Thousands of believers on Sunday, March 3, 2024 gathered to celebrate the gift of life and priesthood of Rev. Fr. Gaetano Batanyenda, a renowned Priest at Our lady of Blessed Sacrament Kitanga parish. Fr. Gaetano celebrated 50 years in priesthood and 80 years of age, with Mass presided over by Msgr. John Vianney Sunday, Vicar General of Kabale Diocese. In his homily, Msgr. John Vianney said there were all reasons to thank God for the gift of priesthood and the servants who work in his vineyard. We congratulate you upon this journey and pray that God strengthens you in your ministry. ‘In your service, not all has gone on smoothly, there could be some things that didn’t. There are moments when we think everything is gone, sometimes we meet challenges and think we can’t maneuver. But God says: I am the Lord your God who brought you out of Egypt as we read from Exodus 20:1’.

God is always merciful to us, but we also make an effort to come closer to him and let him know our challenges. Our God is a jealousy God. The 10 commandments as we know them are meant to keep us on right track with God and neighbor. Whenever we are close to God, he purifies us, and when we are purified, he remains in us. God invites us to purify our temples because our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit – Msgr. John Vianney Sunday.

Msgr. John Vianney Sunday leading Mass

Msgr. John Vianney said the Jews made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem once a year and Jesus also goes to Jerusalem, but when he entered the temple, he finds the temple defiled with many impurities. He cleanses it and chases away those that defiled it. We too when we sin, we defiled our bodies, which are a house of God. In this Lenten season, let us remove all those that have defiled our bodies, the temple of God. He said the temple is a place where we meet our God, and asked what people nowadays do in the house of God. Some are on phone, Facebook, WhatsApp and others are also in meeting with God. These distractions also defile this temple of God. We need to cleanse ourselves of this too and give time to God when we go into his house, said Msgr. Sunday Vianney.

Fr. Marius Byamukama, the Parish Priest of Kitanga Parish and dean Kitanga deanery also thanked Fr. Gaetano for mentoring him. He said he has working with him for the last six years and has helped him master the art of leadership, by bringing together all religious denominations in Rukiga towards working together as same people of God. The chairman parish council of Kitanga Parish said the purpose of the function was to thank Fr. Gaetano for the ministerial service in the last 32 years he has served Kitanga parish as parish priest. It was also to officially welcome Fr. Marius as the new parish priest of Kitanga, having been mentored by Fr. Gaetano for the last 6 years. All the proceedings will go to the completion of Parish offices. The parish gifted their priests.

Mr. Pizzi Antonio, an Italian volunteer under the pastoral care of the Comboni Missionaries, recounted meeting Rev. Fr. Batanyenda in September 1983. Later on, Fr. Batanyenda appealed for help in establishing a health unit at Kitanga Catholic Parish to extend health services to the local population which is fully functional. With the aid of the Italian donors, the parish succeeded in establishing a Health Centre III which is fully functioning. Mr. Antonio delivered the Apostolic Blessing from Pope Francis to Fr. Gaetano Batanyenda which was handed over to him by Msgr John Vianney Sunday, Vicar General Kabale Diocese. Another Benefactor of Kitanga Parish, Mr. Franco and his wife Patricia from Italy donated a projector with its accessories to Kitanga Parish choir.

A number of people spoke about Fr. Gaetano Batanyenda as a man who not only spread the Gospel but also instilled a culture of saving among the people especially his championing the establishment of Rukiga SACCO. Mzee Musinguzi James Garuga proprietor of Kigezi Highland Tea said he witnessed the ordination of Fr. Gaetano at Makiro parish in 1976. He thanked Fr. Gaetano for spearheading the fight against corruption in the country. Dr. Sylivia Arinaitwe, Deputy Managing Director of National Water and Sewerage Corporation talked about Fr. Gaetano as hardworking priest, who loves development. She came to know him when he was curate at Makiro parish. She contributed 23 m to purchase office stationery and computers for the parish offices. Other dignitaries present at the thanksgiving were Hon. Roland Ndyomugyenyi Biss (MP Rukiga County), Hon Kamusiime Carline Muhwezi (Woman MP Rukiga), Mr. Robert Kakwerere (Chairperson L.C. 5 Rukiga), Mr. Tumukwasiibwe Nicodemus Odo (Chairman Laity Kabale Diocese),  Mzee Peter Niwagaba (renowned businessman in Kabale town) among others.

