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Catholic Museum Speaks Story of Uganda Martyrs

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Rubaga Hill is the seat of the Catholic Church in Uganda. And of course as the host to many schools and a hospital.

Little do people know that tucked away in one of the Church buildings, are three rooms that tell the captivating story of the spread of Catholicism in Uganda and of course the Uganda Martyrs whose celebrations are on at Namugongo. We are talking about the Catholic Museum.

The first phase of the journey through the museum starts with the remains of the fetishes and items the Baganda used when worshiping their gods, and takes you through to when the first French Catholic missionaries, Fr Lourdel and Brother Amans arrived at Nabulagala near Entebbe and their first converts. Maria Namatovu, the museum's assistant curator explains:

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On settling, the first missionaries were keen on learning the local cultures and language. Once they began making inroads, Fr Lourdel wrote to his parents then in Algiers, Algeria of his love for Buganda and informed them that he intended to live and die here. The long letter in immaculate handwriting known as Palma is but a marvel.

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It was then that the missionaries embarked on writing the first Luganda-French dictionary and training some of the new converts to become priests and catechists.

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The missionaries were amazing people who made sure they were self-sufficient to a great extent. For example, to sew their clothing and mend torn ones they brought in the first sewing machine in Uganda.

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The missionaries were like soldiers, for example they wore very thick and heavy clothing as well as metallic hats, all on display in the museum.

Other items they used like vestments, chalices, crucifixes, shoes, radio sets, counting machines, typewriters, utensils and many other items are all on display.

There are also some surprises; like one of the original letters written by St Simon Peter, the successor of Jesus Christ and the first Pope.

Other surprises in the museum is the half drank Pepsi Cola soda drank by Pope Paul VI when he visited Uganda in 1969 and stones from the Upper Room where the apostles received the Holy Spirit, the Agony, the Calvary and Jesus' tomb.

But perhaps one of the biggest surprises is the portrait of former Ugandan President Apollo Milton Obote, an Anglican under whose premiership in 1964 the 22 Uganda Martyrs were canonized and the first head of state Benedicto Kiwanuka, a Catholic. No other head of state has space in the historic museum.

The three-roomed museum makes the story of Christianity in Uganda and the Uganda Martyrs not only accessible under one roof but also a memorable one.

Assistant curator Namatovu says plans are underway to build a bigger museum so as to preserve the very rich history of the Catholic Church in Uganda.

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