In a serene corner of the Tororo Ecclesiastical Province, nestled amidst the lush landscapes, a congregation of young minds gathered at the enchanting Benedictine Monastery. From the 3rd to the 6th of October, diocesan youth leaders from Kotido, Moroto, Soroti, Jinja, and Tororo came together for a profound event centered on a compelling theme: “Education of the Lay Faithful and Young People in a Synodal Church.” The event was inaugurated by His Grace Dr. Emmanuel Obbo, A.J., the Archbishop of Tororo, whose words ignited a passion for change and empowerment in the hearts of those present.
His Grace Archbishop Obbo, in his opening remarks on the morning of the 4th /October/2023, set the tone for the event by expressing heartfelt gratitude to the facilitators for their dedication to the youth apostolate. He also commended the young participants for their unwavering commitment to the mission of the Church. The Archbishop’s address was not just ceremonial; it delved deep into the challenges and strengths of the youth, drawing from his own experiences growing up.
Under the theme “The Youth and Their Vision for the Future,” Archbishop Obbo touched upon a crucial topic that resonated with the audience. He emphasized the vital roles played by parents, civil societies, and the Church in shaping the growth and education of the youth. With a poignant statement, he noted, “Education of the youth is no guarantee that they will live fulfilled and satisfied; most young people have visions and dreams, but often these dreams remain unfulfilled.”
The Archbishop pinpointed the root cause of unfulfilled dreams – the tendency of many youth to be reactive rather than proactive. He advocated for a shift in mindset, urging young people to adopt the principle of “see, judge, and act” instead of merely reacting to life’s challenges. Questions he posed to the participants, “How do I reach my fulfillment? How do I achieve prosperity?” served as catalysts for introspection and motivation.
Archbishop Obbo stressed the importance of guidance, emphasizing that young people should be empowered to take charge of their destinies. He passionately urged, “You should not let yourself sit down and dream when you are not acting towards your destiny. Act for production, turn your dreams into reality.” His words echoed through the hearts of those in attendance, igniting a newfound determination.
Furthermore, the Archbishop discussed the issue of the youth’s uncalculated freedom, reminding them that true happiness is not found in self-indulgence but in service. He drew a profound parallel with the mission of Jesus, who stated, “I was sent to serve.” He encouraged the youth to share their talents with friends and the community, emphasizing that this is the essence of living in synodality.In his concluding remarks he emphasized on the syndrome of the “contemporary destruction” called the techno medium of communication, where he highlighted that this technology has taken much time of the youth making them lazy and not wanting to work, he said that the youth are always compelled to be inquisitive and curious especially when it comes to discoveries.
On the morning of October 4th, the Vice Rector of Ggaba Major Seminary, Fr. Dr. Stephen Candia, treated the youth leaders to an enlightening discourse. The topic of the day? “Lay Faithful in the Church: Their Vocation and Mission.” In a compelling and thought-provoking session, Fr. Dr.Stephen Candia delved deep into the heart of the lay apostolate, uncovering its meaning, purpose, and profound significance in the life of the Church.
Fr. Stephen Candia began by painting a vivid picture of the lay apostolate. It’s a term that often evokes curiosity, and rightly so. In essence, the lay apostolate is the active participation of the laity, the men and women who make up the body of the Church, in the mission of Christ. It’s a beautiful reminder that the Church is not just the clergy and the religious but also the ordinary faithful who form its backbone.
To fully grasp the significance of the lay apostolate, one must first understand the intricate tapestry of the Church. Fr. Stephen explained that the Church comprises three essential components: the clergy, the religious, and the lay faithful. Each has a distinct role to play, and together, they create a harmonious symphony of faith and service.
Fr. Stephen’s talk also shed light on how every member of the Church can participate in the mission of Christ. One key aspect is the call to exercise kingship in the spiritual realm. Drawing inspiration from Romans 6:11-14, the laity are called to strive to overcome sin within themselves. By doing so, they prepare themselves to serve with charity and justice, thus encountering Christ in their brothers and sisters (Matthew 25:40).
The heart of the lay apostolate lies in its spirituality. Fr. Stephen emphasized the need for a deep and unwavering spiritual connection as the foundation for effective apostolic work. It’s a reminder that faith isn’t just a set of beliefs but a living relationship with God that propels us to action.
The session didn’t just stop at understanding the lay apostolate; it delved into its objectives and purpose. Participants left with a profound sense of mission, understanding that their role as lay faithful is not passive but active and impactful. The lay apostolate exists to evangelize, to bear witness to Christ, and to make His love known in the world.
Furthermore, Fr. Stephen Candia underscored the importance of small Christian communities. These communities, he explained, are the catalysts for change and growth within the Church. They provide a nurturing environment for deepening one’s faith, fostering connections, and collectively living out the lay apostolate’s mission.
