My dear brothers and sisters, today is a great day for us as a diocese, but still a more special day for the people of St Joseph Parish Panyangara. We thank God for this great moment, and we ask Him to grant us more blessings so that the work began here in this place, in His Name and for His glory may continue to prosper.
My dear people, God is to be praised for what He does to us. Who ever knew that the simple work of the Chapel here those days would become what it has become today? My dear brothers and sisters, as we celebrate this day, let us put ourselves in what the word God tells us today, because we have come for a spiritual celebration plus the material celebration for what has been achieved as we can see with our own eyes, hear with our own ears and touch with our own hand. We want to say to God, ‘WE THANK YOU VERY MUCH!’. All these things lead us to praise God and to applause those people who have invested their human energy, wisdom, resources and faith to let things reach where they have reached today. For this, let us give a good clap to God who made all these possible, and a big clap too for all people who have made us to be able to celebrate this day.
What does the word of God today tell us as we heard from the readings proclaimed?
Firstly, the word of God, today the word of God in the first reading invites us to shout aloud with joy for what the Lord has done and is doing in the community of His faithful. We are celebrating 25 years since the foundation of this parish, St. Joseph, and the word of God invites us to shout aloud in joy, for what can we be able to recognize as a reason for joy for this parish. Certainly, there are many things. Some of them that we can mention are: the increased number of people who have come to embrace Christianity here; was the number like this when this parish was launched as a parish? Certainly no. The number of outstations that belong to this parish today, were they like the number we have today? Certainly no. The catechists we have today, was the number like this when this parish was launched? Certainly no. the services we have now as a result of the animation of faith in this community, were they like that as we have today – the schools, the health centre, the bakery, etc ? Were they there? Certainly no. We also have to be glad of the number of priests that come from this parish, such as Fr Raphael Lobeerei, Fr. Peter Lokiru? Were they of this number when this parish was established? Certainly no. The number of seminarians, were they like now? Certainly no. This is just to mention a few things. So therefore my brothers and sisters, as we celebrate today the silver jubilee for this parish, the word of gives us a challenge to dig deep into our hearts and discover how much benefits from God we have had for this parish. At the same time we can’t forget also to ask God pardon for the moments in which we have contributed to the failure to bring benefits to our parish, may be sometimes we have also caused fear to those who could have brought us more light of growth and benefits in this parish. So as we celebrate these years, we must make a promise to God to renew our ways of working with Him anew so that we may bring more blessings to this place, and bring progress in this parish. God is willing to restore for us what we have spoiled but we need to acknowledge our own failures in them.
Secondly, we come to celebrate our faith as children of Abraham, God fearing people. St Paul in the second reading makes us aware that it is our bounden duty to share the message of salvation with our brothers and sisters. That is why we heard from the second reading Paul addressing the assembly saying; ‘my brothers, sons of Abraham’s race, and all of you who fear God, this message of salvation is meant for you,… and also he said, ‘ we have come to tell you the good news’. St Paul makes us understand the true missionary spirit of God’s people. That is the reason why the Mill Hill Missionaries came to our region, to our diocese and accepted to take responsibility of administering the parish here in Panyangara, just to share. They came here to share with the people of this place the riches of faith they have, but also in that sharing they also received from the people here what has strengthened them in their missionary work. The joy of sharing with other people should also be known that it is never smooth or easy, there are risks and dangers in it that can discourage a joyful sharing, like when there is resistance from the people, when there is no cooperation, when people destroy instead of supporting what is good. In this regard, we can’t forget what the Mill Hill Missionaries paid for dearly with one of their members here in this land. It was for the course of love and zeal of sharing his faith in this land that Father Declan lost his life here. May his soul rest in peace, and may he pray also to God for the success of the mission of the Church in this parish and in Karamoja as a whole. Despite all this challenging result of the mission, we thank the Mill Hill Missionaries for remaining here, still to share the little they have, joyfully.
Thirdly, in the Gospel, we hear a recommendation of Jesus to his disciples saying, ‘no one can come to the father except through me’. My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, the message of the Gospel today challenges us on how much we have to take seriously the teaching of Jesus. In the society we have mediators for many things, and we can even manipulate them or misuse them just for things that end. We work very well and actively for material wealth on earth here, and even some people are able to risk to die because they need more wealth, but all this can’t take us to heaven. Instead, we must work hard for things that lead us to heaven, and it is by following the message of Jesus that we can achieve this. We are all visitors or flowers in this world, for our true home is with the Father in heaven. That is why Jesus tells us that it is through him that we can reach heaven, meaning that there are no shortcuts to heaven, to the Heavenly Father without passing through Jesus. And how can we pass through Jesus? It is through his Church. And how can we be members of his Church? It is through Baptism and other Sacraments that he instituted in his Church to tie bonds with him who is one with the heavenly Father. My dear brothers and sisters of Panyangara Parish, how has the message of Jesus proclaimed in this parish since its establishment 25 years ago, made you be more friends to Jesus, more friends in Jesus, more desiring to get to heaven? The answer is deep in your hearts, and let it be a good answer. Thank you, Mill Hill Missionaries for playing part in bringing Jesus’ message to his people here, may you never get behind even if there are challenges. May the Lord bless your work in his Church here in Kotido Catholic Diocese as it should be also elsewhere in the world.
And you the catechists, who will be commissioned today, know that it is a great privilege for you to be the instruments of God. God is pleased with your service because you help Him to administer to His people. Just as Moses had helpers in administering to the people of God, the Church through the priests of this parish and diocese have given you with trust this responsibility to minister to God’s people with them and on their behalf. Do this work out of love of God, and out of love of your Church, and out of love of your faith. You have many advantages over the missionaries who have been assigned to administer this parish; you know the language of our people and their culture, you know how they understand the church some of which ways you have to play a role in correcting such as role of supporting the Church. Work in collaboration with the priests and collaborate with each other catechists. The mission of Christ can’t be accomplished as individuals but as a community and Church. This is what the Synod we have been working upon teaches us. May the Lord bless you in your work, and may you animate your communities in such a way that we even get many more catechists from here, so that we can open more outstations in order to shorten the distance of our people to walk so far for Sunday services. May you be fruitful in your ministry.
Bishop Dominic Eibu