My dear brothers and sisters, I greet you in the name of the Lord.

I believe by now most of you are aware that the Archdiocese of Tororo was chosen to organize and animate the 2018 Uganda Martyrs day celebrations at Namugongo Catholic Shrine. The Archdiocese is organizing these celebrations on behalf of The Tororo Ecclesiastical Province and in collaboration with the Uganda Episcopal Conference, the Government of Uganda and various stakeholders.

The Archdiocese of Tororo last led the celebrations at Namugongo in 1998 and it was a very colourful event. We want to make sure that the 2018 celebrations are equally colourful and spiritually enriching.

1. About the Uganda Martyrs
Every year on June 3, the Universal Church celebrates the Memorial of the Uganda Martyrs, Saint Charles Lwanga and Companions. For the Catholic Church in Uganda, this day is a Solemnity, and for our country it is a public holiday.

Pilgrims come to Uganda from all parts of the world to pay homage to both the Catholic and Anglican Martyrs, who were killed between 1885 and 1887 on the orders of Kabaka Mwanga II, the then king of Buganda, for converting to Christianity.

The twenty-two Catholic Martyrs were canonized on 18th October 1964 by Blessed Pope Paul VI, in the presence of Bishops from all over the world who had gathered in Rome for the Second Vatican Council. In addition to the twenty two Martyrs, we also have the two Catechists from Paimol (in the Archdiocese of Gulu) namely Blessed Daudi Okelo and Blessed Jildo Irwa, who were killed in 1918 and beatified in 2002 by Saint Pope John Paul II. Next year is therefore the 100th anniversary of their Martyrdom. These courageous witnesses of our faith are not only our heroes and models, but also our intercessors before God.

2. The Theme:
The theme that the Archdiocese of Tororo has chosen to guide us in the celebrations is, “LET US WALK IN THE LIGHT OF GOD AS A FAMILY” (1 John 1:5-10). The major objective behind this theme is ultimately to focus on the Family; that smallest unit of the human society in which the Faith of everyone is implanted and in which it grows, drawing from the powerful example of the parents. The Family unit has also previously been referred to as the domestic Church.

Pastorally the focus of the long and tough preparations for Martyrs Day 2018 will run along three dimensions namely:
1. The Centrality of the Family referred to above, in which the first witness of Faith takes place. In the Archdiocese of Tororo this entire year is running along the sub-theme of “MERCIFUL PARENTS, PEACEFUL FAMILIES”. All the pastoral programmes are inspired by it.
Several of our heroic Uganda Martyrs were Family heads or Children belonging to one. Their Martyrdom did have a tremendous impact on their respective families. In a way I may not be wrong to say the Families of the Uganda Martyrs were the first to directly face the effects of martyrdom, and from them the Faith has blossomed to where we are today.

2. The indispensable role of the Catechist in the evangelization and sustenance of the Family. We deliberately recognize Catechists as the immediate pastoral agents at the grass-root where they get in touch with the Family unit and sustain its faith. Our annual celebration of Catechists’ Day is driven by this sentiment.

3. The Young People (Youth) who constitute the majority of the population in Uganda are that section of God’s people closest to the heart of the Catholic Church in Uganda and to His Holiness Pope Francis. For them and with them Pope Francis has called a Synod for the Youth next Year. They indeed are a priceless treasure to the Church, and must be especially attended to.

I repeat, the preparation for Martyrs Day 2018 will be inspired by the theme: “LET US WALK IN THE LIGHT OF GOD AS A FAMILY”, and this will be pastorally expressed by a special focus on:
(i) The centrality of the Family.
(ii) The indispensability of the Catechist in the evangelization and the pastoral care and support of the Family.
(iii) The young people in society.

A prayer has also been composed invoking the Almighty, our blessed Mother Mary and the Uganda Martyrs to bless our plans and efforts in the preparation of this Great annual Martyrs Day at Namugongo.

