Christians have been called upon to stir up the faith which they received. This call was made by Rt. Rev. Callist Rubaramira, Bishop of Kabale Diocese while preaching during Mass to celebrate 100 years of existence of Rushoroza Cathedral Parish on Sunday, January 7, 2024 at Rushoroza Hill. Bishop Callist thanked all those who prepared for the celebration of the centenary and in a special way, he thanked those who brought the Catholic Faith in Kigezi. Yohana Kitagana was cited by the Bishop as the first lay missionary to arrive, having been sent by Bishop Henri Streicher, the then Bishop of Nyanza Vicariate. He also thanked the Missionaries of Africa, Comboni Missionaries, and the indigenous priests plus the religious men and women who served in Rushoroza Cathedral Parish in the last 100 years. In a special way, Bishop Callist thanked the Legionaries of Mary for the apostolate done in the past 100 hundred years and recognized the efforts of the late Pio Kyaruhama whose family was represented by Madam Alinemary Kemerwa, Deputy Head of Mission of Uganda in Italy.
Bishop Callist urged the Parishioners of Rushoroza and all the people of God to stir up the faith which they received at baptism as St. Paul urges his spiritual son Timothy (2 Tim 1:6). He requested the Parish priest and team to continue the work of evangelization and apostolate of visiting people.
As people of God, you are urged to be near Jesus so that you enjoy his warmth of love, and after receiving this warmth, you must take it to others too. Let this celebration be an opportunity for us to reignite the flame of the divine gifts bestowed upon us – Rt. Rev. Callist Rubaramira.
In his remarks, H.E Luigi Bianco, the Papal Nuncio to Uganda thanked the parishioners of Rushoroza and congratulated them upon making 100 years in faith as a parish. he delivered an Apostolic Blessing from His Holiness Pope Francis to the Parishioners of Rushoroza Cathedral.
H.E Gen. Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, President of the Republic of Uganda in his message delivered by the Vice President, H.E. Rtd. Major Jesca Alupo thanked the Catholic Church for socio-economic transformation in Kigezi. President Yoweri Museveni praised the missionaries for their transformative impact on societies and their enduring inspiration for churches to pursue development agendas. The missionaries have played a crucial role in transforming societies, and their influence continues to inspire churches to contribute to development. The president also urged the Church leaders should join hands with the government to fight poverty and contribute to the development of the nation. President Museveni contributed shs50 million towards renovation of Rushoroza Cathedral
HISTORY OF RUSHOROZA PARISH
The history of Rushoroza Parish stems back to the times of Bishop Henri Streicher (Stensera).
Bishop Henri Streicher “Stensera” (1863-1952)
Henri Streicher was an important Catholic missionary bishop in Africa, who was instrumental in obtaining the first African Catholic priests and the first African Catholic bishop of modern times. Adrian Hastings, calls him “the greatest missionary of the twentieth century.” Streicher was born at Wasselonne in Catholic Alsace on July 29, 1863. He joined the Society of Missionaries of Africa (White Fathers) and was ordained priest in September 1887. His first appointment was to teach Church History and Bible for two years and this early experience of seminary teaching convinced him of the importance of training an African indigenous priesthood, a conviction that was shared by other missionaries in Uganda.
Streicher was appointed to the Victoria Nyanza mission in 1890 and after his arrival in 1891; he was posted to Buddu in the southern part of Buganda kingdom. Streicher, who was called “Stensera” by the Ganda, founded the mission station of Villa Maria. In 1894 the Victoria Nyanza mission was divided into three. John Joseph Hirth, former bishop of the whole region, was given Southern Nyanza. Since the Missionaries of Africa were French-speaking, and most of them French nationals, the English Catholic Mill Hill Missionaries were given the eastern portion, designated “Upper Nile.” The remainder was designated “Northern Nyanza” and entrusted to Bishop A. Guillermain, who appointed Streicher to Rubaga in the Ugandan capital. Bishop Guillermain died in 1896 and Streicher was nominated his successor the following year, receiving episcopal ordination from Bishop Hirth on August 15, 1897 at Bukumbi, in present day Tanzania.
Streicher was bishop of Northern Nyanza for thirty six years, and made Villa Maria (in the present Masaka Diocese) his headquarters. Streicher’s diocese covered the whole southern and western portion of modern Uganda. The evangelization of the western Nyoro and Toro kingdoms had already been started by his predecessor (Bishop Guillermain). In 1901 he commenced work in Ankole, and twenty years later in Kigezi. When he took over the diocese, there were 30,000 baptized Christians
YOHANA KITAGANA: First Christian missionary in Kigezi (1858-1939).
The very first Christian missionary to arrive in Kigezi was a Muganda catechist Yohana (Yowana) Kitagana. He was born around 1858 and as any other young Muganda of the time, he married young and practiced polygamy. As an auxiliary to a chief called Madzi, Kitagana had amased a small fortune and was esteemed for his success and these qualities would later help him in the service of the Gospel. When Fr. Lourdel and team arrived in 1879, Kitagana was in his twenties. He was baptized at Kisubi in 1896 (in his mid thirties) and took on the Christian name Yohana (John). Following his radical and spectacular conversion, he became an Apostle of the Rwenzori by setting free his wives. He was sent by Bishop Streicher (who was the Apostolic Vicar of Victoria Nyanza Vicariate) to work in Mitala Maria (in the present Masaka Diocese), then in Hoima and later in Ankole (at Mbarara in Bunyaruguru). Kitagana’s saintliness impressed all who knew him.
