. Veteran composer and choir administrator Augustine Kabaalu now chair of the UCCB St. Mary’s choir together with outstanding choir director Michael Mukisa, and a host of gifted vocalists later joined by composer George Sebutinde have transformed the choir into a dynamic spiritual conveyor belt that transports worshippers, pilgrims, and faithfuls to higher realms that are only uniquely and individually experienced and testified.

Standing at the Altar before the pilgrims after presiding over the 2018 Holy Mass, Archbishop Michael August Blume, former Apostolic Nuncio to Uganda and Archbishop Christophe Pierre, Apostolic Nuncio to the United States greet the congregation.

During the subsequent years, unfolding events within the now vibrant UCCB and among the community members attested to the growth of the community and an increasing need to formalize its existence as an ethnic church ministry in the Archdiocese of Boston became increasingly exigent. But first, information available to the EADM suggests that an urgent and major problem had emerged and needed quick and practical solutions to resolve. After the closure of St. Joseph’s Parish in early 2004, the UCCB community needed a new home. And as luck would have it, the community found a new home at Sacred Heart Parish, also in Waltham, where  Fr Dennis J. Wheatley, O.F.M., and his Pastoral Assistant Br. Damian J. Johnson, O.F.M., welcomed the UCCB community and shepherded it for the next four years; 2004 to 2008. “The UCCB will forever be grateful to them and all the parishioners for providing the community a home of prayer,” an article in the 2018 program booklet said.

A cross-section of the congregation during the 2018 Holy Mass to celebrate the Uganda Martyrs feast at St Mary’s parish.

But the good problem of growth and development could not allow the UCCB to rest on its laurels. The burgeoning UCCB membership coupled with the increasing participation in the community-led activities, pressure on the available space at Sacred Heart for rehearsals and other special functions or gatherings mounted. Inevitably, the community moved to seek a more spacious home of prayer. To the community’s delight, St. Mary’s Parish, also in Waltham, answered the call.  UCCB records available to EADM show that Fr. Michael Nolan, the Parish Priest welcomed the UCCB enthusiastically and has shepherded the UCCB family for the past 10 years; 2008-present. Apparently, “the UCCB is eluded by words to express its gratitude to Fr. Michael Nolan, who, together with all the Parishioners of St. Mary’s Parish, have spiritually nourished and poured out his love to UCCB member’s to-date,” the UCCB records indicate.

Former Chaplain of the UCCB Fr. Michael Senfuma joined other guests for the sumptuous dinner to mark the feast of the Uganda Martyrs at the Marriott hotel last year.

Previously, however, by 2005, the existence and operations of the dynamic UCCB as an unconstitutional entity lacking formal leadership, and other structures, was becoming increasingly untenable. Thus, in 2005, the community of Catholic Christians of Ugandan origin in the   Catholic diocese of Boston, Accepting that each and every one of them had been chosen by God to be a worker in His vineyard and a builder of His kingdom on earth, came together and ratified a new constitution that formalized the UCCB and provided a campus that has guided all its programs and activities to date.

Some members of the first-ever UCCB executive elected after the 2005 constitution was ratified. Dr. David Nnyanzi was the founding chair of the UCCB executive under the new constitution.

The UCCB constitution is mindful that the family is the domestic Church where faith is first caught and taught. Believing that God is already at work among them and within the global fellowship of the Roman Catholic Church; Entrusting itself to the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the holy Martyrs of Uganda, the UCCB espouses a vision of a “united, lively, thriving, loving, and caring community of Christians walking together on their shared journey of faith, according to the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church.” It envisions “a family of believers boldly professing, openly celebrating, and clearly living out their Catholic faith together with the local community of the Archdiocese of Boston, enriched by their Ugandan Catholic experience; and ready and willing to promote general and specific self-improvement among its members.”

UCCB children dressed in red and yellow entertaining guests during the 2018 dinner at the Marriott hotel.

To that end, the UCCB set itself a mission “to foster unity among Catholic Christians of Ugandan origin, their families, and their friends and to engender a keen and dynamic sense of belonging, fraternity and solidarity among her members, their families, supporters, and friends.” In addition, the UCCB seeks to “ensure that the unity of the UCCB is a springboard for evangelization, and charitable outreach within the Archdiocese of Boston and beyond; and to explore and support ways that enhance the socio-economic, educational and professional development needs of her members.” Doubtlessly, this is still a work in progress.

