The Mission Hub

The Pontifical Mission Societies include the Society for the
Propagation of the Faith, the Missionary Childhood Association, the Society of St.Peter Apostle, and the Missionary Union of Priests and Religious. These Societies promote a prayerfulmissionary spirit among baptized Catholics and to gather a fund of support for the evangelizing and pastoral programs of more than 1,150 local churches of the Developing World.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Witness to Their Walking

On June 3, 2011, I found myself at Namugongo, the National Shrine to the Ugandan Martyrs, with over a million pilgrims to celebrate the martyrdom of St. Charles Lwanga and his companions. It was no accident; my trip to Africa was timed so that I could be present at this holy place. The Shrine is built in the style of a traditional African hut, honoring the culture of the martyrs. The relics inside bear witness to their great faith. In the center of the Shrine under the main altar, which is the exact spot of Charles Lwanga’s heroism, hangs a portion of his ashes. Charles and his companions were burned alive because they refused to renounce their Christian faith and pledge allegiance to the king.

Besides the obvious sacrifice, what made this story fascinating to me is that these Martyrs were really boys at the time – most of them in their teens – as they were bound and paraded to their death. With their parents calling to them to renounce their faith, taught to them by missionaries, these boys prayed aloud and even sang as they were tortured, while their killers lit the pyre that would be their fate. To this day, people walk, some of them literally across Africa, to be at the Shrine for the Martyrs’ Feast Day, honoring the Martyrs’ own march. My faith has long called me to be a witness to their walking.

These days, there is still much walking being done in Africa, this time to escape another horror. Famine has become the great torture of the people, forcing them to flee Somalia in great numbers towards refugee camps in Kenya. Our National Director of the Pontifical Mission Societies in the United States, Fr. Andrew Small, OMI received word from his Kenyan counterpart, Fr. Celestine Bundi, that the situation in the camps is desperate; Fr. Celestine is asking for help for the many local priests and sisters serving in the affected areas.

Photo courtesy of CNS

We, of course, have promised our prayers and would like to promise yours as well. If you are able to contribute to a special fund that has been set up by our National Office to send aid directly to Fr. Celestine to be used for relief in the camps of Kenya, please mail your contribution to:

East Africa Special Appeal
Pontifical Mission Societies
66 Brooks Drive
Braintree, MA 02184

To contribute online, go to our website, and click the Donate Now button.

Please join us as a witness to their walking.

-Mauren Crowley Heil

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