On November 27th, 1960, Fr. Emmanuel Katongole, or Fr. “Emma” as he is affectionately known in his home country, was born in the small village of Malube, Uganda. He was the fifth of seven children, all boys save for one sister. His parents, Anthony Bukerimanza and Magdalene Nyiraruhango, were originally from Rwanda and had migrated to Malube in the 1950s. When Emmanuel was twelve, his father passed away, leaving his mother to raise her seven children by herself, in a very difficult context of poverty, the dictatorship of Idi Amin, and forced relocation due to civil war.
After attending primary school, Emmanuel studied first at Nnyenga minor seminary, and then finished his secondary school education at Kisubi minor seminary in 1978. Still unsure of his call to the priesthood, he nevertheless followed his discernment, applied, and was accepted into the Katigondo National Major Seminary in 1979. Before he could begin his studies, however, he suffered a lung-infection that required him to be hospitalized, forcing him to wait a year. It was during his sickness and subsequent treatment that Emmanuel began not only to truly appreciate the gift of life, but also to see himself as one of God’s beloved children. It was this time in his life that he would form a firm conviction that the challenges and difficulties that a person faces in his or her life are often the best gifts through which God brings us to a new chapter in our journey with Him.
In 1980, he began to study for the priesthood at Katigondo, finishing his philosophy studies three years later. After a year serving in a pastoral spiritual internship, Emmanuel would go on to finish the theological component of his studies at Gaba National Seminary, and upon completing his studies would be ordained in June, 1987.
He would spend the next three years teaching at Katigondo, until he was sent to the Catholic University of Louvain (Leuven) in 1991 to pursue a Masters in Religious Studies and a Ph.D. in Philosophy. Upon his graduation in 1996, he returned to Uganda, where he primarily taught at Katigondo, and would also teach at the Uganda Martyr’s University in Nkozi and at St. Augustine’s College in Johannesburg, South Africa. From 1999 to 2000 he served as a visiting professor at Scranton University.
Beginning in 2001, Fr. Emmanuel taught at the University of Duke’s Divinity School, serving as an associate research professor of theology and world Christianity, receiving tenure in 2010. During his time at Duke he would co-found the Center for Reconciliation and would serve as its co-director and senior strategist.
In January, 2013, Fr. Emmanuel accepted the invitation of the University of Notre Dame’s Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies (now integrated into the newly found Keough School of Global Affairs) where he currently teaches as a Professor of Theology and Peace Studies. His research focuses on the politics and violence in Africa, the theology of reconciliation, and Catholicism in the global South. He also contributes to the Contending Modernities project, the Kroc Institute’s cross-cultural research and education initiative that examines religious and secular forces in their effects in the modern world.
In February 2017, Fr. Emmanuel delivered the Henry Martyn Lectures at Cambridge on the title, “Who Are My People? Christianity, Community and Belonging in Post-Colonial Africa.”