|50th Anniversary Celebration in Uganda|
On 20th October, 2007 all roads in Uganda seemed to lead to Nkokonjeru, Uganda! En route, it was evident that much awareness of the anniversary had been raised through the radio, banners and invitations. Together with 20 rather older Little Sisters of St. Francis, many on crutches and walking sticks, we drove to Nkokonjeru. On arrival we were graciously welcomed, offered refreshment and led to our seats in beautifully decorated tents specially erected for the occasion. There were literally thousands of people present - representatives from all the schools, hospitals, training colleges founded by Mother Kevin, as well as numerous Little Sisters of St. Francis and other religious. All had come to pay tribute to the memory of Mother Kevin which seemed to be as fresh fifty years on, as on the day she died.
The liturgy began with an impressive procession lead by a band and dancers, followed by the Little Sisters jubiliarians - three golden and twenty-one silver - five bishops and about eighty priests. The Archbishop of Kampala, His Grace Cyprian Kizito Lwanga was the main celebrant, assisted by Bishop Sekamanya who welcomed everyone to Lugazi diocese, Archbishop Denis Kiwanuka (who had been looked after by Mother Kevin), the Bishops of Mityana and Mbarara, and Fr. Bernard Phelan, who with Fr.Philip O’Hallaran, represented the Mill Hill Missionaries.
After the homily, the silver jubiliarians, (from Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania), were invited one by one to the front of the altar, amid great cheering from their relatives and friends present. Together they renewed their vows. The three golden jubiliarians were then invited and likewise renewed their vows. This was followed by a joyful dance by youth and sisters – another highlight!
After Mass, Mother Pauline Namuddu made a speech, followed by Miriam who, in her turn, thanked Mother Pauline and the Little Sisters for the wonderful celebration and said we prayed and supported their two desires - to become a pontifical congregation and to promote the cause of Mother Kevin’s beatification. Mr. Kelly, the Irish Ambassador, said he was happy to discover he shared the name Kevin and then read out the message from President McAlease who had visited and prayed at Mother Kevin’s resting place in 2001. Professor Gilbert Bukenya, the Vice President, paid great tribute to Mother Kevin and traced his connection to her through Dr. Paul George D’Arabela, who taught him surgery. He said it was truly remarkable that Mother Kevin and the Little Sisters had succeeded in uniting the three East African countries where the political leaders were still struggling to achieve it!
Following the speeches, the Bishops, the Vice President, the Ambassador, and other religious, went to the cemetery where several bouquets of flowers were placed on Mother Kevin’s tomb as people filed past and prayed that she would one day be beatified. A meal, entertainment, an exhibition, cutting of the jubilee cakes, followed.
All through the wonderful celebration, one couldn’t help but marvel at the mystery of thousands of people gathered to celebrate Mother Kevin’s death. That the seed had continued growing in silence over the 50 years was obvious. Mother Kevin’s imagination allowed her and us (FMSA and LSOSF) with her, to rethink everything we ever knew, to start over one more time, to begin again, to dare to be new, to encapsulate the old in brave new ways. ‘A rock pile ceases to be a rock pile’ wrote Antoine de Saint-Euxpery, ‘the moment a single person contemplates it, bearing within the image of a cathedral.’ Indeed, what the Lord has done for us we cannot tell it all!
Sr. Lydia D'Sa FMSA