Hon. Wilfred Niwagaba, MP for Ndorwa East while speaking as chief guest thanked Fr. God for the life of Fr. Gaetano Batanyenda and the many gifts he endowed him with. He thanked Fr. Gaetano for using his talents as God gave them to him and highlighted the notable gap left by the absence of clergy to fill the shoes of Fr. Gaetano by advocating for the rights of Ugandans especially in the fight against the vice of corruption. He rallied the religious leaders to always exercise their rights and defend the rights of the less privileged since they are the moral brain of the society.

In his remarks, Fr. Gaetano thanked God for the gift of life for 80 years and 50 years as a priest. He thanked Fr. Marius for the organization and all the people who participated in preparations for a successful function. Fr. Gaetano said that in the 50 years as a priest, he has served in only three parishes of Makiro, Rushoroza and Kitanga. He thanked all the people who have supported him throughout his life and in special way, thanked Fr. Marius for taking care of him when he was sick and admitted at Nsambya hospital. Fr. Gaetano said the proceedings from the thanksgiving would help in completion of the parish offices whereby a renowned lawyer Kiconco Patrick Katabazi contributed 100 bags of cement and thanked Fr. Gaetano Batanyenda for developing Kitanga and making it a model parish.

Fr. Gaetano Batanyenda giving a speech during his thanksgiving ceremony of 50 years in priesthood

Fr. Gaetano requested parishioners of Kitanga to continue cooperating with parish leadership for the development of their parish. Fr. Gaetano said that since he has officially retired from active ministry, he decided to hand over all his Italian benefactors and friends and connected them to Kitanga Parish to continue supporting it in various ways. He said he shared with the Bishop and requested to remain in Kitanga even after retirement, a request which the Bishop granted.

Rev. Fr. Batanyenda was born on December 24, 1944, to Anantoli Tabwendero (who was a catechist) and Enfrazia Nyakweshe in Makiro parish, then under the pastoral care of the Comboni Missionaries. He is the first born in the family of 8 children, others being Nyansio Tabaro (RIP), Anyensi Ntambirweki (RIP), Teodoro Icabananura (RIP), Rapahel Barihemura (RIP), Clement Beyendera, Didacus Tumuhairwe and Julian Kyenderesire.

He began his primary education at Rutenga Primary School in Rutenga sub-county, Kanungu district, in 1957.  In 1965, he joined St. Paul’s Seminary, Kabale  for secondary education where he begun his journey to priesthood. in 1969, he joined Katigondo National Major Seminary for Philosophical Studies and in 1972, he went to Ggaba National Seminary for Theological Studies after which he was ordained a priest on August 15, 1976 by Rt. Rev. Barnabas R. Halem’Imana. After his ordination to priesthood, Fr. Gaetano Batanyenda served in his home Parish Makiro for seven years as a curate with the Comboni missionaries. in 1982, Fr. Gaetano was appointed to Rushoroza Cathedral Parish as Parish priest and in 1990, he was appointed to Kitanga Parish first as curate (for two years) and later and Parish Priest for 32 years.

In Kitanga parish, he renovated the parish church and presbytery which were built by Fr. Ubaldo Torelli, the founder of Kitanga Mission in 1935. Fr. Gaetano also founded and built St. Cleria Nursery & Primary School which is the best performing primary school in Rukiga district. He also promoted health through equipping and restructuring Kitanga Health Centre III. He also set up income generating projects e.g tea estates, tree planting, grain milling, welding, carpentry, tailoring and a printing unit. He promoted advocacy for human rights bye fronting the fight against corruption among others.

Congratulations to you Fr. Gaetano and long live.

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