200 pilgrims who trekked the  400km distance from Kabale Diocese have today arrive at Uganda Martyrs’ Shrine Namugongo in Kampala Archdiocese. The pilgrims set off on Sunday, May 21, 2023  at 5:00am. The pilgrims from Kisoro, Rubanda, Kabale and Rukiga districts had assembled at Kabale Diocesan headquarters on Saturday and  had Holy Mass led by Rev. Fr. Lubein Mubangizi in Our Lady of Good Shepherd Rushoroza Cathedral.

Walking pilgrims negotiating the hills of Kabalaga in Kabale district

One of the pilgrims, Ms. Ayebare Bibiana who is the General Secretary for foot pilgrims decided to travel from Kampala to Kabale in order to join her colleagues who were walking.  In Kabale Diocese, pilgrimage by walking started in 2009 when Kabale Diocese was animating the Martyrs Day celebrations. They were only 13 in number but this year, they are 200.

Ms. Bibiana narrated that their long journey always starts on every 18th day of May from Kisoro at the Uganda – Congo boarder in Kinanira Parish and move to Uganda -Rwanda boarder in Gisoro Town Parish where they pray for peace between these countries. They then proceed to Kabale Diocesan Head quarters at Rushoroza, from where they  start their 10-day journey up to Namugongo (from 21st to 31st of May).

The journey is always long and looks unrealistic to some people, but if Jesus died for us and the Uganda Martyrs could die for the Christian faith, then why would we not give ourselves to God and sacrifice ourselves? – Ms. Bibiana Ayebare.

The celebration of Uganda Martyrs’ day is rotational in the 19 Dioceses of Uganda. This year’s celebrations are led by the Catholic Diocese of Jinja under the theme: “Lord, Increase our Faith” extracted from Luke 17: 5.

The annual celebration was set aside in honor of the martyrdom on the orders of Kabaka Mwanga II, the then King of Buganda. The Uganda Martyrs were killed between 1885 and 1887 for converting to Christianity. The first Uganda Martyr was Joseph Mukasa Balikudembe who was killed on November 15, 1885 at the present day St. Balikudembe market (Owino market) and the last one to die was Yohanna Maria Muzeeyi who was murdered on  January 27, 1887.

The 22 Martyrs of Namugongo were canonized by Pope Paul VI in Vatican in October 1964 and in 1969, he came to Uganda, the land of martyrs. Besides these 22, other two martyrs namely Daudi Okello and Jildo Irwa, young catechists were also killed for failure to renounce the religion they had just been taught at Paimol in Gulu Archdiocese. These two were beatified by Pope John Paul II in 2002.

The Holy Martyrs of Uganda, pray for us!

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