In 1910, Bishop Streicher sent Yohana Kitagana who was by then in Bunyaruguru to Nyarushanje in Kigezi in to join Ssebalija, a Muganda chief who was already there. It is said that 1911 he accompanied Bishop Streicher on a preliminary survey of Kigezi. Kitagana established the first mission post near the residence of Ssebalija in Nyarushanje and started preaching the Catholic faith in the region. He later moved from Nyarushanje and on his way to Kabale, he arrived at Nyakiju in a village called Kiniogo where he established the very first church. He proceeded to Makanga (present location of Lukiiko hall), but the colonial government told him to look for another place. He moved down, passed through Kikungiri and in 1912, he arrived at Rushoroza, a place which Fr. Le Tohic had already started visiting from Kitabi, Nyamitanga in Ankole. Fr. Etchevery writes: “we spent 22 days in the vicinity of Kabale. A small church had been built on the ‘boma’, but we heard that the land was already reserved for colonial administration. In fact, it was Rushoroza that had been chosen as the place for the new mission”.
Kitagana built a small church at Rushoroza and taught the people with great care about the catholic faith. He was locally named “Mureju” because of the long beard he kept. He was a wonderful man, faith-filled, unreserved in his apostolic zeal, very ascetic in lifestyle and loved the people he was working among especially children, the needy and the sick whom he treated with local herbs. He cherished prayer, for the rosary never left his hand and was devoted to the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Uganda Martyrs. He converted many to Christianity. He respected government and civil authorities that he merited a British medal of George V. He was however very careful not to be seen as an agent of colonization. Other catechists who worked with Kitagana included Augustino Kapere, Matayo Kayonza, Yozefu Lwanga, Rafael Kabakure, Antonio Munwaza and Athanasi Nalugumbula.
Establishment of Rushoroza as First Mission in Kigezi
Much of the work was done by the forerunners (catechists). The first mission only opened at Rushoroza in 1923. It was on November 1, 1923 that Bishop Streicher announced the foundation of a new mission of Kabale at Rushoroza under the protection of Our Lady of the Good Shepherd. Three missionaries, Fr. Laane, Fr. Nicolet and Brother Theophile arrived at Rushoroza. Kitagana was the happiest person as his great desire and dream had been realized. He felt his labours rewarded. The missionaries found already a strong, beautiful Christian community and thousands of catechumens. They started off with the work of evangelization.
- The first infant baptism in Rushoroza Parish had been carried out on January 1, 1923 by Fr. Goulet. The first to be baptized was Bahemurana Maria Yozefina (11 years), daughter of Cyprian Mabundu and Veronika Kanyuru from Buhara.
- Adult Baptism was carried out on December 3, 1923 when Mirama Zaverio, son of Yakobo and Ssekate from Rushoroza and other 61 candidates were baptized by Fr. Laane.
- The first Marriage was celebrated on November 11, 1923 when Karebe Stefano (24 years) from Mparo wedded Babirisaki Mangadalena (21 years) from Nyarushanje with Fr. Nicolet as the main celebrant.
The missionaries built up the fathers’ house, a kitchen and a chapel to Our Lady, a school quarters for the catechumens and a carpentry workshop. The first brick church was put up in 1925. They also put a small dispensary which supplemented Kitagana’s healing ministry. This dispensary later grew into the now called Our Lady of Good Health Rushoroza Hospital. All these developments were possible of course with the cooperation of the people of Rushoroza. From Rushoroza, the missionaries would also get opportunities to visit some parts of Rukiga and Bufumbira to administer the sacraments assisted greatly by the catechists.
Having reached beyond 60 years of age, Yohana Kitagana didn’t want to cease working. After the White Fathers had arrived at Rushoroza, he wished to start another foundation at Kidwa on shores of lake Mutanda. He was accompanied by another valiant catechist, Augustine Kapere and states their journey at the beginning of 1924. While Kapere assured ordinary work in their new place of evangelization, Kitagana as usual undertook the visitation of beautiful villages so as to locate centres more appropriate to start as new sub-stations in future. Many times, Fr. Nicolet came from Rushoroza to inquire about possibilities of the new mission. During his visits with Kitagana, he found that Kidwa was not ideal for future mission and they opted for the hill of Mutolere and was opened in 1929 with Fr. Nicolet, Fr. Klep and Brother Simon.
Kitagana now returned to Kabale (Rushoroza) and lived a quasi monastic life because of advanced age. Every morning, he would attend Mass and on July 27, 1939, after receiving the anointing of the sick, he breathed his last and was buried in Rushoroza cemetery. May God reward all his efforts with eternal life.
Rushoroza Parish became a Cathedral Parish in 1966 when Kabale Diocese was erected having been curved from the greater Mbarara vicariate. It is called Cathedral Parish because it houses the seat of the Bishop called Cathedra.
Congratulations To Our Lady of Good Shepherd Rushoroza Cathedral Parish.