Warning: Trying to access array offset on value of type bool in /usr/www/users/urnnet/a/story.php on line 43
Emotional Moment as Soroti Priest Celebrates 40 Years of Service :: Uganda Radionetwork
Breaking

Emotional Moment as Soroti Priest Celebrates 40 Years of Service

Father Mubiru is a former long serving development coordinator for Soroti Catholic Diocese who spearheaded relief and socio-economic development activities in Teso during some of the most difficult years. He told the congregation gathered for the ruby celebrations at St. Peter Canisius Parish Orungo in Amuria district that his 40 years of priesthood have been characterized by suffering and misunderstanding.
Fr. Athanasius Mubiru reads his speech at the function to mark 40 years of priesthood in Orungo Parish.

Audio 4

Emotions ran high on Saturday morning as renowned Teso priest, Reverend Father Athanasius Mubiru, celebrated 40 years of priesthood.

Father Mubiru is a former long serving development coordinator for Soroti Catholic Diocese who spearheaded relief and socio-economic development activities in Teso during some of the most difficult years. He told the congregation gathered for the ruby celebrations at St. Peter Canisius Parish Orungo in Amuria district that his 40 years of priesthood have been characterized by suffering and misunderstanding.

The function that attracted hundreds of jubilant celebrants across Teso, Mityana and Kampala went cold when Fr. Mubiru narrated the ordeals that shaped his 40-year journey as a priest.

Quoting from the gospel of Mathew 16:24, Father Mubiru said that his priesthood has been filled with various experiences that have informed and made him the priest he is today.

// cue in “So has it…

Cue out…potential and power.”//

The journey started in 1983 when Bishop Erasmus Wandera ordained Mubiru into priesthood and commissioned him to work in Soroti Catholic Diocese. Soon after ordination, Mubiru was appointed onto the college of consultors, a team of priests who advise the bishop.

“I did not know then that later, I would become the diocesan development coordinator and be entrusted with facilitating social economic development of the people in Teso,” Fr. Mubiru said as he narrated the events that shaped his priesthood.

Fr. Mubiru’s appointment in 1989 as the Diocesan Development Coordinator came in the middle of an insurgency waged by the rebels of the Uganda People's Army (UPA) in Teso. For the next two decades, this office coordinated relief activities for war victims, mobilized the local population for development, renewed hope and changed the lives and the face of Teso.

“I took on the heavy task of facilitating the transformation process of the social economic lives of people of Teso. Msgr. Bernard Charles Phelan, my first priest at Bukedea- Kachumbala got me to know the development partners that were so crucial in the development work,” he said. Phelan was a missionary priest in Teso.

As the Diocesan Development Coordinator, Fr. Mubiru established the famous Soroti Catholic Diocese Integrated Development Organization- SOCADIDO, the development hub for the transformation of lives in Teso. From the dark days of insurgency, bloodshed, cattle rustling, poverty and other forms of suffering, Teso began to emerge with a population that was empowered and enlightened. The office built schools, supported the needy, distributed relief items, promoted sustainable agriculture, supported peace efforts and established self-help projects in different parts of Teso.

SOCADIDO was at the centre of the recovery and development efforts when Teso was ravaged by rebel activities, insurgency and cattle raids from the Karimojong. They distributed relief items such as powder milk, medicine, clothing, and blankets; paid school fees for the vulnerable children and set up household income generating activities.

In the almost 20 years that Father Mubiru was heading SOCADIDO, the population in Teso suffered different violent activities including the cattle raiding from Karamoja, the UPA rebellion from 1988 to 1993 and the invasion by the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) rebels in 2003.

“We understood that the issues of Teso were the concern of everybody and requiring everybody’s attention and concern. During this 40 years, I belonged to the school that believed in partnership and collaboration,” he added.

