I just concluded (last Tuesday), an amazing journey of the 2010 Uganda Pilgrimage of Hope and Pain! With pilgrims drawn from four continents: Illinois and North Carolina (USA); The Netherlands (Europe), Malaysia (Asia) and Uganda (Africa), the journey offered a glimpse of the church’s catholicity – in the true sense of the word.
It was a wonderful twelve days of eating together, of traveling to different places of historical, cultural and religious significance in Uganda, of meeting different communities and leaders, and of reflecting together, using the biblical stories of Bethany, on the themes of lament and hope – all as we connected with the pain of this beautiful country and its people, but also with many signs of hope! Some of the highlights included: an afternoon at the St. Maria Gorretti vocational training schools for girls; an evening at the L’Arche community near Kampala; and a day at St. Jude Organic farm, where Josephine Kizza, a widow, has turned 3.7 acres of land into the most impressive organic and intensive farm – a model and school for sustainable agriculture! Another highlight was commissioning two bore-hole wells (below), funded by Sacred Heart Church Joliet (IL), the church to which six of the pilgrims belong.
There was also the 25th priestly anniversary of my brother, Fr. Joe! (see below)
An incredible journey indeed! Starting off as strangers, we ended as friends, and even planned a reunion in three years. Many originally did not want to come, especially following the July 11 bomb blasts, but all left with a deep sense of gratitude that they came! The youngest pilgrim, Malcom Yap (below), said it best at the farewell debrief. With tears in his eyes, he confessed: “I did not want to come; my father forced me and my mother to come; and now I do not want to leave. I do not understand how I could have enjoyed myself so much where there is much suffering;” and then he added: “the pilgrimage has made me closer to Africa and to God.”