By Jacinta W. Odongo, Media Officer, Uganda Episcopal Conference
With exactly five months to go to 2017 Uganda Martyrs Day celebration at Namugongo Catholic Shrine, Rt. Rev. Vincent Kirabo, the Bishop of Hoima Diocese has announced the theme for this year’s event due June 3rd.
“Stand Firm in the Faith That You Have Been Taught,” is the theme chosen by Bishop Kirabo. The theme, which has been extracted from the Book of Colossians 2:7, was officially unveiled on New Year’s Day, January 1, 2017 during the annual Diocesan Marian Pilgrimage in Masindi Vicariate. The Diocese of Hoima will animate the 2017 Uganda Martyrs celebration on behalf of Mbarara Ecclesiastical province.
According to the chairperson of the Organizing Committee at Diocesan level for the 2017 Martyrs Day celebration, Dr. Emmanuel Kiiza Aliba, also the Executive Secretary of the Justice and Peace Department of the Uganda Episcopal Conference, the theme calls for a stronger witness in Christ from the faithful.
“This theme calls us to be stronger witnesses in our faith, our personal lives, families, places of work and areas where we go for leisure among other things,” he said. “The Bishop believes we are stronger in our faith because we have celebrated a centenary of evangelization in more than five parishes in our diocese. Besides, we will be celebrating 52 years of existence this year as a diocese so we are very mature in our faith and what we need to do is to deepen the gospel.”
The annual celebration commemorates the heroic faith of the 45 Martyrs, both Catholic and Anglican, who were burnt to death following the orders of Kabaka Mwanga II, the then king of Buganda between 1885 and 1887. Twenty-two Catholic Martyrs were beatified on June 6, 1920, by Pope Benedict XV, and on October 18 1964, Pope Paul VI canonized them as Saints.
In addition to the 22 Catholic Martyrs, there are two Catechists from Paimol: Blessed Daudi Okello and Blessed Jildo Irwa who were killed in 1918. The two Catechists were beatified by St. Pope John Paul II on October 20, 2002.
Of the 22 Martyrs who were canonized, two of them, St. Andrew Kaggwa and St. Anatoli Kiriggwajjo hail from Hoima Diocese.
Meanwhile, the Bishop of Hoima has also released a special prayer (novena) dedicated to the Uganda Martyrs. The prayer is intended to pray for the success of the June 3rd celebrations and for the intentions of all the pilgrims who will attend the 2017 celebration.
Bishop Kirabo has encouraged all the Catholic faithful across the country to observe this novena by reciting a short prayer then say Our Father, Hail Mary and Glory Be to the Father prayers as well as invoke the Uganda Martyrs at the end. Special prayer cards in both English and the local language of the people of Hoima, Runyooro, have also been released.
The preparations and the actual celebration have been estimated to a cost of at least ($142,857) an equivalent of 500 Ugandan shillings. Hoima Diocese last presided over the Martyrs Day celebrations in 2001.