The Deputy Head of the Catholic Laity of Uganda Chevalier Anthony Mategga Nnakirya has called upon Catholics to learn from the examples set by the Uganda Martyrs and become dedicated practitioners of the Christian faith.
Speaking during the fourth day of the Uganda Martyrs Novena celebrations at Munyonyo Minor Basilica (Uganda Martyrs Parish, Munyonyo) on Sunday evening, Mr Mateega emphasized that the Martyrs were exemplary Catholics who demonstrated an unwavering commitment to their beliefs.
In his address, Mr Mateega highlighted the stark contrast between the actions of the Martyrs and the present-day practices of some Catholics. He pointed out that while the Martyrs had walked 42 miles to listen to the missionaries, many believers today hesitate to cover even two miles to attend Mass.
“They walked 40 miles from Mityana to Nabulagala to listen and learn from the missionaries, but we cannot walk two miles to go to church,” he lamented.
Mr Mateega further drew attention to the courageous acts of St. Joseph Mukasa Balikuddembe, who fearlessly defended justice at the cost of his own life. Despite being next in line to become the kingdom’s prime minister, St. Mukasa stood before the Kabaka and firmly proclaimed God’s commandment against killing.
“He defended justice, not only for the foreigner, someone who was not known to him. But he told the king, ‘Do not kill this white man. If you do not need him, tell him to go back to his home,’ Mateega recounted. He emphasized the rarity of such principled actions in contemporary society, noting how people often resort to character assassination in their pursuit of personal gain.
Mateega also drew attention to St. Gonzaga Gonza, whom he likened to Maximilian Kolbe, emphasizing his selflessness and sacrificial actions. Gonzaga willingly exchanged places with Mukasa Kiriwawanvu in prison, allowing the latter to receive religious instruction. Mateega urged Christians to emulate the virtues displayed by the Uganda Martyrs and to spread awareness of their remarkable deeds.
During the novena mass, Rev Fr Ronald Kyambadde, the main celebrant, called on the faithful to pray for the gift of fortitude from the Holy Spirit, just as the Martyrs had done. Fr Kyambadde described Uganda as a miraculous nation, asserting that the country is enveloped in the protective presence of the Martyrs’ blood, the Holy Spirit, and Mother Mary.
“Imagine the anointing on this country right now. Pilgrims are walking from all regions of the country; others are saying the Most Holy Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Uganda is such a miracle,” he proclaimed.
Fr Kyambadde further reminded Christians that the Uganda Martyrs possessed the Holy Spirit, which empowered them to face death with unwavering courage.
Sunday’s discourse focused on the lives of three specific Martyrs: St. Gonzaga Gonza, St. Pontian Ngondwe, and St. Bruno Serunkuma.
Gonzaga Gonza was the 6th Martyr to be killed. He was arrested at Munyonyo and spent the night in chains. The executioners failed to remove them. But Gonzaga was determined to drag the chains fastening his bleeding legs to Namugongo.
On the way he collapsed and was speared to death by Mukajanga and died on May 27th, 1886 at the age of twenty-four. Gonzaga is the Patron of prisoners, travellers, the ill-treated and those in trouble.
St Pontian Ngondwe was the 4th Martyr to be killed. At the beginning of the year 1886, he was falsely accused of stealing a cow from the herd of Mukaajanga, the Chief Executioner.
The king ordered them to burn Pontian Ngondwe because he was also a Christian. When Mukajanga, the chief executioner, asked Ndongwe whether he was a Christian, he replied that he was; upon which Mukajjanga pierced him in the chest three times, killing him instantly. His body was dismembered in bizarre cruelty and left to the scavenging birds and wild animals as the others continued to Namugongo. This was on Wednesday evening 26th May 1886. He is the Patron of soldiers, policemen and militia.
Before he embraced the Catholic faith, Bruno Sserunkuuma was a violent, hot-tempered, cruel, imprudent, drunkard and led a loose life. He, however, strove bravely to master his temper and control his passions after conversion.
Sserunkuma moved with fellow Christians up to Namugongo where they were tied in reeds and burnt alive until God separated their souls from their tortured bodies.
He died on 3rd June 1886. Sserunkuuma is the Patron of those tempted to excessive drinking, lust and those not properly married in the Church.