In conclusion, Fr. Stephen Candia’s enlightening discourse on the lay faithful’s vocation and mission in the Church left a lasting impression on all who attended. It was a reminder that every individual, regardless of their role within the Church, has a vital part to play in the mission of Christ. As we embrace our roles with a spirit of charity and justice, we become living witnesses of God’s love and grace in the world. The lay apostolate is not just a concept; it’s a call to action, a call to be the hands and feet of Christ in a world that yearns for His light and love.
In a captivating afternoon session on October 4th, 2023, Dr. Peter Debo, the Secretary in charge of Doctrine and Scriptures at the Uganda Episcopal Conference, shed light on the ongoing Synod on Synodality in Rome. With passion and conviction, he emphasized the pivotal role of the youth apostolate in fortifying the mission of the Church.
Amidst the backdrop of the historic Synod, Dr. Debo’s insights resonated as a clarion call for the empowerment and inclusion of young voices within the Church’s framework. His address was nothing short of inspiring, offering a compelling vision for the future of Catholicism.
The Synod on Synodality itself is a groundbreaking event, bringing together bishops, clergy, and laity from across the globe to deliberate on how the Church can better listen to and involve its members in decision-making processes. In this era of rapid change and evolving perspectives, the Synod seeks to engage the faithful in shaping the future of the Church.
Dr. Debo passionately emphasized that the youth apostolate holds the key to revitalizing the Church’s mission. He highlighted how the energy, creativity, and enthusiasm of young people can infuse new life into the Church, making it more relevant and responsive to the challenges of our times.
Furthermore, he stressed that young Catholics should not merely be passive recipients of the Church’s teachings but active participants in its governance and direction. This, he believes, will foster a sense of ownership and commitment among the youth, making them feel an integral part of the Church’s mission.
In his address, Dr. Debo also celebrated the efforts of youth apostolates around the world, showcasing inspiring stories of young Catholics making a tangible difference in their communities. He called for the Church to provide more opportunities for leadership and mentorship to young people, nurturing their faith and helping them become catalysts for positive change.
As the Synod on Synodality continues to unfold, Dr. Peter Debo’s passionate advocacy for the youth apostolate reminds us that the Church’s future is inextricably linked to the engagement and inclusion of its young members. The youth apostolate, with its vitality and commitment, has the potential to breathe new life into the Church’s mission, making it more vibrant and relevant than ever before.
On the last day, 5th of October, a captivating morning dawned as young people gathered for an event led by the dynamic team from Jinja. It began with a powerful mass that set the tone for a day filled with inspiration and purpose.
The mass, led by the team from Jinja, was a spiritual awakening. In his homily, the chaplain of Jinja delivered a profound message, reminding the youth that “blue band is not blue” and urging them to become “mad for Christ” through His mission in the Church. These words resonated deeply, sparking a fire of devotion in the hearts of the attendees.
One of the highlights of the day was the session on “Young People with Roots” presented by Fr. Walter Wokorach, the provincial youth chaplain of Gulu province. He guided the young participants through a reflective journey into their Christian backgrounds. He emphasized that as they embark on their various ministries, it is crucial to be firmly rooted in Christ. This foundation, he explained, would make them resilient in the face of challenges that may arise in their journey of faith. Drawing inspiration from Pope Francis’ encyclical “Christus Vivit,” Fr. Wokorach’s words left a lasting impact on the audience.
The day culminated with a topic close to the heart of many: “Laudato Si, Mi Signore,” presented by Fr. Patrick Masuti, the focal person in charge of Laudato Si in the province of Tororo. In a world grappling with environmental issues, Fr. Masuti’s session was a breath of fresh air. He passionately conveyed the roles of youth in caring for our common home. His insights and call to action stirred hearts, reminding everyone that they have a responsibility to protect the planet. It was a moment of inspiration, and the attendees left with a renewed commitment to addressing climate change.
In the serene confines of the Benedictine Monastery, a profound transformation was set in motion. The young leaders left the retreat center on the morning of 6th/October/2023 with a renewed sense of purpose, armed with the wisdom to bridge the gap between dreams and reality. They understood that fulfillment and prosperity could be achieved through proactive action, guided by the principles of service and community.
As the sun set over the Tororo Ecclesiastical Province, it painted a picture of hope and empowerment. The seeds sown during those four transformative days would undoubtedly bear fruit in the lives of the youth, their communities, and the Church at large. The event was not just a gathering; it was a movement towards a brighter, more purposeful future for the youth of the Tororo Ecclesiastical Province.
We send our kind appreciations to the Uganda episcopal conference and the conference of the bishops of the United States for their unwavering support to the ministry of the youth.
(General Secretary, Diocese of Kotido)