Paimol Martyrs Shrine Finally Gets Clean Water Supply

Bishop Franzelli used the ceremony to urge Christians to subdue their fears by faith, step out of their comfort zones and preach the gospel. Using the anecdote of evangelizing Paimol, Bishop Franzelli urged Members of Parliament to embrace peaceful dialogue in Parliament instead of violence.
Thousands Attend Paimol Martyrs Day

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Paimol martyrs Shrine in Agago district finally has clean water supply thanks to the Water and Environment Ministry. The Central Organizing Committee Chairperson of this year's pilgrimage told URN in an exclusive interview that the Water Ministry sunk a deep motorized well to supply more than 10,000 liters of water to the pilgrims.


Oryema said the piped water is distributed to pilgrims through a network of six taps around Wipolo Chapel. The taps are complemented by boreholes located short distances away and four giant plastic water tanks each with a capacity of 25,000 liters.


According to Oryema, the installation of the water facility is part of a major plan to celebrate the centenary year of the paimol martyrs next year. While previous anniversaries were celebrated under severe water crisis, hundreds of pilgrims were seen on Friday drawing water from the new facility as thousands attended vigil of the eve of centenary year of the Paimol martyrs. 

The Holy Eucharist was celebrated amidst other religious ceremonies punctuated by pomp and display of spectacular cultures. Gulu's Archbishop, John Baptist Odama used the celebration to declare the centenary anniversary of the martyrs of Paimol Daudi Okelo and Jildo Irwa. An estimated 20,000 pilgrims drawn from Kampala diocese, South Sudan and neighboring dioceses attended the 99th anniversary under the theme "Christ with Us on Our Mission to Paimol: Don't be Afraid". 


Archbishop Odama said the centenary celebration to be hosted next year will be commemorated at the shrine on October 20th, 2018.

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Christ the King Vicariate in Kitgum animated this year's celebration while the Centenary anniversary will be animated by Kalongo Deanery, under which the two martyrs were speared to death on account of their faith.

Archbishop Odama used the anniversary to urge for transformation of the education system to reflect the values of the good news Gospel. "The Key for transformation of society is love: love for Christ, love for his Church and love for the people for whom Christ died. This love makes us new "Daudi and Jildo" today" he said.


According to p Odama, commemoration of 100 years of Paimol martyrs should inspire the country to fight the many evils seen today: economic, political and religious corruption; child sacrifice; murders; violence in homes and the wider society; witchcraft; devil worship; immorality; alcoholism and substance abuse; human trafficking and new forms of slavery among others.


The Bishop of Lira Diocese Father Joseph Franzelli was the main celebrant at this year's event, which attracted six other Bishops including Bishop of Arua Sabino Ochan Odoki, Bishop of Nebbi Sanctus Lino Wanok and Bishop of Hoima diocese Vincent Kirabo. Others were the Bishop of Moroto diocese Damiano Giulio Guzetti, retired Bishop of Kitgum Anglican diocese Benjamin Ojwang and Bishop of Kotido Diocese Giuseppe Filippi.


Bishop Franzelli used the ceremony to urge Christians to subdue their fears by faith, step out of their comfort zones and preach the gospel. Using the anecdote of evangelizing Paimol, Bishop Franzelli urged Members of Parliament to embrace peaceful dialogue in Parliament instead of violence.

"Today God is asking us to go to our Paimol. Paimol of Parliament where we can dialogue without fighting. We must get out of our comfort zone and pay the price because we are called to be missionaries in our own Paimol" he emphasized.

The messages of the Bishops come at a time of heightened political tension sparked by the tabling of a bill seeking to scrap the Presidential age from the Constitution, unexplained murders of women in Entebbe and the controversial land amendment debate. Several people opposed to the proposed amendment have found themselves in conflict with the law leading to their arrest by the police.


Who were Daudi Okelo and Jildo Irwa?

Daudi Okelo

Church records show that Daudi Okelo was born around 1902 in Ogom-Payira, a village on the Gulu-Kitgum road. The son of pagan parents, Lodi and Amona, Okelo attended the instruction to receive baptism at the age of 14-16 years. Okelo was baptized by Fr. Cesare Gambaretto, a Comboni missionary on June 1, 1916 and received his first holy communion on the same day. On October 15, 1916 he was confirmed. After completing his formation, Okelo accepted to be enrolled as a catechist.

Church records show that at the beginning of 1917, a catechist in charge of Paimol named Antonio died. It is at this time that Okelo went to Fr. Cesare, the then head of the mission of Kitgum, offering to take Antonio's place. Okelo's appointment came towards the end of 1917, during one of the catechists' monthly meetings. 

