Ugandan martyrs are remembered - Catholic Courier

Ugandan martyrs are remembered

Just for accepting a triune God, at least 22 Catholic converts were killed during persecutions by King Mwanga II in Uganda from 1885 to 1887, said Father John Orenge Omboga, an extern priest living at Our Lady of Lourdes in Brighton who is from the Diocese of Ngong, Kenya.

The king ordered converts to choose either their faith or obedience to him, the priest said.

“They stood firm in their faith,” he said.

About 120 years later, Father Orenge Omboga helped parishioners at Rochester’s St. Bridget Parish keep the memory of the 22 alive on June 3, which marks the day when several of the martyrs were killed. With music, dancing, prayers, readings and a meal following Mass, parishioners celebrated the Feast of the Ugandan Martyrs.

According to some accounts, the victims were the pedophile king’s young pages, who were burned to death for refusing his sexual advances and his command to deny their faith. In addition to the Catholic saints, 23 Anglicans also were documented to have been killed during the religious persecution.

The Catholics were canonized as saints by Pope Paul VI in 1964. He celebrated the canonization with a visit to Africa in 1969, the first visit time in recent times that a pontiff had visited Africa. The martyrs were later commemorated with the Basilica Church of the Ugandan Martyrs in Namugongo.

Father Orenge Omboga pointed out that the Mass also coincided with Trinity Sunday, when parishioners, like the Ugandan martyrs, accept and celebrated a triune God: God the creator, God the sanctifier and God the redeemer.

“Because of that, they accepted to die a painful death,” Father Orenge Omboga said.

The Mass included liturgical dancers from Rochester’s Immaculate Conception Parish and the Bata Con Pies drum and dance ensemble. Hymns were sung and readings proclaimed in several languages, including French, Italian, Arabic, Lugandan, Ibo, Tigrigna and Swahili.

This is the second year that the diocese has celebrated the feast, said Esther Akeem of Gates, who helped organize the celebration. Akeem said June 3 is observed as a Ugandan national holiday.

“This is a special day for Uganda and all of Africa,” Akeem said

Akeem said she hopes to expand the Ugandan martyrs Mass in future years to involve more parishes.

“It was very inspiring,” said Mary Ann Coley of Rochester, an Immaculate Conception parishioner. “Mass touched the hearts of many people today.”

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