We shall recite that prayer in each of our Parishes, and Chapels of Religious Houses at the end of Mass before the final blessing, until SATURDAY, 3RD JUNE 2018.

Other pastoral activities being prepared include: retreats in parishes and pilgrimages to the designated Shrines of Mercy in the Archdiocese of Tororo, opened during the year of Mercy.

I call upon all Christians to participate in these pastoral and spiritual exercises in order to enrich their faith and devotion to the Uganda Martyrs.

3. Organization and Coordination of the Preparations
Thousands of pilgrims are expected from all corners of Uganda and other countries, this demands good organization and coordination on our part. I have chosen Fr. John Kevin Musisi, the Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Tororo as the Chairman of our Central Organizing Committee. Ten sub-committees have also been set up consisting of members within the Archdiocese of Tororo, Kampala and elsewhere. They include: i) Finance, Budgeting and Fundraising; ii) Pastoral and Liturgy; iii) Publicity; iv) Construction, Decoration and Sitting; v) Pilgrims; vi) Protocol and Security; vii) Accommodation and Transport; viii) Ushering; ix) Catering and Welfare; x) Health.

I appeal to everyone who will be approached to offer their expertise in any of the Committees. Please generously accept.

The above named committees will team up with the overall Central Organizing Committee at The Uganda Catholic Secretariat in Kampala.

4. Fundraising:
The total resource requirement for the preparations and celebrations of this important event is projected at UGX 720,000,000 (Seven hundred and twenty million shillings only). This money will cater for the budgeted items of our ten sub-committees.

On 21st October 2017 we officially launched the fundraising drive for the Uganda Martyrs day celebration 2018, at Tororo and we were able to raise UGX 20,078,000 (Twenty million seventy eight thousand shillings only).

On Sunday, 12th November 2017 there will be a second launch for Sensitization and Fundraising for the same event at Bbiina Parish in Luzira, Kampala, starting with Mass at 10:30 am. That event is being planned for by a joint committee from the Archdiocese of Tororo and the Tororo Ecclesiastical Province Association of the Laity (TEPAL). Various forms of Fundraising are being planned and will be on-going.

I invite all of you here present, our listeners and viewers to support this drive generously. We need spiritual, financial and other forms of support from all the Christians of the Archdiocese of Tororo, friends, well-wishers, our institutions, government, corporate bodies, and well-wishers.

We have opened a bank account with CENTENARY BANK, Tororo Branch and the following are the account details:

ACCOUNT NUMBER: 3100049368

We also have an AIRTEL MOBILE MONEY number: 0755420408

An official Souvenir Magazine will be produced for the occasion and we shall send out invitations for adverts from institutions, companies, corporate bodies and individuals.

5. Appreciation:
1. I sincerely thank the Central Organizing Committee for the tremendous work so far done. They already started planning in July. That committee includes all Deans of Tororo Archdiocese and others.

2. The Parish Priests, Parish Councilors, Catechists, Head teachers, Heads of institutions in Tororo Archdiocese and many more who have positively responded to the effort of planning for Namugongo 2018, and I call upon the rest to do the same.

3. The generosity of our Christians is greatly appreciated.

4. The sons and daughters of the Archdiocese of Tororo residing beyond our boundaries, thank you for heeding our call to join hands.

5. The Uganda Catholic Secretariat for guidance and advice so far.

Once again I invite all of you to join us next Sunday, 12th November 2017, at Bbiina Parish in Luzira for the second launch and eventually to Namugongo on 3rd June 2018. Let us Walk in the Light of God as a Family.
Let us go forth with Faith, Love and Courage. May our Blessed Mother Mary and the Holy Martyrs of Uganda intercede for us as we prepare for this great celebration.

Most Rev. Emmanuel Obbo, A.J.
Archbishop of Tororo

Given at the Uganda Catholic Secretariat, Nsambya, Kampala on Thursday 9th November 2017

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