Jinja Catholic Diocese is seeking Shs2.2 billion to organise the upcoming annual Uganda Martyrs Day celebrations scheduled for June 3, 2023.
This was revealed by Jinja Bishop Charles Martin Wamika who was briefing the press on the roadmap and organisation of this year’s fete at the Uganda Catholic secretariat in Nsambya.
The amount is twice the amount that was requested by the Fort Port Diocese last year. However, Bishop Wamika said that the budget is looking at organising the entire event, including providing security and health.
But Bishop Wamika said that they have have high hopes that some items listed might be covered by several relevant government agencies since this is a public event thus reducing the budget.
He, however, also noted that the faithful should also be mindful of the rise in commodities and other services that will be used on the day, which push the budget of the event up yet they want to meet standards that have been upheld by previous Organisers or even set a new bar.
Fr Pual Okello Wandera, the Jinja Diocesan Chancellor, said that knowing the task ahead of them in collecting this needed amount, the diocese already launched an appeal first to all Catholics from within the diocese to contribute what they can as they also tap into friend of the Uganda martyrs across the country and beyond.
Fr Wandera further called on all members of the Jinja Catholic Diocese to contribute what they could, whether it was through donations, volunteering their time, or simply spreading the word about the commemoration.
Having previously led the famous event in 2002, Jinja is determined to stage a memorable Uganda Martyr’s day celebration for all attendees. Their chosen theme “Lord increase our faith” encourages all participants to reflect on their faith just as the young converts who became martyrs did, going as far as dying for their religion.
With only three months left until the D-day, Jinja has already stepped up its preparations. They have assembled a team of 500 Choristers from all over the diocese who are currently making practices.
The diocese has also started registering foot pilgrims from different parishes and asking them to save funds that will cater to their transport back home after the event, to avoid situations where several people get stuck at Namugongo.
Fr Wandera said that as per their schedule, the Jinja Catholic Diocese anticipates foot pilgrims to converge at the cathedral from May 25th to 27th. “Subsequently, on May 28th, they will embark on a three-day pilgrimage covering approximately 80 kilometers to Namugongo, with the faithful using the new Jinja bridge.
It is noteworthy that this is the first time pedestrians will be allowed to use the bridge since its opening in 2018,” he adds. Meanwhile, The Secretary General of the Uganda Episcopal Conference Msgr. John Baptist Kauta says that in previous years, the Catholic Secretariat had suggested organizing the Martyrs Day event in a staggered manner so that each diocese could pay homage to their forefathers who died for their faith without much tension.
From his view, this would allow for a more peaceful and organized event, unlike what is usually witnessed during the June march. However, Kauta has stated that it seems the idea was not well received by most people, as they are comfortable with the traditional June 3rd pilgrimage, which has been held since 1920.
Annually, faithful from across the world gather at Namugongo Martyrs Shrine on June 3rd to commemorate the 45 Catholic and Anglican martyrs who were killed on the orders of Kabaka Mwanga II, the then King of Buganda.
Fr. Stephen Walters from the Kampala Diocese, which was under the Mill Hill Fathers and had its cathedral at Nsambya, led the first pilgrimage to Namugongo in 1920. At that time, the Kampala Diocese included all the present-day Lugazi and Jinja Dioceses, stretching from the Nakivubo channel.
However, on August 5, 1966 the seat of Kampala diocese was transferred to Jinja and the See was renamed as Diocese of Jinja comprising the entire region of Busoga. The remaining part of the Kampala Diocese was annexed to the Kampala Archdiocese.
It can be said that Jinja diocese has a significant historical connection to the pilgrimage to Namugongo. Additionally, two of the 24 martyrs, Matia Mulumba and Gonzaga Gonza, have their origins in Busoga.
Matia Mulumba is from Kyebando in Mayuge district and Gonzaga Gonza is Bugonza in Kaliro district.