Archbishop Ssemogerere, Archbishop Vigneron concelebrate Uganda Martyrs Mass at Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish
PLYMOUTH — Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron, alongside Archbishop Paul Ssemogerere of Kampala, Uganda, joined in the celebration of the Uganda Martyrs on June 25 at Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish in Plymouth.
The official feast day of the Uganda Martyrs, which include St. Charles Lwanga and 21 others who sacrificed their lives for their faith in 1885 and 1887, is on June 3.
The celebration, hosted by the growing Uganda Catholic Community of Michigan, resulted in a full church and was punctuated by beautiful music led by a Ugandan choir. Ugandans traveled from far and wide to join in the celebration, and many stayed for a dinner celebration later that evening.
In his homily remarks, Archbishop Ssemogerere said that the celebration was a “beautiful reminder of the universality of the Church.”
“Seeing so many of you surrounding the altar with little ones makes me feel like we are in Uganda,” Archbishop Ssemogerere said. "I know that the colors are different, but one people, in Uganda, you would have the children, the babies as you have — sometimes they make a noise like that baby now — but the same Church, and we feel happy to be together on a Sunday like this to celebrate the Lord’s day.”
Uganda has never been known for many good things, Archbishop Ssemogerere said; to this day, many still associate the country with the former president, Idi Amin, whose reign was one of brutality.
In the 1800s, during a time of intense religious and political struggle in Africa, St. Charles Lwanga and 21 other Catholic converts were murdered for their profession of faith. St. Charles Lwanga was chief of the royal pages in King Mwanga II's court, and refused to abandon his faith when the king demanded his servants do so, even secretly baptizing those in his charge who were catechumens when it became clear those who became Christian would be put to death.
Even today, there is still suffering and brutality, not far off from that of the Uganda martyrs, Archbishop Ssemogerere said, including a violent militia attack just a week ago on a Ugandan school, which left many students dead and injured.
However, because of Jesus Christ, even in suffering, the faithful need not be afraid, Archbishop Ssemogerere said.
“Friends, when suffering knocks on our doors and its voice roars within, let us not be tempted to use the expression, ‘the Lord has abandoned me,’” the archbishop said “The Lord is with me … our God suffers with us. He is never passive and insensitive to our situations.”
God never promised our lives would be without difficulty, Archbishop Ssemogerere said. However, the faithful can encounter these situations knowing that, in the end, all shall be well.
The Uganda martyrs can model this trust in God, he added.
“Oh, they suffered, but they had their trust in the Lord,” Archbishop Ssemogerere said. “After being evangelized for only three years, they were able to embrace the faith and died for Jesus Christ — happy to die for the Lord, confident in the Lord our Savior, and now they make us proud. May the Uganda martyrs help us to love and respect one another and respect others' lives.”