The young Jildo Irwa was to go with him as his assistant, according to the records. Before setting off, the two reportedly went to Fr. Cesare who informed them of the difficulties of their work, like the long distance from Kitgum to Paimol - some 80km from the mission. He also mentioned the frequent in-fights of the local people, "instigated by gangs of raiders and traders of slaves and gold, sporadically visiting the area." 

To all this, Okelo is reported to have answered: "I am not afraid to die. Jesus, too, died for us!" Around November-December 1917, with Fr. Cesare's blessing, a one Boniface, the head-catechist of Kitgum, accompanied the two young catechists to Paimol where Okelo immediately began his work by gathering children to take religious instruction.

Early morning "he beat the drum to call his catechumens for morning prayers and, for Jildo and himself, also for the Rosary," the records published on the Vatican website show. He taught them the prayers and the catechism's questions and answers, using songs for ease of memorising. Okelo emphasized the first elements of faith, the Lok-odiku, or the words of the morning, namely the essential parts of the catechism. Okelo also visited the nearby small villages from where the catechumens were coming to assist their parents to look after the cattle or work in the gardens.

Okelo is described as "a young man of peaceful and shy character, diligent in his duties as a catechist and loved by all." "During the weekend of 18-20 October 1918, long before dawn, five people headed for the hut where Daudi and Jildo were staying with the clear intention of killing them, the church records state. 


A village elder is said to have confronted the new comers telling them they were not allowed to kill the catechists, as they were his guests. But Okelo reportedly appeared at the door of his hut and told the elder not to get involved. It was at this point that the intruders entered Okelo's hut and asked him to give up teaching catechism. 

Realizing that he was not giving in to their threats, they reportedly dragged him outside, pushed him to the ground and speared him. "His body was then left unburied until a few days later when some people tied a rope around the neck and dragged it over a nearby empty termite hill. 

The relics, collected in February 1926, were later placed in the mission church of Kitgum, at the foot of the altar. At the age of about 16-18 years old, Daudi Okelo chose his faith over his earthly life.

 Jildo Irwa

Church records show that Jildo Irwa was born around 1906 in the village of Bar-Kitoba, North-West of Kitgum, also from pagan parents. His mother was named Ato, while Okeny was his father who later became a Christian.

Like Okelo, Irwa was baptized by Father Cesare Gambaretto on June 6, 1916, at the age of about 10 or 12 years. On the same day he received his first Holy Communion before he was confirmed on October 15, 1916. The church quotes Father Cesare on Irwa's life: "Jildo was much younger than Daudi. Of lively and gentle nature, like many Acholi youngsters, he was quite intelligent and occasionally acted as secretary to the vice-chief Ogal who had given hospitality in Paimol.


He was of great help to Daudi in gathering the children for the instruction with his gentle way and infantile insistence. He knew also how to entertain them with innocent village games and noisy and merry meetings…"

According to Father Cesare, Irwa had "spontaneously and very willingly offered to go with Daudi" to Paimol, where he was a likeable character "because he was always available and exemplary in his duties as assistant-catechist."

On the morning of their martyrdom Irwa is said to have answered to Okelo who was warning him about a possible cruel death: "Why should we be afraid? We have done nothing wrong to anyone; we are here only because Fr. Cesare sent us to teach the word of God. Do not fear!"

He is said to have repeated the same words to those who were urging him to leave that place and his duty as assistant-catechist. 

After watching Okelo being speared to death, Irwa reportedly confronted his killers and demanded that they kill him too. "For the same reason you killed Daudi you must also kill me, because together we came here and together we have been teaching God's word". 

He was reportedly grabbed, pushed outside the hut and, just like Okelo, speared. As he writhed in pain, one of the attackers struck Jildo's head with a knife. At about 12 or 14 years old, the young catechist gave up his life. On October 21, 2002, Pope John Paul II beautified Daudi Okelo and Jildo Irwa, raising them one stage before canonization.

The pope said: "These two young catechists are a shining example of fidelity to Christ, commitment to Christian living and selfless dedication to the service of neighbour. With their hope firmly set on God and with a deep faith in Jesus' promise to be with them always, they set out to bring the Good News of salvation to their fellow countrymen, fully accepting the difficulties and dangers that they knew awaited them…Through their intercession may the Church be an ever more effective instrument of goodness and peace in Africa and in the world. God bless Uganda."


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