SOCADIDO, through its different projects intervened in rehabilitation and development works such as restocking Teso with goats, oxen and cows, and chicken; distributing ploughs and hoes, seeds, cassava and potato planting materials that enabled the people of Teso to settle and produce food for household income and food security.

Under Fr. Mubiru's direction SOCADIDO also established self-reliance programmes such as Aminit farm, Abango goat farm, the dairy and Teso fresh honey refinery among others. The organisation also acquired prime property in Soroti.

“The water protection, planting of trees and acquisition of various pieces of land, purchase of buildings in Soroti town, promotion of community managed microfinance and gender equality in Teso would not have been possible without the support of partners from Europe and USA,” Fr. Mubiru noted.

In 2001 Fr. Mubiru established Kyoga Veritas Radio which helped in the mobilisation of the population for development, empowering people through development information and speaking out against injustices. It was Radio Veritas that helped expose the suffering of people during the LRA invasion in June 2003, something that also put Father Mubiru in particular and SOCADIDO in general in trouble.

The radio station and the entire SOCADIDO complex were shut down and staff ordered to leave. The government army occupied the offices for three months.

The priest narrated how he survived arrest and charges of treason during this time. “This did not go well with the authorities. The radio station and SOCADIDO were closed down. I was under observation by the security forces. I was later informed that I escaped narrowly to be imprisoned for treason,” he added.

In 2006 Delta Radio was established and by the time Father Mubiru was transferred from SOCADIDO, in 2008, plans were in advanced stages for the establishment of Teso Television Network.

The changes in SOCADIDO came shortly after the changes in the diocesan leadership when Erasmus Wandera, the first Bishop of Soroti who had steered the diocese since its establishment in 1981, retired in October 2007 and was succeeded by Bishop Emmanuel Obbo. It was during Bishop Obbo's episcopate that Father Mubiru was suspended indefinitely and, for the next eight years, he was in the wilderness. 

While talking about his indefinite suspension, Fr. Mubiru said was mesmerized by the eight-year forced leave; making him pause and sometimes miss words in his speech. He struggled to continue with his speech with the trembling voice, something that forced many people in the congregation to sob quietly.

“I was given indefinite suspension on the October 30, 2012 and it lasted eight years. During that period, I became a leper, a contagious priest whom fellow priests were not to associate with. I became a priest with no rights or privileges. I was barred from exercising my faculties like saying holy mass in public places and fulfilling pastoral duties of giving sacraments to Christians. This was serious destruction,” he said to the quiet congregation.

Fr. Mubiru also narrated how he suffered ambushes and terror from the rebels of UPA in Teso. He was ambushed twice where the rebels undressed him, beat him up and took all his belongings while returning from work in Oculoi and around Awoja bridge.

The 69-year-old cleric has had three major health operations which have affected his throat and sight. He is no longer able to sing or see properly because of these operations. He’s also been battling diabetes for 30 years.

//Cue in “In the event…

Cue out…for that experience.”//

Rev. Fr. Mark Olukor, the Parish Priest of St. Peter Canisius in Orungo said that Fr. Mubiru has been a pillar and father of development in the diocese. He notes that Father Mubiru didn’t only remain in evangelism but went an extra mile in addressing social, cultural and economic issues in Teso.

He told the congregation that some of the interventions by Fr. Mubiru have continued to impact on the lives of many people in Teso including education and marriages of sons of the beneficiaries of the cattle restocking projects.

//Cue in “During the time…

Cue out…many other things.”//

Stephen Ochola, the Serere District Chairperson who officiated as chief guest said that Fr. Mubiru’s 40 years of service have contributed greatly to the peace building, economic recovery and freedom of expression in Teso sub region. According to Ochola, the cleric’s suspension from work was politically motivated.

//Cue in “To me you…

Cue out…oni aswam ngin.”//

Born in Mityana district, Fr. Mubiru has lived and worked in Teso sub region almost all his priestly life. His family and friends have asked for his retirement, a call he reiterated in his speech.