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.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Lessons of Missionaries Live on in Boston

On June 3, 1886, twenty-two young men were murdered for their faith in the historical kingdom of Buganda, now modern day Uganda.  Their leader, Charles Lwanga was thirty-six years old.  To call many of them men, however, may be a misnomer – quite a few were teens.  The youngest, Kizito, was all of fourteen.  Though missionaries had been invited to the kingdom, it was soon apparent to the king that Christian faith meant a belief that God’s laws trumped those of man.  This did not sit well with a monarch used to absolute sovereignty.  When the young men refused his anti-Christian demands and his calls to renounce their faith in Jesus Christ, he made an example of them.  They were arrested, tortured and marched twenty miles to the site of their execution: Namugongo.

Charles Lwanga and his companions were canonized in 1964 and a shrine was built at the site where they  were burnt alive for their faith. The altar itself marks the spot of St. Charles’ death.
Spot of Martyrdom of St. Charles Lwanga

Uganda Martyrs' Shrine

Every year, on June 3, a great celebration is held at Namugongo to commemorate the Martyrs’ sacrifice. Just as the Martyrs marched to their deaths, the faithful from across Africa walk to the shrine; they come to bear witness to the great sacrifice made by their ancestors so that they, too, could have a share in the Christian faith.  I was privileged to be present at the celebration in 2011.  The joy-filled faith of over one million pilgrims brought together at the Lord’s Table is one that was unforgettable.

Bishop Charles Wamika of Jinja, Uganda
Here in Boston, we have one of the largest Ugandan communities in the world, headquartered at St. Mary Parish in Waltham.  Every year, a Ugandan bishop is invited to celebrate the Martyrs’ Feast Day with the community; this year’s celebrant was Bishop Charles Wamika from the Diocese of Jinja.  Mass began with a procession    that includes men and women, young and old, clergy and laity all led
by relics of the Martyrs.

The music, sung in English, Latin, and Luganda (among other Ugandan languages) was brilliant and moving! This year, we were treated to the addition of the Ugandan Catholic Community’s Youth group singers. As the Presentation of the Gifts was danced up the aisle by teens and presented to Bishop Charles by the children, the gifts were clear - the faith defended so many years ago in Uganda continues to bear fruit here in Boston.  The Ugandan Catholic Community of Boston is passing on their rich and deep cultural heritage to the next generation while keeping the faith of the Martyrs ever present in their lives. 

The lessons taught by missionaries lives on.
-Maureen Crowley Heil

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