Some of the pilgrims during the 2018 solemn mass at the St. Mary’s parish in Waltham

Among others, the objectives of the UCCB include, but are not limited to “gathering regularly to pray, celebrate the holy sacraments, share love with one another and strengthen fellowship that transcends tribal, ethnic, gender, age and/or generational differences; to harness the different gifts, talents, energies, efforts, and ministries among the members; and to  support and be a voice for the voiceless, the sick and afflicted, prisoners, as well as weakened and alienated believers within the community and beyond.” Inevitably, the 2005 UCCB constitution was amended in 2012 to provide for changing demands and opportunities in the community.

Children & the 2018 ‘Martyrs’ during the Holy Mass at the St. Mary’s parish in Waltham, Massachusetts.

Evidently, factors that inspired the historical formation of the UCCB and the ensuing ratification of the 2005 constitution could not and cannot be separated from the aspirations to capture the spiritual significance of the celebration of the feast of the Uganda Martyrs within and among the Roman Catholics of Ugandan origin living within the Archdiocese of Boston. In that vein, to state that the UCCB and the celebration of the feast of the Uganda Martyrs are conjoined twins; inextricably linked and decidedly inseparable is more than just obvious.

Archbishop Michael August Blume, former Apostolic Nuncio to Uganda and Archbishop Christophe Pierre, Apostolic Nuncio to the United States standing at the Altar with the priests who assisted them during the Holy Mass. The men of God are standing before the congregation at St. Mary’s Parish, Waltham last year.

Since 2004, for example, the UCCB has been blessed with a visiting Bishop, mainly from Uganda each year to preside over the celebration of the Uganda Martyrs in Boston. Primarily, the visiting Bishop offers pastoral nourishment to the faithful of UCCB. The visits are revered times of grace and blessings. Indeed, UCCB records suggest that “grace and blessings have been demonstrated by the growing numbers in the sacraments of baptism and matrimony; religious men and women who give their life to serve God and His people; participation and enthusiasm in the number of people attending Mass; and commitment to faith-based groups such as the Legion of Mary, Catholic Charismatic Renewal, Musical Choirs, UCCB Committees, the Knights of Columbus, and others.” What is typical in all the blessings is that the increased participation has resulted in members getting devoted to leading the faithful during prayers, rosary reciting and Mass, the records indicate. In 2017, for example, a member of the UCCB was ordained a priest, a joyous and jubilant moment it was for UCCB! More blessings are on the way!

Bishop Emeritus Albert Baharagate; Cardinal Sean O’Malley; Cardinal Emeritus Emmanuel Wamala

The abundance of grace and overflowing blessings were demonstrated with the first-ever Bishop from Uganda to preside over celebration of the feast of the Uganda Martyrs in Boston. Rt. Rev. Bishop Emeritus of Hoima Albert Baharagate was the first primate to grace the Uganda Martyrs feast on Sunday June 6th, 2004 at the   Sacred Heart Parish Waltham. In 2005, perhaps as a demonstration of his acknowledgement of the UCCB existence and in support of its service to Christ’s Church, His Eminence Sean Cardinal O'Malley, Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Boston graced the celebration of the feast of the Uganda Martyrs as the main celebrant during mass on Sunday June 26th at the Sacred Heart Parish Waltham. Indeed, this was a ringing endorsement of the UCCB as a faith-based community joining hands with the archdiocese to strengthen and grow the work of the church. For the next two consecutive years, the Sacred Heart Parish Waltham continued to host the feast of the Uganda Martyrs presided over by  Bishop Emeritus Mathias Ssekamanya of Lugazi Diocese, the then Chairman of the Ugandan Conference of Catholic Bishops on Sunday June 25,  2006 and  Archbishop Emeritus, His Eminence Emmanuel Cardinal Wamala   on Sunday June 17, 2007 respectively.

The 2018 ‘Martyrs’ during the mass to celebrate the feast of the Uganda Martyrs at St. Mary’s parish. The ‘living Martyrs’ are wearing the traditional Kiganda men attire air (Kanzu) and barkcloth.

Since 2009, all the subsequent Masses to celebrate the feast of the Uganda Martyrs have been held at the St. Mary’s parish in Waltham. Except for 2018, all the main celebrants at the respective Masses for the Uganda Martyrs were bishops from Uganda. They include Bishop Paul Ssemwogerere of  Kasana Luweero  who presided  in 2009; His Grace Archbishop Cyprian Kizito Lwanga, Archbishop of Kampala            Archdiocese   in 2010;  Bishop Callistus Rubaramira of Kabale Diocese   in 2011;Bishop Egidio Nkaijanabwo of Kasese Diocese in 2012; Bishop Charles Wamika of Jinja Diocese in 2013 and Bishop John Baptist Kaggwa of Masaka Diocese in 2014.

Archbishop Michael August Blume and Archbishop Christophe Pierre seated with Priests & Knights of Columbus outside the St. Mary’s parish church after the Holy mass.

