Pope Francis’ visit was a gift to our nation

My name is Fr. Simon Jude Kanyike and I am a Catholic priest from the archdiocese of Kampala, in Uganda. This year I celebrate my 10th year as a priest. Currently I am a student at Santa Croce, pursuing a licentiate in Church Communications.

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Kampala is the central region of the country where the “Uganda Martyrs” (St. Charles Lwanga and his 21 companions) came from. Today, about 75% of our population is Catholic. When the first papal visit to Africa took place, St. Pope Paul VI came to Uganda first. In 1993 I was thrilled to see St. John Paul II during his visit to our country.

When my turn came, I did not hesitate in telling them “I want to be a priest.”

Last week, Pope Francis visited Uganda. I was here in Rome, but my heart and my soul were with my people! When he visited the place where the “Uganda martyrs” were killed, he also visited the site where 23 Anglican Christians were killed. This was a huge gesture in favor of interreligious dialogue, and will help to increase unity between the work that our two religions do together.

Pope Francis’ visit was a true gift to our nation and a boost to the Faith, as around two million people gathered to greet him. Many young people were given the opportunity to meet the Pope, and to participate in the ceremonies. It may cause many young people who have left the Church to reconsider the Faith … and I hope that the seeds of many vocations will grow from this visit.

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Pope Francis during his visit to Uganda (november 2015)

How did my own vocation to the priesthood blossom? I come from a Catholic family of nine children – I have eight sisters! One day, after our family night prayers, my parents asked each of us what we wanted to do in the future. When my turn came, I did not hesitate in telling them “I want to be a priest.” My sisters laughed, and said that at ten years old I was too young to understand what I was saying. Soon after, however, I became an altar boy and started attending catechism classes, drawing as close to God as I could. I looked up to our priests so much, and admired how they conducted themselves and were so generous.

I am very thankful to God for my call to the priesthood, and for the opportunity of studying at Santa Croce.

Eventually, my parents allowed me to enter a minor seminary. Then, in 2005, after completing my seminary studies in theology and philosophy, I was ordained.

I am very thankful to God for my call to the priesthood, and for the opportunity of studying at Santa Croce. I believe that my studies will increase my ability to communicate for the Church and increase my appreciation for my vocation.
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