Other Ugandan Bishops who have led Masses at celebrations of the feast of Uganda Martyrs  were  Bishop Joseph Zziwa of  Kiyinda Mityana Diocese in 2015; His Grace Archbishop Emmanuel Obbo, Archbishop of Tororo Archdiocese and Co-celebrant Bishop Victor H. Phalana from the Diocese of Klerksdorp South Africa in 2016; and Bishop Robert K. Muhiirwa of Fort Portal Diocese in 2017. Last year, the main celebrants at the feast of the Uganda Martyrs, two non-Ugandan primates; Archbishop Michael August Blume, former Apostolic Nuncio to Uganda and Archbishop Christophe Pierre, Apostolic Nuncio to the United States presided over the Mass; a clear sign that the Namugongo of Boston is surely emerging as an international feast of measurable traction. You can’t begrudge them!

FLASHBACK: One of the colorful images from the 2016 UCCB organized Uganda Martyrs celebration in Boston.

But all UCCB programs and activities could never have been successful had the community constitution not put in place a formal leadership structure to undertake the day-to-day operations of the UCCB. For that purpose, there are eight leadership organs, elected by members to offer leadership in the execution of the community activities and programs as agreed upon by the members. Serving in all position of leaderships is voluntary. The eight organs include the general assembly; the board of directors; the executive committee; the leadership council; the standing committees; and the small Christian Communities (Bubondo). Speaking of accountability and checks and balance and there you have it!  Those leadership organs are complemented by the offices of the parish priest/pastor and of the chaplain that are not subject to elections. Because the “UCCB functions under the pastoral care and spiritual stewardship of a Parish Priest (s) / Pastor(s) and chaplain within the Archdiocese of Boston, the two perform functions, within the UCCB, as designated by the appointing authority, and/or as a natural appreciation of their priestly ministry, and particular circumstances of the Community.”

Some of the UCCB youths, the Carolines” perform the traditional kiganda dance for the guests at the 2018 banquet held at the Matriott hotel.

To ensure relevance and cohesion in the community, the UCCB also provides for nine specialized Standing Committees charged with tasks consistent with their designation. The committees include those devoted to Prayer, Worship, and Liturgy; Vocations to Marriage, Priesthood and Religious Life; Youth and Young Adults Ministry; Religious Education, Faith Formation, & Evangelization; Life Skills Counseling and Guidance, and Pastoral Care. Other committees are devoted to Social Welfare, and Charity; Women’s Ministry; Men’s Ministry; and Culture, Entertainment, and Recreation. The constitution also provides for the creation of additional standing committees by the General Assembly of UCCB as needed. Apparently, nobody is left behind!

Viewed from an elevated position is A cross-section of the congregation during the 2018 Holy Mass to celebrate the feast of the Uganda Martyrs at the St. Mary’s parish in Waltham.

Hinged on the core values and philosophy of the Roman Catholic faith, the UCCB constitution has ensured that all members “breathe the same air and speak the same language, a spirit that has ensured that UCCB’s mission, vision, core values and philosophy are engrained in the members’ DNA” And as the 2019 feast of the Uganda Martyrs draws nearer, collectively, UCCB is relentlessly “giving glory to God through Christ Jesus for the faith of the Uganda Martyrs’ and their intercession for the Community.” The UCCB, therefore, “embraces all the blessings bestowed on its membership and continues to emulate the Faith of the Uganda Martyrs.” 

Some of the Priests who assisted the main celebrants during the 2018 Holy Mass at St. Mary’s parish standing behind Archbishop Michael August Blume, former Apostolic Nuncio to Uganda at the altar

Clearly, the long spiritual journey the UCCB embarked on years ago has not been without divine helpers. The community has been blessed to work with anointed priests who have blessed   it with pastoral care. These men of God include, among others, Fr. Emmanuel Mwerekande, Fr. Dr. Odomaro Mubangizi, Fr. Leonard Kayondo, Fr. Paul Muyimbwa, Fr. Emmanuel Rutangutsa, the late Fr. Richard Bitalo, Fr. Stephen Kiggundu, Fr. Peter Kaboggoza, and Fr. Joseph Kayongo. Others who have impacted the UCCB members in spiritual and other ways include Fr. David Martin Ssentamu who served as the UCCB Chaplain for over five years and Fr. Michael Ssenfuma, who served the community tirelessly until last year when he was transferred and replaced by the current chaplain Fr. Charles Mulindwa.

The 2018 UMD organizing committee.

Come, witness, reflect, and live out the Faith you share with the Uganda Martyrs. For now, the message from the UMD and the UCCB is this: Saddle up your horses. You’ve got a trail to blaze, and a June 9 ride to rock! It is your moment to claim!

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